Archive for the ‘Adult workshops’ Category

Last week, Westminster Music Library held the second adult music workshop in our Behind the Lines series.  The focus of this three hour session was the composer Maurice Ravel and his musical output during and after WW1. Ravel - Adult Workshop 1

Ravel, and as a consequence his music, were deeply affected by three things during The Great War; his rejection from the army due to his diminutive stature, the death of his Mother, and his own failing health.  One of his greatest successes, Le Tombeau de Couperin, was completed near the end of the War. This suite for solo piano, influenced by the French Baroque composer François Couperin, was composed between 1914 and 1917, and is based on a traditional French Baroque suite, being made up of 18th century-style dance movements. Ravel dedicated each movement to the memory of his friends (or in one case, two brothers) who had died fighting in World War I.

During the workshop, this music was the centre-piece of the composition and performance by the participants and musicians.  Divided into two; the first group was  percussion-based with a variety of African drums, while the second was melodic with xylophone, marimba, and stringed instruments.  Taking as their inspiration Ravel’s Forlane – a transcription of an Italian folkdance from Le Tombeau de Couperin – the group joined together for a very exciting finale.  There was a lot to remember between entries, notes, and rhythms, but everyone played brilliantly and created a wonderful piece of music. Ravel - Adult Workshop 2

As well as Le Tombeau de Couperin, other Ravel works such as La Valse, Daphnis et Chloé, and Frontispice formed part of the group discussion on Ravel and his music.  The group had a chance to listen to a recording and study the score of Frontispice; written for two pianos five hands and at only a minute and a half long, everyone agreed that it is a great insight into Ravel’s thoughts and emotions during that time. Although short, it is clear that this great composer was struggling to come to terms with rejection, loss, and failure, and feelings of bleakness, anger, and confusion brought about by the horrors of the War. All our participants agreed that this workshop had been a great success, with lots of enthusiasm, inspiration and stimulating conversation. 

This session marks the end of our focus on Ravel for Behind the Lines, next year we turn our attention to the music of two giants of English music – Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams. 

Behind the Lines Music workshop 05.10.13All the months of planning and preparations finally came to fruition last Saturday, when Westminster Music Library’s first workshop for Behind the Lines opened with a great deal of anticipation from participants, RPO musicians and library staff.

Saturday’s workshop – designed exclusively for older residents – coincided with Westminster’s Silver Sunday celebrations – organisations and community groups from around Westminster hosting free activities and events for older residents in the borough. OK so we were a day early but The Music Library always likes to stay ahead of the game.

This workshop centered on Elgar, that most English of composers, who in addition to composing many works during the Great War, also signed up as a Staff Inspector with the Hampstead Special Constabulary, filling in for those policemen who had enlisted to fight.

Behind the Lines Music workshop 05.10.13Two important compositions featured in the workshop; the cello concerto (this work has been described by some as a requiem, not just the mourning of so much destruction and loss of life in the war, but also mourning for the loss of an ideal – a way of life which had been so familiar to Elgar, both socially and artistically, which had been swept away), and For the fallen, one of the movements from The spirit of England, settings of three poems by Laurence Binyon, which would become Elgar’s most enduring work of the war years:

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them

A moving tribute and a grand finale to our opening workshop.

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