Composition workshop at St Mary’s CEP

Schools and arts award

On 31 March 2014, violinist Peter Sheppard Skaerved was back in Dover today for a composition workshop at St Mary’s primary school.

Over the last 2 years St Mary’s School has promoted the playing of pitched instruments, giving free lessons in years 3 and 4. 53 children have decided to continue and this number is constantly rising. As a result we now have a school orchestra made up of cello’s, violins, violas, flutes and clarinets as well as a ukulele band and a guitar group.” (Jane Tettmar, head of music)

The aim of the workshop was to  encourage class teachers to incorporate pitched instruments into composition lessons and meet the following national curriculum objectives:

  • to create and compose music with others
  • to compose music for different purposes using the interrelated dimensions of music.
  • to be aware of what improvisation is.

The pupils looked at Gustave Coubet’s Wave and Hokusai’s Wave and were asked to discuss, “if the painting was a piece of music what would it sound like?

The class was then split into two groups: one group worked with Peter Sheppard Skaerved, taking waves as inspiration and creating musical phrases using repetition (repeated notes) and rise and fall (dynamics and pitch).

The other half of the class focus on ‘the storm’ and working with weather/ storm at sea words

They explored instruments from the percussion trolley and considered what each instrument could represent in terms of weather and noises heard at sea in a storm.

The two groups then came back together and worked on the shape of the music, building up a storm idea using body sounds. i.e. whistling for wind, finger tips for light rain, palms for heavy rain, leap and air sound for lightening and clap for thunder. Instruments were then incorporated and a composition built up and finally performed.

“Just to say a huge big thank you for arranging Peter to come today. I got a lot out of the day and the teacher who sat in on the workshop has been inspired to do some composition work around the rainforest next term. The children were well behaved which meant they were enthralled. When I went to see them at the end of the day they gave some lovely feedback-one boy said ‘that was absolutely brilliant I really enjoyed it.” (Jane Tettmar)

“It is so important for us to be reminded, and this reminds us, how vital it is to do things where we can see how creative the children naturally are.” (Teacher taking part)

“The session was absolutely uplifting. It was wonderful for me, as a musician, to spend time being inspired by the community of St Mary’s School. I learnt so much, about colour, about energy, and, perhaps most important of all, about the unfettered imagination, whether expressed in music, speech, movement, gesture, or most important of all, laughter.” (Peter Sheppard-Skaerved)


Photos by Kate Beaugie