Banded About – C’est Fini

It’s all over and done with! Today was the final concert date at Town Hall for the Banded About project, we made it! It was emotional, it was sad, it was tiring, fun and creative.

I was soo impressed with the young people at Watville, Wilkes Green and St. James primary schools over the year. This term, we (Steve and I repping Birmingham Jazz) were given such a tall order yet I feel we delivered the goods; I learnt that most of the other primary schools in the music hub (Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Sound It Out, CBSO, THSH) were able to give their schools weekly and some around 8 sessions per term, to develop ensemble and music making skills. In total I had 5 sessions in the spring term, and 3 in the summer, yes 3, which meant we had a mammoth job to do, devise, rehearse and perform at the Town Hall after 4.5 hours, minus ice-breakers, and packing away and you’re left with little time I tell thee, yet we managed to do it. I was proud of the fact the young people devised lyrics before the project, rehearsed outside of lessons, and after a scary sound check on the day after a week’s break, pulled it off!! Go gang!! There were tears, I got told off, necessary hugs were given and received.

In just 8 sessions I found that the young people’s time keeping, ability to improvise and create grooves improved exponentially, I was also impressed with how a teacher got stuck in the project and played recorder on stage with the kids!! How supportive is that!

Areas of improvement: I need to work more on varying my signalling, I wish I had the funds to go on a ensemble leading course, yes, another one, for intermediate workshoppers, I also need to think about using different time signatures, I’ve been using compound time more recently, but haven’t written many pieces in 3/4, I did use 5/4 with some secondary kids last term…. anyho! Onwards and upwards!

Highlights of the project for me were: working with amazing individuals at the aforementioned schools! Thanks young peeps, you rocked my world!

What would have made my life easier on this project: less emailing and more tete a tete (please), meetings with admins and the whole of the team so we could there could be greater consistency across the cluster, more efforts made to incorporate workshop leaders who don’t read music in CPD sessions too, some of my team felt a bit left out.

Here is some media for ya from our rehearsals,courtesy of my iPhone,  you can hear me shouting, teachers getting stuck in lol! I think you can hear an improvement in each school’s pieces.

First piece St. James composed: 

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Second piece by St. James, with some recorder playing by Ms. Hanson: 

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Watville’s first composition: 

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Second piece by Watville (second rehearsal): 

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Banded About ‘the first year’ from Mathew Beckett on Vimeo.


Find more photos like this on ‘Banded About’

Taking the lead: Working with & directing ensembles

Today I went along to the first of two MusicLeader London training sessions “Taking the lead – working with and directing ensembles”. It was lead by internationally renown community musician Phil Mullen. I had a really good time meeting new people and learning how to better focus my delivery skills in this area.

Phil’s delivery style is every now and again like being taken on a fun, magical mystery tour – a structured whirlwind where you are thrown around his stream of consciousness, picking up loads of food for thought and useful ‘good practice’ models.

We started with ensemble theory/philosophy via an organic approach; we discussed and reported back one of our most memorable bands, what it was that made them so appealing. Drawing from our feedback we were left to discuss 4 main themes that emerged, glue – the special, tangible ingredient that makes a group seem to play with what seems to be total oneness. Second was passion and energy, followed by balance and then diversity of ideas.

After a morning full of theory, soul searching and much laughter we spent most of the afternoon music making – exploring pulse and time keeping through various fun activities. Clapping games, a kind of pulse tennis and I think it’s called ‘hocketing’ but I am probably wrong. Basically it’s where you dissect a song up and each individual in the group sings a word/syllable in time. Imagine singing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle’ with your mates, individually taking it in turns to sing a note of the song, but adhering to the correct timing of the piece. Kind of like this:
A: Twin
B:-kle
C:Twin
D:kle
E:lil
F:-tle
G:Star

We also took it in turns to give instructions to the group in a foreign or nonsensical language. The aim was to work on body language and other means of expression to best communicate our set instructions. We also conducted the group relying on riffs and memory. I was able to work on giving clear hand instructions.

I had a great time – but am seriously shattered!! Time to end here and pass out. More next week!