Category Archives: community music

Moving forward…

I’m slowly getting back on track with everything after the hiatus of moving house, Christmas, and spending 2 and a half months temping in Edinburgh (which was only part time, but commuting to edinburgh meant I had to get up very early – not my favourite thing if you know me – and get home pretty late, making for very long days), as well as preparing for the Clarke concert which took up a lot of time.

At the moment I’m trying to figure out what I want to achieve as a musician and how I want to go about it. I’ve decided some things already, and trying to take the steps to make these happen, but sometimes it is slow progress as emails are often slow in being answered etc. I want to try and get back to blogging regularly, as I think it will help me keep a closer eye on how things are going and hopefully provide me with a way of structuring what I’m doing and a record of the things I’ve done so far, which will be good for me as it will give me a sense of achievement. I’m in the process of adding a page for events and concerts to this blog so it’s easier for me and others to keep track of what I’m up to.

Anyway, here are the projects I’m currently working on and their progress:

Community music and teaching

I’m very interested in doing more community music, as a direct result of my experiences of working with nursery children while I was doing my course in Glasgow. Ideally, I’d like to find some paid work as a community musician, but I’m aware that I don’t have all that much experience. So, at the moment I’m open to exploring avenues which will give me that experience such as working in schools/nurseries or hospitals and care homes. All the major orchestras and ensembles in Scotland have to do some outreach and education as part of their funding contract from Creative Scotland, so I’d also like to get involved with these projects if I can. I’m also investigating the possibility of doing short courses in Orff or Kodaly training (possibly through NYCOS).

Concert of Bach in Holy Trinity Church, St Andrews

This is a collaboration with Tom Duncan, the organist and choir master of Holy Trinity Church in St Andrews whom I have known since my time as a student choral scholar there. We are planning a concert mainly of Bach but which will also include a Buxtehude Cantata. I’m meeting Tom tomorrow to discuss the details and dates etc, so I’ll keep you posted as we sort out the details!

Chamber Music

Since I left RSAMD, I’ve been very keen to find a good outlet for my love of chamber music. I am really keen to start a quartet, but the problem has been finding people that are both like minded and able to commit to the time it takes. My friend Ros, the cellist from Rusalka days and now English PhD graduate (congrats!) is still in St Andrews and also keen to do some chamber playing, so now it is a question of finding some violinists in the area, and we will hopefully be meeting one soon who might be a possibility. Fingers crossed, this might be the beginnings of something 🙂

And finally…

For those of you who didn’t see this, it is a credit to viola players everywhere (although initially the BBC mistook him for a violinist, pah!)

Community Music 1: final placements (5th and 6th May)

Sadly, our time with Woodside Nursery is drawing to a close. For our final sessions, we have chosen to go to the nursery on 2 consecutive days, with the Thursday being a refresher session and the Friday a ‘sharing session’ so that we can showcase what we have been working on with the children to their parents, teachers and to the CM1 staff. (These sessions are being assessed as part of our coursework.)

“Refresher Session”: Thursday 5th May,with 2 groups of about 15 children

We started as always with the Hello song (lead by me) and Hickety Tickety (Alison) – the kids in both groups were very enthusiatic and sang both songs very well , which was impressive as our last session was some time ago. We are using material familiar to the children for the sessions, as it is all stuff that we know they enjoy – they particularly love jumping up and down and doing actions for songs like ‘Cracker Jack’.

Here is the plan for both the session today and the one tomorrow:

  1. Hello Song (sitting) – Jess
  2. Hickety Tickety – Alison
  3. Have you Brought – Liz
  4. Cracker jack (with actions/jumps!) – Liz
  5. Ally Bally – Jess
  6. Angel fish (with a fish puppet) – Alison
  7. Pease Pudding (with actions for hot, cold, pot and 9 days old)
  8. Bear game (with chimes/bells for goldilocks, and claves played forte, mezzo forte and piano for Big Bear, Middle Bear and Baby Bear) – Liz
  9. Reading the Goldilocks Story with instruments – Alison
  10. ‘Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear’ rhyme with movements – Alison (I remember this one from my childhood!)
  11. Goodbye Song (standing in a circle) – all of us

We all had lots of fun today as the kids were full of energy and sang with very loud voices and loads of smiles – it was lovely to see them so happy, and see so much improvement in the quiet ones. The best moment for me was when we had finished with the first group and they were lining up at the door: suddenly about 15 little voices in unison shouted ‘GOODBYE!!’, and they all waved at us happily – aww… 🙂

Term 3 happenings

This is more for myself so I can keep track of what’s going on in my diary!

