Latest News and Updates

17 March 2017

David Ashworth has created a number of resources around Jonathan Dove's Friday Afternoons songs for the Share section of the Friday Afternoons website. These included: Classroom Ensemble arrangements of Three Birds, Legend and Snowcomposition worksheets and a composers guide to the 2016 songs; and remix resources for Fast Car and The Little Girl of Rain. Below he discusses the resources he has created, his motivation for doing so and the process that created them.

Why did you decide to write these resources?

There were two reasons the Friday Afternoons Project Fund appealed to me. Firstly, here you have an initiative with an ostensibly traditional brief – quality new choral works for schools in a classical style with piano accompaniment – looking to reach out in new ways through a focus on digital delivery, creative responses, and areas of low engagement. Rather than narrow my activity to addressing just one of those specific areas, I was keen to investigate whether there might be a way of addressing all three, as components of a multipart resource. So my multipart resource is digital, and it encourages and supports creative activity in ways which reach out to students who may be uninterested, less confident or less able to participate in a more traditional academic approach.

Secondly, by making the resources available from the Friday Afternoons website as a set of free downloads, we can reach out to schools and teachers across the whole of the UK so they can use them whenever and wherever they choose; time, travel and costs are no longer a problem. Including video tutorials, for example, makes the digital remix resources more accessible to teachers and students. Teachers can access them at times to suit them, rather than being pinned down to a workshop or CPD session at a specific time and place.

What prompted you to arrange some of the songs for classroom ensemble?

The classroom ensemble arrangements were made so that young instrumental players could also make a musical contribution. The arranging resources allow teachers to put together bespoke ensemble arrangements for their classrooms and extend the opportunities for performance to students who may be reluctant to sing.

What gave you the idea of using these choral compositions as a starting point for original composition activity?

I think there are two strands to this. Firstly, I was conscious there was some great writing in the piano accompaniments that was in danger of being overlooked. These accompaniments are much more than just chordal vamp-alongs for the choir parts. I wanted to shine a spotlight on some of this great writing.

It also struck me that the musical ideas Dove works with would appeal to many young students. The catchy, funky rhythms, the repetition of riffs with a strong rock/pop feel, and the interesting harmonies and textures provide a great pool of ideas for creating music in a range of contemporary musical styles.  I have previously written similar resources, using the music of artists such as Radiohead and Bowie, and I thought it would be interesting to try a similar approach with music which comes from a contemporary classical starting point. The ideas are very similar – perhaps showing the extent to which many contemporary  composers working in a classical idiom are drawing on influences from rock, pop and other musical styles.

Both the composition resources and the remix resources allow for and encourage creative response. The composition resources provides pointers for ways in which students can work with some of Dove’s compositional techniques. The remix resources give students the chance to create original music in an engaging and, for some, a more culturally familiar environment.

How did you approach writing the three different components of the resource?

The piano parts were deconstructed to make the various musical layers available for a range of popular and orchestral instruments. This opens up a range of options for teachers to explore. Guitar, bass, drums and keyboard could provide a ‘rhythm section’, for example, with a possible brass, woodwind, strings combination taking the upper layers. In addition some virtual instruments played on mobile and/or accessible technologies could take some of the parts making the music available for those who do not access more traditional instruments for whatever reason.

And the remix resources?

This developed from some work I did for the BBC on their Ten Pieces projects. The BBC provided me with some musical samples from their multi track recordings of well known classical works.  I did a bit of digital editing on these and added some compatible ‘techno’ samples, which would enable students working with computer sequencers to remix the pieces in new ways.

For the FA songs, I had to take a slightly different approach. The remix activities take some original motifs and fragments from the vocal parts and piano accompaniments for two of Dove’s songs. These were re-recorded, using synthesised sounds, and made available as downloadable sample libraries from the FA website.  Students can use computer (or tablet) sequencers to reinterpret and remix their own versions of the songs using these freely available materials. Teachers’ notes and video tutorials have been provided which explain the process in more detail.

How are schools responding to these resources?

I’m very pleased with the feedback we have had so far. The response has been encouraging and it seems that teachers will be using these resources in various ways.  Dissemination has been straightforward and I’m confident that many schools are now aware of the resources.  By making them available from the FA website and spreading the word via social networking channels, we can cast the net far and wide.

A disadvantage with sharing resources in this way is that it can be difficult to gauge impact and get detailed feedback on who is using the resources, how they are being used and how students are responding to working with them.

But it’s a great start. If Friday Afternoons want to build on this initiative and move further in this direction, we probably need to look at ways in which we can build up an online community, where it’s possible to engage in discussion and elicit valuable feedback to support and augment the resource over time.

David Ashworth, 2016

David Ashworth is a freelance education consultant, specialising in music technology. He was involved in setting up the TeachTalk: Music group which function as an online ‘think tank’ for discussion on music education issues. He has been involved at a national level in most of the major music initiatives in recent years.

1 February 2017

We are delighted to release brand new resources for the Friday Afternoons project: Figurenotes.

Figurenotes is a form of notation that uses colour and shape to show pitch and rhythm. First created in Finland at the Resonaari Music School, Figurenotes has been further developed by Drake Music Scotland and is now used world-wide.

Thanks to a new partnership between Snape Maltings and Drake Music Scotland, Figurenotes scores are now available for five of Jonathan Dove’s Friday Afternoons songs: The Little Girl of Rain, Fast Car, Mad Moon, This is the Bird, and Snow. You can download these songs in two Figurenotes stages, allowing your students to progress to reading standard notation.

The resources make reading music more intuitive, particularly when it comes to rhythm. Figurenotes is ideal for class teachers who want to get their whole class singing and playing together, whilst letting students progress through their reading at their own pace. The system is truly inclusive, so those with ASN/SEND can access the same resources as the rest of the class, removing those barriers that can exclude some pupils. Get your whole class started on Figurenotes and let each pupil move onto the next stage when they are ready.

The new resources are now available for each of the songs in the Song Bank, alongside a helpful sheet to introduce you to the system. Have a look at the resources and let us know what you think!

To learn more about Figurenotes, visit their website or find them on Facebook or Twitter.

To find out more about extra resources and training, sign up to the Figurenotes mailing list.

31 January 2017

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.

Read Luke Styles’ blog on his website here.

16 December 2016

"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