16 May 2014
Music has always been central to my life. I learnt to read music before I could read words. As a young child I started violin lessons and as a teenager I learnt piano ( my teacher was the woman who wrote Call the Midwife, Jennifer Worth). I love to watch live music and we go to a music festival every year, a tradition that did not stop after the children were born. I love music of most genres and have an extensive and varied collection that is accessible to the children they often choose what to listen to, although they have a habit of listening to the same thing over and over again often putting it on and then disappearing to another part of the house!
Earlier this year I reviewed our rhythm and made one of our days, a day for music. This doesn't happen every week but most weeks, Wednesday is focussed on music. I don't teach my children, it is not our ethos of education to follow that route and I wasn't about to start teaching my children to read music unless they specifically requested me to. So our day of music has been all about exposure and seeing where this journey took us. It always delights me when the children take an interest in something and take it off where they want to go with it. Not least because it means any hard work I have done in research pays off but also because you are never quite sure where you are going and what they will want to do next.
I have already mentioned that we have a fairly extensive music collection which includes pop, rock, lots of folk, hip hop, reggae, dance I could go on, but not much classical. I wanted to expose them to more classical music as the few pieces we did have they enjoyed but they are mostly on the long side (symphonies). We already had a recording of the Planet Suite by Holst which I bought when my eldest was learning about Space and the Planets but I wanted some other recordings. So I bought Peter and the Wolf composed by Prokofiev, The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra composed by Britten and The Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saens to start us off. They loved all three of these especially the Young Person's Guide. It was the 100th anniversary of Britten's birth last year and I found a wonderful free app put together as part of the celebrations which includes a video of an orchestra playing the music. This moved us into conducting and then time signatures, beats in a bar, bars and how all three of these are written down, which then moved us onto written music itself. They are now in the process of learning what each of the dots mean and how this correlates to a music instrument. We are using a piano for now but I have also been demonstrating how this works on the violin too. A recent visit to my parents meant that we came home with a trumpet which I had no idea my parents still had, my eldest has been blasting out notes on a regular basis as he gets to grips with it. I am so glad that we have a tolerant neighbour (we live in a terraced house) although I am not sure what I will say if either of the children express an interest in learning the drums.........I have also moved all our instruments into one place, they were scattered round the house, and the small ones are now housed in a fabric bucket I made. I am sure that all of you who are parents know that making things more accessible means that things get played with more!
I found two music societies in our neighbouring towns, both hold short concerts (around an hour) one at lunchtime the other in the evenings. Sadly I found both these groups just as their programme was coming to end, the concert season seems to be over the winter for each, but we went to a few really good ones including a brass group which went down well.
We have added some Gershwin, Grieg - Peer Gynt Suite, Elgar - Enigma Variations, Paul Mealor - A Tender Light to our listening so far and I will continue to seek out other composers and types of music. We have also been adding to our collection of the wonderful Putumayo CDs we now have a few of these. They are compilations of music from around the world and can spark off a journey in themselves, some of their compilations are specifically aimed at children, at the moment their favourites are French Playground and Arabic Groove. If you have any recommendations of music you or your children enjoy I would love to hear of them!
If you are wanting to introduce music notation to children or learn about it yourself I can really recommend The Music People by Leslie and Angela Carter. It was a book my mother bought when she was teaching and has passed onto me. My children love it.
This journey is far from over, it is just starting really and I have no idea where it will take us next......