Assessed Recitals

  • Big important end of course assessed recital of 50 mins with Hester: 20th May 5.10pm (examiners: Peter Lissauer, Louise Lansdown)
  • Chamber music Assessed Recital (public) – including Dvorak piano quartet, maybe Bowen viola quartet (with Dave, Christine and Gabi) – to be arranged

Academic Deadlines:

Community Music 1 Assessment (Journal ie this blog, self assessment form, placement notes, Written assignment, placement assessment) = Monday 9th May 12pm

Integrative Studies Assessment (RPJ and Documentation Project)= Friday 13th May (unlucky for some :))


Matthew Whiteside’s concerts x2:

  • Concert 1= Bar Bloc on 30th May
  • Concert 2=City Halls on 1st June

Opera with Tim Dean and RSAMD opera students: Hansel and Gretel by Humperdinck, RSAMD Athenaeum Theatre

  • Performance 1: Monday 27th June
  • Performance 2: Weds 29th June
  • Performance 3: Thurs 30th June

Heisenberg committments (St Andrews/stirling):

  • Messiah with Jill Craig (17th April)- Stirling (arrange transport)
  • Saturday 7th May Elgar Dream of Gerontius (with St Andrews Chorus)

Stringfest (Fri 10th June-Sun 12th June)

  • Principal viola in stringfest ensemble (concert date and time tbc)
  • Concert with Gongbo’s quartet – Mozart C major quintet for 2 violas (concert date and time tbc)

Top things this week

-Seeing my friend Rachel Spencer perform Sibelius’ Violin Concerto with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in their Masterclass session at the City Halls. Also performing were Graeme Brown, bassoon, Glynn Forrest, marimba, and Jonathan Wettermark, trombone.

-Working on the Walton in collaboration with my teacher (Jane Atkins) and my accompanist for the competition (Scott Mitchell) to develop my own version of bowings, fingerings, tempos and phrasings

-Hearing about community music projects ‘The Big Noise’ (based in Raploch, Stirling) and ‘Givin’ It Laldie’ (based in the Gorbals, Glasgow) at the Music Learning Live conference – amazing work and very inspirational! The best part of both talks was seeing the children from both projects perform – the enthusiasm and dedication of these young kids is wonderful to see. In the Big Noise after school orchestra, the children are aged from 7 to 11. When I asked the leader of the orchestra what she wanted to do in the future she said without hesitation, ‘I want to be a hairdresser and a violinist, at the same time!’ After the presentation, I talked to one of the staff members and she said that I could arrange to visit the project sometime, which I will definitely try and do.

Music Learning Live

Today I’m off to a big conference at the academy called ‘Music Learning Live’- see the programme here

The keynote is being given by Andrew Dixon, Chief Executive of Creative Scotland. I’m hoping to attend a session about Sistema Scotland, a project which has been started in Raploch, Stirling, which emulates El Sistema, a social programme in Venezuela which provides orchestral training for young people from poor backgrounds.

Term 2 placements at Woodside nursery

This term we are continuing to work with children at Woodside nursery (near St George’s Cross). Our theme for the term is ‘storytelling’: introducing an element of music into a well known children’s story to bring it alive for the children.

So far we have done a total of 4 placements this term (even though it is week 6 – how did that happen?), and I have been to 3 of these. Our placement team consists of Liz Lawton (flute, 2nd year), myself and Alison Miller (Violin, 2nd year).

