Performing Arts: The beating drum of the School
BEHIND THE STUDY DOOR
“If you try to suppress the Arts, then you’re suppressing the deepest dreams and aspirations of a people” Barack Obama
When I show prospective families around the school, I always finish up on the top floor balcony of Hepburn House, and as I lead the visitors up the many flights of steps, I encourage them with the promise of coffee and biscuits after they have seen one of the finest views of any school (as seen below). I had the same conversation as I led a family up the stairs yesterday, and was preparing them for the breathtaking view of East Sands. However, upon entering the Year 7 corridor, we were thwarted by a last-minute rehearsal taking place for today’s ‘Perform in Perth’, with two of our Year 7s in full throttle of their performance. I didn’t think anything could trump the view, but suddenly we found ourselves utterly stunned and inspired by these two pupils intently preparing their piece for today. The power of drama.
This week, we have seen a huge number of St Leonards pupils taking part in ‘Perform in Perth’, an annual competition for children to present their solo pieces. To say we are proud of their achievement is a gross understatement, and if we take a moment to break down what they have done in preparation for this, we can understand the magnitude of their success. Firstly, the commitment, hours of practice and the concentration needed to learn their lines and prepare the performances. On the day itself, our children are propelled into this rather large theatre, to stand – on their own – on stage and deliver a monologue in front of a large auditorium full of complete strangers. This takes considerable courage, bravery and the determination and stamina to literally ‘find their voice’.
Fast forward a week, and our Years 4-7 pupils will be preparing for their productions. This takes a very different form, as the children will be performing as an ensemble on stage - with their peers – in front of parents, families and fellow pupils and staff. Very different, but no less daunting. We always see extraordinary talent from the children when they perform on stage, often seeing their unique characters and personalities coming through, but also real gems from children we possibly wouldn’t expect to be seemingly so comfortable on stage. For many, this is their opportunity to ‘find their voice’.
So, what do our pupils gain from their engagement in the Performing Arts, and specifically for the purposes of this article, Drama? First and foremost, they all absolutely love the experience of putting on a production, performing as a soloist, preparing for and taking their LAMDA exams, and working as a group in Drama lessons: it will generate some of the happiest memories of their time at school.
For every LAMDA exam, production and performance, the children will have learned a great deal about themselves, developed a sense of commitment to a lengthy project, been exposed to a range of different genres and forms of literature, gained confidence and learned to work as part of a team, where no-one is bigger or more important than anyone else. There will have been moments of frustration, boredom during rehearsals, moments of wishing you were outside kicking a ball around, great sacrifices to learn lines, and enduring the wrath of anxious directors in the immediate lead-up to a production. These are all equally healthy habits to acquire at a young age, and will stand the children in excellent stead for all walks of life later on.
For some, involvement in Drama is another feather in their cap, for some it is their chance to shine and find something they love have a real strength in. For some, their contribution will be on stage, for others it will be behind the lighting desk or in stage management: whatever their role, the contribution is equal.
I urge every single pupil to continue to develop their passion for Drama. Whether on stage, behind the scenes, or simply taking great pleasure from watching others perform in front of you, the Performing Arts broadens horizons, takes us into a magical world that shapes our imagination, and provides lasting friendships and memories.
Amidst cuts to Performing Arts in schools and clubs throughout the UK, it is so incredibly sad that many children will never get the opportunity to be exposed to such a key area of their formative years. The children at St Leonards provide the greatest inspiration possible in their involvement with Performing Arts (and of course the Visual Arts). They, in turn, get their inspiration from Mrs Stewart, Mrs Love, Mr Shiells, Ms O’Brien, Mr Bell, and our team of Music, Dance and Drama specialists. I am delighted that the children grab this opportunity, and I couldn’t be more proud of their achievements, hard work and enjoyment in this critical area. Performing and Visual Arts form the beating heart of this school, and I know our children will be richer for it.
My sentiments, with regards to Art, Dance and Music mirror this, and you may wish to revisit an earlier blog I wrote about Music. And, as I write this, I can reflect on the successes and achievements of all those who have taken ABRSM Music Exams this week.
Wishing all St Leonards families a happy weekend, wherever your adventures take you.
PS. A Year 6 Pupil has just bounced into my office with the proudest smile. 'Mr Goldsmith, I have come to tell you that I have been at the ‘Perform in Perth’ today, and absolutely loved it. I came second in my category. I felt nervous at the start, and I’m really proud that I did this.' This young man has found his voice today, and it will have been a defining moment for him.
