Posts Tagged ‘Edward Elgar’

Still basking in the glow from the success of our first Behind the Lines workshop for adults two weeks ago, last Saturday Westminster Music Library held the next workshops in the series, this time for our younger musicians and their families. With expert guidance from the musicians of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the two workshops; one for 2-5 year olds (Early Years) and one for 6-11 year olds (Primary Years) ran very smoothly, with over 35 excited, well-behaved children and their parents. The musical focus featured English composer Edward Elgar.

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After an introduction to the bassoon, cello, violin, and some fun, energetic, musical games, the Early Years group picked out some instruments to play and chose an animal to be represented by their instrument. We had a whole zoo in the library; from bats to hamsters, mice to lions. Everyone then split into groups and told a musical story about the animals in the English countryside, with each group given the chance to perform to one another.

In the Primary Years workshop, many of our talented young musicians had already started learning to play an instrument, so naturally they brought them along to add to our “orchestra”. But for those without, there was no shortage of fun and interesting instruments to play, from cuckoo whistles to African “djembe” drums. After a lively warm up and a discussion about some other composers, the RPO introduced the “marching” bass line from Elgar’s ‘Carillon’. Written in the year The Great War ended, ‘Carillon’ was composed by Elgar as an orchestral accompaniment to Belgian poet Émile Cammaerts’ words. Very powerful, his poem tells us that despite their wounds and defeats from the War, the Belgians should hold their heads high and sing of the bravery of their men and country.

Primary Years Workshop

It was around this bass line that today’s workshop was based; there was a rhythm-clapping game, a song to sing about ‘EE’, and the chance to create music to play over the bass line. Everyone played together as one group in the final performance, a brilliant end to a fun packed morning.

It was very encouraging to see how many children got involved in the music, showed their interest with questions and knowledge with answers, and most importantly thoroughly enjoyed themselves. The great thing about workshops in the Music Library is being able to pull real scores off the shelf –Simon Baggs (our Elgar expert) talked about Elgar’s opinion of and influences from Wagner, one of our young participants noticed they were sitting right next to some Wagner scores and asked “is this his work?” The score was taken from the shelf so we could look at and hear the extract Simon was talking about. We also had the “Challenge Simon” game – participants had to think of the hardest questions they could about Elgar’s life and challenge Simon to answer them… “Was Elgar ever burgled?” Yes he had been, and even worse by police officers!

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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