Discovering the Joy of Performance
Over the last few weeks, the Junior School has been a hub of creativity and dramatic performance, with the children demonstrating incredible skill in articulation and presentation. This week, too, has been filled with expression, but this time of a musical variety.
To quote Mrs Pennycook, there have been many “goosebump moments” as a result of two truly fantastic concerts, as well as a brilliant Year 1 Assembly on Wednesday. There were many solo performances and some incredible ensembles. Thursday’s Informal Concert finished with a rousing rendition by the Boys’ Choir of ‘We Won’t Grow Up’ from Peter Pan, as well as very special Abba interlude from the newly-formed St Leonards staff ukulele band.
Performing solo is such an important part of instrumental development, building confidence and self-esteem, but ensemble work is every bit as meaningful. The Scots College in Sydney, Australia has published five very good reasons why ensemble performance is so important, and I wanted to take the opportunity to share these with you:
Ensemble playing is more than the sum of its individual parts. Playing in an ensemble allows students to develop team skills, sacrificing one’s ego to benefit the team. Whether students have the melody or the harmony, they learn to listen and non-verbally communicate with one another to create music as a team. Practical skills learnt include balance, intonation, rhythm and performance etiquette in a group setting.
Watching a Conductor
The conductor is the ensemble leader, who brings all parts within a band or orchestra together to work as one. In order for the conductor to do this, the musicians must learn how to interpret and respond to their gestures and other means of communication. They must develop an understanding of their beat patterns and be able to follow the tempo.
Reinforcing Individual Learning
General technique is taught within one-on-one lessons, but what ensemble playing can do is reinforce this skill set. Even more important is that this enables students to better understand the reason for having learned the technique, thus allowing them to be more engaged and motivated to further their musicianship.
Often musical analysis is taught within concepts such as structure, dynamics, expressive techniques, tone colour, pitch, and rhythm. These foundations of music, taught in classrooms or in private lessons, are given a practical application in an ensemble setting, where musicians can really start to understand the concept and apply their learning.
Attending a regular rehearsal on time each week with your own part learnt, as well as contributing positively to any performance, involves organisation on the part of the individual. Students learn the logistics of setting up their ensemble, of carting their instruments (and quite often other equipment too!) from A to B. Students will also need to organise time to practise their individual parts so that they are contributing positively to the team as a whole.
Of course, an additional reason is that performing in an ensemble or solo on stage is fun, and where there is enjoyment the learning is undoubtedly enhanced.
I am incredibly proud that across the Junior and Senior School nearly 50% of pupils learn an instrument through the Music Department. Indeed, many have taken up more than one! Having played the clarinet and saxophone myself for a number of years, and having recently taken up piano, I can certainly vouch for how enjoyable music and performing, especially, can be.
Looking ahead to next week our performance theme continues with our upcoming plays. On Tuesday and Wednesday Years 4-6 will present ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’, and on Thursday and Friday it’s the turn of Year 7 with ‘The Incredible Vanishing’. I hope to see many of you there as our children take to the stage, but above all I hope that the cast, crew and audience enjoy every second of the experience. It will, after all, be a lot of fun!
I also look forward to sharing my vision for continuing the success of the Junior School. I invite parents to join me on Friday, 29 March, when I will present our development plan. There will be two information sessions at 8.45am and 5.30pm in St Katharines Hall, in the hope that as many of you as possible are able to attend.
Wishing you all a wonderful weekend.
Perform in Perth Assembly
PERFORM IN PERTH ASSEMBLY | What a brilliant week it has been for music and drama in the Junior School, starting with our Perform in Perth Assembly on Monday morning. Pupils, parents and staff enjoyed performances from some of the participating students, who recited poems and shared readings, demonstrating great skill and confidence on the stage. In addition, we had match reports from two of our House Captains, Anna and Lucca.
Certificates were presented by Mrs Pennycook and Mrs Stewart, giving everyone an opportunity to celebrate the successes of the 36 pupils who took part. A huge number of Merits and First Class awards were achieved, as well as first, second and third places in their categories.
Well done to all our wonderful Perth performers!
Junior Strings Concert
JUNIOR STRINGS CONCERT | The week took a musical turn on Tuesday afternoon, with our Junior Strings Concert in the Music School Auditorium.
The Year 2 violins started off a packed programme with ‘Yo Bow’, demonstrating what they have learned so far about holding their bows correctly. They then treated the audience to a performance of ‘Copycat Blues’.
An ensemble performance followed, with ‘China Town’ and ‘Tanguillo’, William played ‘Bluebells of Scotland’ on the double bass, and Calum performed ‘Afloat’ on the violin.
Ruby was our first ‘cello soloist of the afternoon, followed by two violin pieces: ‘Entr’acte' from Rosamunde by Schubert, played by XiuRong, and Purcell’s ‘Rondeau' from Abdelazar performed by Thomas.
