On 19th and 20th January 2017, Snape Maltings welcomed six composition students from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance for a residency hosted by Friday Afternoons on Composing for Childrens' Voices.
During their time in the peaceful surroundings of Snape Maltings, the students were fully submerged in the world of Benjamin Britten, visiting all the spaces surrounding his fantastic concert hall and also paying a visit to his home at The Red House in Aldeburgh.
The focus of the residency was of course on composition, and a masterclass led by Luke Styles equipped the students with the tools they need for writing an excellent children’s song. Time spent analysing Britten’s repertoire for children, including Friday Afternoons, proved extremely valuable and an exercise in setting short excerpts and sharing them with peers gave an excellent insight into what it is like to compose for young people.
Aurora Nishevci found the session with Luke Styles useful: “I find that looking through scores and talking about what works is very helpful. I also liked writing a short rough piece and teaching it to my peers, I found it to be a good exercise.”
Rotem Sherman was equally inspired by the place: “I got so much inspiration just by visiting Aldeburgh, seeing its beautiful scenery and following Britten’s story and music. I think both Snape Maltings and Friday Afternoons in particular are exciting projects that are worth knowing as musicians, as they give a very inspiring idea of what role composers could have in their communities, and how they could keep creating and staying relevant to their surroundings.”
All students are now working hard on their own songs for childrens' voices, with a text written specifically for them by Alan McKendrick. These songs will soon be available on the Friday Afternoons website for all the world to sing.
"Bit of a mission, but I love the idea that every child on the Isle of Skye will have had an injection of Friday Afternoons singing!" – Ann Barkway, Project Manager
On 14th and 15th September 2016, Friday Afternoons took a team of musicians and workshop leaders to the Isle of Skye with the aim of working with as many young people as possible in just two days. With the help of Atlas Arts, the team successfully ran two separate strands of work while on the island: Luke Styles (composer), Alan McKendrick (librettist) and Ellie Moran (workshop leader) worked with both Elgol Primary and Bun-sgoil Shlèite on the composition of a new song; and Charles MacDougall (workshop leader) and Leighton Jones (accompanist) roamed the rest of the island delivering singing workshops for students six different schools.
Over the course of the week, over 500 young people took part in a Friday Afternoons workshop, either through composition or singing, and afterwards we asked the team to reflect on their experience – below are some highlights.
'It was such a treat to be able to spend even two short days working with Atlas Arts and the Friday Afternoons project in two amazing, and very different schools. I was working with two fantastic creatives on both days: Luke Styles, a composer, and Alan McKendrick, a librettist, both of whom worked their considerable magic weaving stories and song. It was my job to get all of the children singing as strongly as possible and there was as much energy in those schools as in the landscape. The children's creativity and enthusiasm over the two days was outstanding and as always with primary age their crazy ideas outshone our own limited adult ones.' – Ellie Moran
'The young people were engaged and enthusiastic and they generated some wild and wacky ideas in responses to some of my music, Wagner and Handel. They came up with characters that they drew and then wrote poetry about and these characters transformed into short poetic stories. As a group we then turned these stories into songs and at the end of each day the young people had their own song that they had composed. I think two of my favourite things from the week were the line of text “It was hot and then cold”, this is just completely mysterious and hilarious to me, and the invention of the character Octomonkpig, an animal that is the combination of an octopus, a monkey and a pig.' – Luke Styles
'I’d hope that the children gained from the experience not only a sense of one particular approach to songwriting, but also took away from the day the feeling that it’s something they can absolutely do, can absolutely participate in, and hopefully might feel some further desire to in the future - plus also I’d hope that they felt some reinforcement of the feeling (which I’ve no doubt they possessed already, but hopefully this workshop will have bolstered it even further) that their imaginations are hugely vivid and powerful, and that they’ve got loads of fascinating and idiosyncratic things to offer - each and every one of them - by allowing those imaginations to run unfettered.
What people will eventually hear in the completed song lyrics comes 99% from the children themselves, basically, with an absolute bare minimum of meddlesome adult tinkering, and both those lyrics and indeed the song as a whole I think are all the better for it.' – Alan McKendrick
'The real success of the Friday Afternoons Project - this year and in every previous year - is that the repertoire is so broad (in terms of texts, style and character) and every child can find something with which to identify or engage, regardless of their particular personality or age. This flexibility of repertoire was very apparent at primary level with The Little Girl of Rain functioning as a cute nursery rhyme song with memorable melody (complete with fabulous actions) with the Years 1/2 kids and as a spooky horror/ghost story with opportunities for superb word-painting and expression with Years 5/6/7.'
