Tag Archives: music

Thoughts from the Singing Ringing Tree – Beth Allen

Music Leader from the Songs from the Singing Ringing Tree, Beth Allen, recalls her experience…

Two years of nursery experiences makes for quite intense experiences and deep learning. I see nurseries as a community to enthuse with the love of voice.  If I can enthuse the kids  and show them that songs can make them laugh when they are low, help them remember things they are struggling with, control words they wouldn’t have ever controlled, played out stories they had never really heard before… then they will always remember those feelings.  I am one of those children, having been enthused by a visiting music specialist at my school when I was five years old!  If I can enthuse the staff and build their confidence to mess and play with songs to make them their own, to make them relevant and make them fit for purpose… or if I can find songs that work for them, using backing tracks, or instruments, or nonsense, or with props or pictures, microphones or folk songs… I will find any way in to help staff find their own, sustainable way, to use songs when I’m not there any more.

Some prefer putting on a show for celebrations, while others like to keep it simple and just mix up the occasional words?  We have played with our voices to bring life to the characters in a song, with soundscaping to set a whole scene to a song, with nonsense language to express more than second language children can express with words, with instrumentation to grow the meaning/emotion of a song… add to that lighting and dance moves, then an audience… and the more confident staff enabled their kids to experience something bigger. For me I have found that it is the relationships that allow me to work creatively and that when there is a relationship of trust… a whole group or a pairing can work together to write really lovely little nuggets that stick and are remembered weeks later, because they caught a moment and remain relevant. Some members of staff obviously thought about words and language between sessions and came back having written new songs… or improved on mine.  Some children thought about the games we were playing with language and offered really interesting and fun alternatives, remembering additions from week to week.

The one big failing I felt was after reading a dissertation from an Assistant Teacher at Woodfield Nursery.  She talked about the aural tradition in Pakistan, and about the different regions placing different emphasis on writing… and how this effects ability to learn writing skills once in Britain.  I became very aware that I was trying to make links and encourage development of the English language but that I couldn’t make culturally relevant links if I knew nothing about the prevailing culture of a nursery, ie Pakistan or Bangladesh.  I felt, and still feel, very short on stores and rhymes and songs from those cultures.  I am aware that we show respect for each other by learning each others aural traditions, and by learning them we give them a value.

Beth Allen

You can read more about the project and view the documentary film on our website.

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Thoughts from the Singing Ringing Tree – Zoe Greenhalgh

Music Leader from the Songs from the Singing Ringing Tree, Zoe Greenhalgh, recalls her experience…

Relationships

For me, the joy of working on projects such as this, is the wonderful human connections with the very young that are born out of musical play and exploration, without any need for speech.  Singing is such a wonderful medium; no right or wrong, just variations which have infinite potential for development in a whole new direction.

In the settings the day comprised of working with all children in the nursery in small groups of 6-10 each supported by a member of the nursery staff which allowed the children and myself to become well acquainted and build a good relationship. It also enabled me to learn something of the children as individuals; how confident they were, their readiness to sing and make music, their ideas and interests, quirks and foibles.  In these small groups I became familiar to them and they to me, meaning that I could structure my teaching to support their individual needs whether musical or otherwise.  Progress and participation was good and much enjoyment was evident.

The Singing Tent

In one setting I came to know the children over a number of weeks working with small group and their key worker before creating and opening the “singing tent” for business. The groups were predominantly adult led so the tent was intended to redress the balance by offering the children the opportunity to initiate and lead the musical activities, for me to join in with their play.

The “singing tent” was constructed from a clotheshorse and some music printed fabric held together with clothes pegs.  This was intentionally only large enough for me and two children to occupy at any one time thus maintaining a sense of intimacy that might elicit the engagement of even the most timid of children.  Sometimes it was situated inside in the nursery, sometimes outside in the garden.  I stayed in the tent with my ukulele and the children came and joined me as and when they liked.  The ukulele turned out to be a good provocation for the children to respond to: they were attracted to the sound and wanted to play it, but were inclined to play with some delicacy, either listening intently to the sounds they produced or strum it as an accompaniment to their singing. It was often not played at all.

I had tried different instruments for variety – a small number of quality percussion instruments and chime bars – but whilst the children enjoyed exploring these, as a joint interactive activity it was not very fruitful.  Likewise, me sitting in the tent just singing with no instruments was not as attractive, possibly because the sound of a singing voice is a familiar one in the setting.

Within the intimate, private space of the tent, these children recognised me as a play partner and offered me the crown jewels – magical musical connections with voice, sound and rhythm, spontaneous original song improvisations, musical play of all shapes and sizes.  What an honour and infinite pleasure to be so accepted and trusted with their precious offerings.

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Inspiration visit to the Singing Ringing Tree

Ways of working…

During this project I have worked in a more formal, adult-led manner with small groups of children as well as in a more informal, “free flow” way. Both are valuable in their own right but I believe that the impact is greater than the sum of its parts when the two approaches are combined.  How important then that educators within the setting have the musical confidence and skill to scaffold and support children’s musical creativity and development, and that staff development is built into the project in a workable manner.

From my experience; Thoughts on project planning and delivery

All projects of this sort give a cohort of children access to musical experiences beyond those normally available in the setting; musical exposure and engagement that without the project they would not have had.  Fantastic!  What is more difficult is to build in longer term legacy for the settings in subsequent years.

