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In Harmony NewcastleGateshead: A Week in the Life of a Woodwind Section

Posted on 21 August 2013

It’s been a busy and exciting week for the woodwind players who have been taking part in the In Harmony Summer School. Some of our players took part in the Summer School at Sage Gateshead last week, but for most it had been almost three weeks since last playing an instrument, so it took a little while to build up the stamina in their lips again!

At the beginning of each day we have joined forces with the brass and string players. The woodwind and brass players began teaching the string players the Samoan Ten Step, which is a piece of body percussion they learned earlier in the year. Some of the brass players can now do it at a very quick pace! We were also fortunate to have Ed explain to us all about how the voice works and teach us some new songs, and on Friday, he even took the piano apart to show how it works. Thankfully, he knew how to put it back together again!

This week we have had two sectional sessions each day, and during this time the woodwind players have been learning three new pieces: ‘Pepperoni Polka’, ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’, and a theme from Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance in C major. These pieces have all had their challenges, with some especially tricky rhythms, but the children picked them up quickly and produced some excellent results.

Alongside learning new pieces, we have also been playing musical games. At the beginning of the week we were testing our memories and our ears with the instruments of the orchestra, and learning about how the instruments are arranged in a conductor’s score. It was well-received news that the woodwind section is always at the top! On Wednesday we took advantage of the glorious weather and had a particularly competitive game of Rhythm Bingo in the sunshine. On Thursday we played a game of musical Snakes and Ladders in which we had to answer questions about the Italian words musicians use for dynamics (volume), and we decided to apply these instructions to our parts for the Slavonic Dance, taking care to recognise which phrases were the tune and which phrases were the accompaniment.

Since the children had been managing their pieces so well this week, on Friday we turned the Music Cabin into a recording studio in order to make a CD of ‘Pepperoni Polka’. It was a challenge, but we managed to get a few takes without any talking or giggling! Their week of hard work culminated in a performance of the same piece in the school hall for family members and the other Summer School students, which received enthusiastic applause. We were also thrilled to hear the contributions from the brass players of ‘The Barley Break’, the theme from ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ and a reprise of ‘Sonic Boom’, as well as two exciting pieces from the strings, including a lively rendition of ‘Da Doo Ron Ron’. The concert was the perfect end to a fabulous week of music from some very talented children, and I’m sure the next two weeks will be just as wonderful!

Katrina Buzzard – Clarinet Tutor for In Harmony NewcastleGateshead