Brendan played ‘I got plenty o’nuttin’’ on the viola, and our final solo came from Daniel on the ‘cello with ‘Robots’ March’.
Three Latin American dances from the String Club rounded off the concert, with the group accompanied by Mr Shiells and Sam (Year 7) on percussion.
Thank you to our captive audience, to all our performers and accompanists, and to Ms O’Brien for directing!
SAMBURU LEGENDS | Year 2 had a wonderful visit from Harris' mother, Ms Newton, who kindly gave the class an amazing insight into the life of a Samburu tribesman or woman in Kenya. She shared the Samburu legend which claims that all elephants are descendants from a young Samburu woman and share the same blood.
Elephants still help Samburu women today, clearing paths down to the streams and riverbank as they walk to collect water and breaking branches for them to use as firewood.
Inspired by this fascinating African storytelling from Kenya, Year 2 have created their own African sunset panorama, silhouetted by the animals they learned about in the slides!
Year 3's Musical Instruments
YEAR 3'S MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS | As part of Year 3's Unit of Inquiry on How the World Works the children have been making their own musical instruments, using a variety of different pieces of 'junk' materials from boxes to tubs, lentils to elastic bands. Through this they have found that different types of materials make different sounds and can even make a range of different pitches.
Year 3 then continued to build on the work they have been doing in music with Mr Shiells by composing their own piece of music.
Next week we will be hoping to head to the beach to round off our Unit by telling stories in the sand, recreating cave drawings. We also hope to use our semaphore flags to signal messages to each other.
Watch this space for our finale!
Mrs Beebee, Year 3 Class Teacher
International Day Celebrations
INTERNATIONAL DAY CELEBRATIONS | The Year 6 & 7 pupils were invited to join Senior School students for their International Day celebrations on Tuesday afternoon.
Organised by one of the Year 12 tutor groups for the Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) element of their IB Diploma, International Day encouraged pupils to dress in outfits inspired by flags from around the world in order to raise funds for Plan International. Years 6 & 7 looked superb in their creative costumes, with outfits representing Australia, Finland, China and Scotland, to name but a few of the nations on display!
The Junior School group had a chance to browse the stalls in the School Hall, taste foods from all over the world, and learn about different cultures and traditions.
Thank you to the Sixth Formers for inviting us. A total of £702.92 was raised through International Day, all of which will be donated to Plan International, a development and humanitarian organisation that advances children’s rights and equality for girls.
Year 4-7 Informal Concert
YEAR 4-7 INFORMAL CONCERT | Thursday morning’s Year 4-7 Informal Concert was another musical treat, started off by the Junior School Orchestra playing ‘Baby Elephant Walk’.
A series of superb solos followed, as well as a very special duet from Shreyas, accompanied by his sister Roma, who is in Year 13 at St Leonards and is working towards her IB Diploma exams in May. The sibling duo sang ‘Found Tonight’, and it’s safe to say there were a few tears shed in the audience as a result of this emotional performance!
Further vocal performances followed, including ‘Castle on a Cloud’ from Les Misérables, sung by Poppy, ‘Truly Scrumptious’ from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, performed by Riya, and a lovely rendition from Jennifer.
Our piano pieces included ‘Für Elise’, played from memory by Zahara, and the captivating ‘Meditation’ from Daniel.
Parents, pupils and staff were treated to the inaugural concert performance from the newly-formed ‘St Leonards Ukulele Teachers’, who put a smile on everyone’s face with their ‘Abba Medley’, and the Boys’ Choir rounded off proceedings with ‘I Won’t Grow Up’ from Peter Pan.
All in all, another great Informal Concert!
Year 1 Investigations
YEAR 1 INVESTIGATIONS | Year 1 have been investigating weight in class this week. They were tasked with finding items that were both heavier and lighter than the ‘Finger Phonics’ books. The boys and girls enjoyed gauging the weight with their arms and beginning to use the relevant vocabulary correctly.
The plan is to take this investigation further in the coming days, and some of the children have already elected to use the balance scales in ‘Planning Time’. These have been great for working out how many cubes different items weigh.
Bee Hive Preparations
BEE HIVE PREPARATIONS | Preparations have continued this week for the arrival of our bees and bee hives. On Friday morning some of the children helped to set out boundary hedges around the St Leonards apiary with a mix of saplings designs to support and attract pollinators and bird life.
RUNNING CLUB | The Junior School runners have been out and about along the coast again this week for a fun run and scramble session. Great to see such camaraderie and teamwork on display to get up and over some of the larger obstacles!
POLYTUNNEL PROGRESS | The St Leonards polytunnel continues to make great progress thanks to the time and teamwork of pupils, parents and staff. Thank you to all who have supported this project so far!
A Note from the Lower School
I may be biased, but my highlight from this week has to be the Year 1 Assembly. The children had worked so hard putting it all together, from the writing to the rehearsing (often reminding me that we should rehearse!), to the morning of presentation. There was excitement mixed with anticipation and fear on Wednesday morning, and that was just me!