'One of my sessions was for 15/16 year olds who were interested in the voice and finding out more about singing. The school were only expecting a handful, but a few minutes before the start time, we were cramming them in and trying to find more chairs. After a lovely long technical session understanding our body as an instrument, we worked on Snow and challenged them to put their new found technical awareness into practice: taking care over preparation and breath, engaging proper support and connecting with the character of the piece.' – Charles MacDougall
“Both Schools thought it was a great project to be involved and really enjoyed the style of the workshop as it was very different to anything else they has done before.” - Jenny Kiss, head teacher Kilmuir and Staffin Primary Schools
Just to say a big thank you for offering the opportunity of a workshop for some of our pupils on Wednesday afternoon. We really appreciated your willingness to arrange this for us and the pupils have been really enthused by it. Mr Evans is hoping for more new recruits to his choir!” - Jo Moncrieff, deputy head teacher, Portree High School
It's been two weeks since the 2016 international culmination day for Friday Afternoons, and we're so delighted that so many groups from across the world decided to get involved on the day. Young and not-so-young people gathered in song to celebrate by singing selections from the Friday Afternoons Song Bank, and plenty of people have been uploading their events to the Who's Involved section of the website, and sending their videos to be uploaded to the Showcase.
At Snape Maltings we were lucky enough to be joined by this year's composer Jonathan Dove, who joined 800 children singing his compositions in the marvellous concert hall, established by the composer who inspired the whole project, Benjamin Britten.
BBC Radio 4's Front Row ran a feature on the project, which can still be listened to here. Jonathan Dove also wrote an excellent blog post for the day with his top tips on writing for children's voices - this can be read on the Guardian website.
If you held an event this year and haven't yet put a pin on our map, please do. If you have any recordings, send them in by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Below you can watch videos of some events that happened across the world!
Penylan House Residential Home
Residents of Penylan House Residential Home, Cardiff were treated to a visit from Live Music Now artists who led them in a session featuring music from the Friday Afternoons repertoire, supported by Gregynog Festival.
Normoyle Primary School, South Africa
Children from Normoyle Primary School in South Africa performed a selection of Friday Afternoons and traditional songs at a concert in the Missionvale Care Centre in Port Elizabeth.
Rutland Music Hub
A performance of the repertoire took place in Oakham School Chapel, marking the culmination of Rutland Music Hub's project with local primary school children.
Snape Maltings Concert Hall
The annual Big Sing held at Snape Maltings, home of Aldeburgh Music, with 800 pupils from Suffolk schools.
Young Norfolk Arts
Students from schools in Great Yarmouth and the Young Norfolk Chorus came together to join in the national celebrations and sing Friday Afternoons songs at the Wharf Academy.
Thanks to all those who took part in the day of celebrations and for supporting the Friday Afternoons project.
Tomorrow, Friday 18th November 2016, Friday Afternoons celebrates another year of the project with groups of people across the country. Our annual culmination day sees performances of the repertoire around the world on the Friday closest to Benjamin Britten’s birthday.
The home of the Friday Afternoons project is Snape Maltings Concert Hall, and tomorrow we will be hosting our annual Big Sing event, bringing together almost 800 children from Suffolk to sing this year’s set of songs, written by Jonathan Dove with lyrics by Alasdair Middleton.
Each year we stream a small number of performances on our website, so that more people from around the world can enjoy the global celebrations. Tomorrow we have three live streams on our website, which you’ll be able to watch here: http://www.fridayafternoonsmusic.co.uk/watch-live
11:00am (GMT) Normoyle Primary School (Missionvale), Port Elizabeth, South Africa (supported by Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University) 12:00pm Snape Maltings Concert Hall, Suffolk 3:30pm Penylan House Residential Home, Cardiff (supported by Live Music Now and Gregynog Festival)
Please do watch these streams and let us know if you’re joining in. We’ll be tweeting all day @FridayPMs.
Other performances around the country include the Young Norfolk Arts Chorus in Great Yarmouth, Presteigne Festival in Wales, Rutland Music Hub’s concert at Oakham Chapel, St Peters Middle School in Old Windsor and St Paul’s C of E Primary School, Addlestone.