3 Schools – 1 Guitar Concerto – COLF 2014!

City of London Festival Bowler Hat in Paternoster Square
City of London Festival Bowler Hat in Paternoster Square

I was so pleased to be working on this year’s City Of London Festival and to also have the opportunity to be working with 3 of the same schools and pupils who also participated in last year’s festival. This year’s theme and brief was ‘Street Guitar Concerto and Performance’.

I had the absolute pleasure of visiting Linden Lodge, Swanlea and Richard Cloudesley Schools to talk to the pupils about the project. It’s always nice to visit schools and meet with pupils and staff, and for the first time I had a FaceTime meeting with a school!  The pupils and staff at Richard Cloudesley suggested meeting virtually, which was very cool.

If you are unsure of what a ‘Concerto’ is (taken from wiki) Concerto = is a musical composition usually composed in three parts or movements, in which (usually) one solo instrument (for instance, a piano,violin, cello or flute) is accompanied by an orchestra or concert band. In this case the solo instrument was GUITAR!

We had 7 sessions with each school. 6 x 1 hour music sessions to compose/rehearse and 1 initial session at the beginning to discuss what types of music people enjoyed. We then used this information to begin their compositions, which started off by creating some drumbeats to a preferred style and tempo. We used this opportunity to discuss some musical elements and terms like tempo, BPM, dynamics and rhythm.

The pupils used iPad apps Launchpad and Garageband smart drums to create their beats and they created their chord progressions using the smart guitar instrument in Garageband. Each week the pupils layered something new to their composition and it was clear from the beginning that this concerto would be mainly upbeat with a rock edge!

Some pupils from Richard Cloudesley School used their Sound Beam 5 and wireless switches to solo over the chord progression as well as using Garageband guitar on iPad.

Some pupils from Linden Lodge School used an electric bass guitar, and a stomp box building a tight rhythm section with other pupils using iPad apps ThumbJam and Garageband to play iPad/guitar solos.

Pupils from Swanlea School used iPads to compose and they also used a microphone to record key words for their movement, which they entitled ‘One In A Million’. As the pupils were unfortunately unable to attend the performance, they created a video, featuring their composition track, which was projected to the audience during the performance.

Richard Cloudesley and Linden Lodge Schools created display boards showing some features and audio samples of their compositions.

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Over the first 3-4 sessions we recorded the rhythm section (drums/bass/rhythm guitar) with pupils practicing improvising over the chord progressions they created.  The pupils then played along with the rhythm-backing track at the performance, taking turns at soloing.

The 3 schools all had a different flavour in musical styles, ranging from rock to modern R&B beats and some Hawaiian style guitars. On the day of the performance (3rd July) the pupils arrived to the first Street Guitar performance area at Peter’s Hill, right beside the Millenium Bridge – I had excellent support that day from Drake Music Associate Ben Sellers, to setup the equipment. When we were all set up with leads plugged in, the 15 pupils 1 by 1 took their places on stage and played their composition, which was excellent! Lots of passers by stopped to listen to the music and even a few policemen stopped…who thankfully were enjoying the music and not complaining about the sound levels!

After a massive round of applause from an appreciative audience, we had a short break before making our way over to the main festival venue in Paternoster Square for the second performance. It’s certainly a type of venue that I have never been in before, in the shape of an inflatable Bowler Hat.

When everyone arrived into the amazing bowler hat venue and got settled, we watched the video of the first movement recorded by Swanlea School, which sounded really great. Then once again, all 15 pupils positioned themselves on stage getting ready to perform for the second time that day and as the saying goes they nailed it. Well done everyone!

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The overall support from teachers and staff at all 3 schools was exceptional – and the level of commitment, creativity, enthusiasm and banter from the pupils made this a very enjoyable project to be a part of. Thank you to our Programme Manager Charlotte Nicol for all her hard work and dedication to ensure that this project and performance was the great success that it was.

Have a listen to the composition here, which lasts 7minutes 30 seconds. We hope to share some video footage and photos of the pupils from Linden Lodge and Richard Cloudesley Schools performing live – we will keep you updated.

Street Guitar Concerto/One In A Million: By Swanlea School, Linden Lodge School, Richard Cloudesley School.


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