I believe the most crucial and detailed part of all projects is the planning stage.  There is this great idea to run a project doing “X” which would work really well with these leaders in this location and we could build in “Y” and “Z” – wow, how exciting!  This is perhaps the easy bit.  What follows is the contacting of settings and individuals involved to gain interest in being involved which is relatively straightforward, particularly where relationships already exist.

Then comes the nitty gritty of how it will work on the ground, what it will look like in reality, firm commitment to dates, time, staff availability, trips out, available physical space, parental/photo permissions, etc. etc.  This is the really tricky bit.  It is so important that all parties “buy in” to the concept and that the finer detail is worked out collaboratively with all partners at the earliest stage of planning, especially those involved in the day to day delivery.  Settings are very busy with many demands upon their time and energies making this level of detail sometimes hard to sort out, but it is precisely this, along with the ongoing communication between the visiting music practitioner and the setting staff, that turns an ordinary project into an extraordinary one that leaves behind it something truly worth having.  This collaborative, committed relationship means that the project activity is more than just a “bolt on” extra, that it is integrated into the setting beyond the allotted project time, extending reach to more children and developing staff confidence, knowledge and skill and impacting positively on practise within the setting and the experiences of its children.

Songs from the Singing Ringing Tree from Mid Pennine Arts on Vimeo.

A new Contemporary Heritage commission at Clitheroe Castle Museum.

Mid Pennine Arts announce new Contemporary Heritage commission at Clitheroe Castle Museum.

Contemporary Heritage: A new way of seeing

“This is a composer who can get right under the skin.” Journal of Music in Ireland.

MID Pennine Arts have this week announced that the second Contemporary Heritage commission – that will be at Clitheroe Castle Museum – has been awarded to international prize-winning contemporary composer Ailís Ní Ríain.

Born in Cork, Ireland, Ailís captured the public’s imagination in 2009 with ‘Lighthouse Lullaby’, in Maryport, Cumbria. Ailís made the lighthouse sing. Her composition incorporated the sounds and rhythms of the lighthouse’s position at the harbour entrance. The piece interacted with the natural sounds and acoustics of the cast iron building to create an ever-changing improvised performance.

At Clitheroe Castle Museum, Ailís will create a sound installation in and around the Castle Keep. Her composition is inspired by the story of the Lancashire Witches and the 400th anniversary of the Witch trials in 2012. Ailís will be working with 10 women and 2 men aged 18 to 80+ who live or work in Clitheroe. The ‘hummers’ will spend time together with Ailís, understanding her work as a composer and how she creates her music. Each person will hum a song which has a personal poignancy to them which will become part of the installation.

Ailís said, “Clitheroe Castle Museum and grounds are fascinating. The Keep itself is particularly inspiring and I found the panel on the Lancashire Witch Trials in the Museum curious and indeed shocking. The Keep is incredible and has terrific scope for engagement with the public which is something I focus strongly on throughout my artistic work. “

Contemporary Heritage is an ambitious programme of artist commissions at stunning historic sites across Pennine Lancashire. The commissions, inspired by Pennine Lancashire’s heritage, animate each site and offer visitors a rare chance to experience major works of art by artists of national and international standing outside urban centres.

Contemporary Heritage brings an extra dimension to our partners’ venues, creating a new way of seeing the history and heritage of these sites. Mid Pennine Arts will deliver a programme of creative learning activities associated with each commission to further surprise, inspire and delight participants. Contemporary Heritage provides a terrific counterpoint to some of our heritage treasures, and attracts a new audience to explore the splendours of Lancashire.

Burnley’s Towneley Hall and Park is home to Not Forgotten, the first Contemporary Heritage installation by nationally acclaimed artist Geraldine Pilgrim.

Nick Hunt, Mid Pennine Arts Creative Director, said: “Contemporary Heritage is an ambitious programme of new art that makes dramatic use of some of our outstanding heritage locations. We are delighted to be working with Clitheroe Castle Museum and thrilled that Ailís has accepted the commission. Her installation will bring contemporary art, local people and a unique place together. It will give visitors a very new experience of this wonderful Lancashire landmark.”

—ENDS—

Notes to Editors

If you require further information, images or would like to interview Ailís Ní Ríain or Rebecca Alexander, Visual Arts Programme Manager from Mid Pennine Arts – please call Julian Jordan from BrandSpankin’ on 01282 878 301 or email julian@brandspankin.co.uk. Further Contemporary Heritage installations are planned at Gawthorpe Hall, Helmshore Mills Textile Museum and Turton Tower.

About Mid Pennine Arts

We are a driving force for the arts, recognised nationally and internationally for devising and delivering integrated programmes that inspire, surprise and delight. We work in some of the most deprived communities in the UK yet have a longstanding track record of powerful, high quality work, demonstrating profound social and economic impacts. Our portfolio includes prize-winning public art for breathtaking landscape settings. Commissions of bold, contemporary work combine dynamically with exemplary programmes of creative learning and creative community engagement. Strong relationships with extensive networks of local partners have been consolidated over decades.

Our mission: we bring art, people and places together to transform perceptions and change lives.

Mid Pennine Arts Charity registration number 250642