Project Reports: Seasons and Cycles

Heather Wastie with the pupils and teachers of Class 4S at Leighswood School, Aldridge, Walsall

This is the first of a series of Elektrodome Pilot Projects to foster ensemble music-making with Soundbeam in mainstream Schools. Edward and Judy Williams, Elektrodome’s Artistic Directors, believe that since Soundbeam 2 allows up to 12 players to make music together, a lot of the pleasures and educational values of ensemble music-making (in rather short supply at many schools nowadays) can be enjoyed by students who have not yet been able to acquire the dexterities needed for playing conventional instruments.

With the enthusiastic support of Mike Parrott, Walsall LEA’s Controller of Arts and Development, and Mrs Jan Taylor, Leighswood’s Head Teacher, Elektrodome commissioned composer/poet Heather Wastie to devise and compose a piece to be developed and performed with a whole class during the course of 12 workshops.

The class consisted of 36 8-9 year olds, with their class teacher, Mrs Helena Smith, and Leighswood’s specialist music teacher, Mrs Kathleen Curd. Under Heather’s charismatic guidance the children developed gestures and movement, and helped to speak, shout or sing various vocal effects – which quickly became samples, performed, to everyone’s delight, by someone dancing in the Beam.

They learnt the words and tunes of Heather’s songs (to a 2 Beam, 6 Switch Sound-beam accompaniment), enjoyed the effects of using Switches to articulate the samples, wrote poems of their own, and helped to decide on the overall shape of the piece. “Seasons and Cycles” was performed to a highly appreciative audience of parents, staff and other children at Leighswood School.

We are still in the process of gathering in assessments of the project – by Heather, by the children themselves, by Mike Parrott and the school staff, and by Dr Nicholas Bannan, of the International Centre for Research in Music Education at Reading University, who has been monitoring the project for us.

If they can give the Project a good report - and if we can produce a practical ‘score and parts’ so that “Seasons and Cycles” can be successfully rehearsed and performed by other schools without needing the composer’s presence (and there are already reports of a possible performance by a school in Berkshire) - we shall feel that the first Elektrodome Pilot Project is truly a success.