PUPPET THEATRE | On Tuesday afternoon Years 1-6 were treated to a performance by Clydebuilt Puppet Theatre, performing the Native American tale ‘The Call of the Loon Bird’. We followed the life of one character, Little Eagle, who shows mercy to a magical bird, the ‘loon’. This bird then guides him through life and teaches him compassion and responsibility, until he achieves a state of wisdom, finally turning into a mystical loon bird himself.
After the show, Steve from Clydebuilt answered the children’s questions about the show and the loon bird itself. Then Year 2, who have been making their own puppets, stayed behind to look more closely at Steve’s hand puppets and see how he creates different effects with his shadow puppets.
Everyone learned a lot from this experience, and had a wonderful time!
BABA MARTA | Year 2 continued their exploration of the ways in which different cultures use stories to explain the world around them with a fascinating visit from Sandra Romenska, Marko's mum.
She shared 'The Tale of Baba Marta', or 'Granny March', with the class. In the past, in Bulgaria, people saw the months and seasons as characters, and Baba Marta is a warm, kind character who loves babies, which explains why so many young animals are born in Spring. However, the boys and girls heard how sometimes her naughty brothers, January and February, sneak back while Baba Marta is sleeping, bringing the snow. According to Bulgarian tradition, this is the reason we often have such unpredictable weather at this time of year!
The 1st of March each year is Baba Marta's Day, when people gather to celebrate the coming Spring. They exchange 'martenitzi', made of red and white threads, to wish each other good luck, health and wealth. Typically, you wear this thread until you see the first stork, swallow or tree in blossom. You then tie your martenitzi onto a blossoming tree and make a wish!
Thank you to Sandra and Marko for bringing in a martenitzi for everyone in Year 2. The children are all wearing them with great pride!
QUIZ MASTERS | On Wednesday afternoon, Nicholas, Angus, Katie and Corinne attended the Rotary Quiz at Greyfriars Primary school. It was incredibly close throughout the ten rounds, and by the end St Leonards were just four questions behind the winners, Greyfriars, and were in joint second place with Lawhead.
In a very tense tiebreak, St Leonards held their nerve and won 12-6. The team will go through to the next round in Dundee in May. Congratulations!
Sal pitched her concept for a home baking company, which would offer bespoke cakes with a focus on Money cakes. She made two examples for the class to try and explained that if a customer had dietary requirements, she could make free-from cakes too!
COSTUME PARADE | A busy week, or indeed fortnight, of World Book Day celebrations culminated in the most spectacular Costume Parade in St Katherines Hall on Thursday morning. It was wonderful to see all the boys and girls - not to mention staff - arriving at the Junior School dressed up as characters from their favourite books!
We met Fantastic Mr Fox, Horrid Henry, the BFG, Willy Wonka, Luigi (complete with his own car) and the Cat in the Hat, to name but a few of the famous faces around the School yesterday!
The votes are being counted with the winning outfits due to be announced at Celebration Assembly on Monday morning, so watch this space!
BRILLIANT BANNOCKS | This week, the boys and girls in Year 2 have been exploring the Scottish fairytale, 'The Wee Bannock'. They created story maps and compared it to the well-known tale, 'The Gingerbread Man'. Next, it was time for the class to make some of their own wee bannocks, which everyone tucked into while they were still warm from the oven! Delicious!
YEAR 3 DONATION | Anna and Jonny very kindly donated their winnings from a STEM poster design competition to the boys and girls in Year 3. The pair won a £50 Amazon voucher for their poster, and after much discussion, the class decided to spend Anna and Jonny's generous donation on circuit-building kits, Play Dough, and a bonus purchase - walkie talkies!
Year 3 will be building circuits next week in order to create sounds when investigating Morse Code. The children will also be using the walkie talkies to explore how we communicate over long distances, and the Play Dough went down a treat during Golden Time!
TOPPINGS TRIPS | As part of the World Book Day festivities, each class in the Junior School has enjoyed a trip to Toppings bookshop in St Andrews. Armed with a £1 World Book Day token, and in many cases some extra spending money, the boys and girls headed along to the shop on Greyfriars Garden to choose some new reading material. Here they are en route and browsing the magnificent selection of books!