Our first placement, back in January, was basically a recap of what we did last term, with a few old favourites (Apple tree, which the kids love) and a lovely wee song we composed in class called ‘Angel Fish’ which goes like this:

‘Hello I’m the Angel Fish , darling,
The prettiest thing in the sea
What a shame there are no other creatures
As gorgeous and lovely as me!’

The words are from ‘Commotion in the Ocean’ and Alison and Liz supplied the tune.

The most recent two placements (18.2.11 and 22.2.11) have been more focused on storytelling, with our story being Goldilocks and the 3 Bears (we consulted the nursery to find out which story the kids were currently doing and they suggested Goldilocks). We’ve been trying to get the children used to the concept of dynamics, by associating each size of bear in the story (Big Bear, Middle Bear and Small/Baby Bear*) with a dynamic – ie loud, medium, and soft. This has been helped by using 3 different sized cuddly toy bears as visual aids, and last placement Liz and I played a game where she held a bear up and we taught the children to make the different volumes of sounds using drums, shakers, claves and castanets. I then read the story to them (so much fun!) and we asked them to play the right sound whenever the big/middle/baby bear was mentioned. Using props encourages the children to focus on the physical teddy bears and therefore help with their imagination/concentration/association, as they get quiet bored when listening to the story!

Next week we will attempt to teach the children the Goldilocks song – have a listen here!

*We are told not to call the bears ‘Mummy bear’ and ‘Daddy bear’ as some of the kids may come from backgrounds where this may upset them. Can’t decide whether this is political correctness or a sensible precaution…

Placement 3 -19.11.10


This week we had 2 groups of about 15 children, mostly non British (and of these, mostly Chinese) except for one or two in each group. I wondered how the British children felt about this now that they were the minority, or is it just normal for them? Generally this session (the fourth week that we have come to the school- I missed one) the children were more confident, and as usual even the more reticent ones were joining in by the end of the sessions. The sweetest thing is when you ask a child who is not joining in to participate, and they say firmly that they can’t, and then a few minutes later you notice them doing it!

We used mostly repeated material from the previous weeks but with one new song/game – Fiona’s ‘Apple tree’ song which goes like this:

Apple tree, apple tree

Will your apple fall on me?

I won’t scream, I won’t shout

If your apple knocks me out!

The children sit in a circle and a toy apple is passed round in time to the beat. Whoever is holding the apple when the word ‘out’ is sung is out of the game, and in our version they got to go and sit with one of us and play instruments (such as drums and shakers) in time to the beat, which they really enjoyed and which helped develop their sense of rhythm.

We also repeated Liz’s crackerjack song (with actions) which again proved very popular as it gave the kids a chance to jump about and move around a bit which helps to use up their extra energy. Most of the time they are very happy to sit in a circle for half an hour which I am really impressed by – I’m not sure I could have done that when I was four! Most children took part and only one girl didn’t do the actions.

Our order this week was:

o   Hello song – this time standing up with hands joined in a circle (Alison)

o   Hickety Tickety name song (me)

o   Have you brought… (Fiona)

o   Apple Tree (Alison)

o   Horsey Horsey (me)

o   Cracker jack crack, standing with actions  (liz)

o   Goodbye song (liz)

Each of us got to lead a song twice which was good – I’m still feeling self conscious when I lead in front of the children and the other students and teachers, but at least I know that I can do it and get the children to respond when I ask them to sing something. Horsey horsey was great this week, with the children singing quite loudly, and we did lots of versions: a really quiet one, a loud one, and 2 versions with different instruments (claves and castenets) to imitate the horses’ hooves. From what I can tell and their body language, I think most of the children enjoy their musical sessions, as several are becoming very enthusiastic and one in particular is incredibly cute when he smiles J  I’m not sure how our sessions contrast with the rest of what they do at nursery but I hope it’s a nice change for them!

In both groups there was one child who didn’t sit still and distracted the others by moving around, not doing what they were asked, and the teacher had to ask them to behave – I’m not really sure how to approach this, as I don’t feel that we are in a position of enough authority to react strongly to misbehaving. But overall, it was a very good session – I was completely shattered afterwards!