Aug 062016
 

Margaret Archibald recalls some highlights of her day at Rutherford School where she and harpist Alexander Thomas were contributing music workshops designed to explore this year’s summer club theme of “Water”. 

It really is astonishing how much stuff I manage to take for one day of workshops!

Setting up the gear 20160801_125738.jpg

It was 1st August, there was no school-run traffic, and I arrived at Rutherford School with more than an hour and a half to spare to set up for a full day of workshops with harpist Alexander Thomas. This was already the second week of the school’s Summer Club, and we would spend the day working with five different groups of children all with profound and multiple learning difficulties. Somehow the time flew by as I unpacked lots of small percussion suitable for the school’s holiday project “water”, raided the music therapy percussion trolley, created a watery décor with water-blue silks and colourful umbrellas, and laid out the props and percussion ready in appropriate batches to be used for successive music items.

Alex and Winnie the Pooh 20160801_125624

Alexander Thomas arrived early too, having allowed plenty of time to drive from Dalston with his harp, the very special instrument chosen to be a new experience for the children. We were conscious that summer club should be fun and engaging, and we hoped that the chance to hear a harp and to feel its vibrations would be a thrilling experience for these wheelchair-bound children. We also wanted the support staff to have fun too, and the ratio of staff to children was mostly 1:1 so it was important that everyone was having a good time. Manoeuvring the wheelchairs really close to the harp was rather tricky, and we needed to be very careful not to damage the harp’s pedal box, but nearly every child was able to get close enough to be able to reach out with staff help and touch the pillar of the harp, feeling the strong vibrations flowing through as Alex played. One little girl, whose head we were told is nearly always down on her chest, lifted her head to gaze at Alex and his harp, and at the end of the workshop during our goodbye song she waved us her farewell.

Alex seen through the strings 20160801_130922

A favourite piece at each session was “Mists”, a dreamy and evocative piece for harp and clarinet that we elaborated with the sound of rainsticks, wind chimes and a thunder drum. First we explored the sounds that could be made with the percussion instruments, and then staff helped the children orchestrate the piece with imaginative, atmospheric sound effects. The opportunity to take part by adding additional percussion sounds and visual props to the music was noted by several members of staff as especially enjoyable for everyone, and by the end of each session we had added ‘seaweed’ (green plastic bag strips tied to coat hangers!), a plastic diver, ocean drums, pebble bag scrunchers, sea shells in a bucket, frog guiros, seed pod rattles and castanets to the list of atmospheric additions to enhance a deep ocean-scape, a pirates’ hornpipe, and the song of boatmen heaving on their oars as they pulled a heavy cargo up the river. Finally we invited a free choice of percussion so that everyone could join in our final goodbye song playing their favourite instrument.

As Alex and I were packing up our gear and gradually returning the school room to its former state, we reflected on how lucky we were to be able to play such lovely music, and to share it with these very special children who cannot share their thoughts in words but whose responses mean so much.

Feb 262015
 

Sarah Stuart and Margaret Archibald were at the Children’s Trust on Monday 23 February before the canteen opened for breakfast, so the bacon sandwiches had to wait! Both were keen to get the large percussion instruments in place for two full days of workshops enabling children and young people with profound and multiple learning difficulties to explore large orchestral percussion instruments. These workshops form part of a series supported by the Lucille Graham Trust and the Red Socks Charitable Trust, their generosity enabling us to visit four schools for children and young people with special needs.

Margaret Archibald writes:

Our hello song had a Latin-American flavour, and Sarah kept the momentum going with a large guiro while I played a short riff on the clarinet as we skipped from one learner to the next, and then sang in harmony with Sarah as we greeted each learner in turn.

Sarah began her demonstration of percussion with the side drum, and we were able to involve learners and staff in joining our marching band with small percussion, and also with two suspended cymbals that hung comfortably just above the level of the tray on each learner’s wheelchair.

Claire and Tim, the resident Music Therapists, both commented that  moving  wheelchairs across the room in order to get really close to the tam-tam and the bass drum gave learners the cue that something new was about to happen. The muffled thunder resonances of these very large instruments created a palpable change to a darker mood, and when our next item came it was a relief to imagine ourselves jumping on a sleigh with everyone playing bells to accompany the clarinet and xylophone in a musical ride across the Siberian snow.

Having encountered the xylophone the learners were invited to relax and simply listen to a piece featuring the xylophone and clarinet, and then it was time to take part again in “team timps”, with groups of learners in their chairs clustering round each kettle drum  to share in creating an exciting and festive noise.

We rounded the session off with a return to our Latin-American song, this time to say goodbye, with everyone playing a favourite percussion instrument.

One of our aims was to create a sense of rehearsal leading to performance.We wanted to establish this pattern early in each session and develop it with each successive repertoire item.

There was a trade-off between allocating time to allow individuals to explore instruments, and covering the full range of musical items to give variety. At our first Monday session, perhaps because everyone was fresh, and with a smaller group of just four learners present, we covered all the items. Later in the day, especially with slightly larger groups, we found we were making choices between items, lingering more on items where learners were taking turns to play large instruments such as the tam-tam and the bass drum. By the Tuesday we found that a pattern had begun to establish itself whereby we spent a lot of time early in the session exploring sounds, and then gathered momentum towards a climax with everyone playing the timpani together.

The hypnotic effect of soft sounds on the tam-tam and bass drum, separately and together, seemed to capture many of the learners, and several showed especial pleasure on hearing the clarinet tones set against the deeper rumble of these very large instruments. Nearly everyone experienced the physical sensation of the tam-tam or bass drum vibrations, either by touching with hands, or through beaters, or from close proximity to the source of the sound through careful positioning of wheelchairs. We were told that this experiencing of vibration tied in with other resonance work that the learners undertake in school.

Wherever possible we created ensemble effects, and at the last session on Monday we discovered that we could effectively cluster groups of learners around each kettle drum, creating a very effective Indian War Dance with everyone drumming together. This was such an exciting sound that we developed this at almost every session on the Tuesday, and one of our morning sessions on Tuesday finished with especially rousing versions of La Réjouissance and the Indian War Dance, the kettle drums giving so much pleasure to staff and learners alike that we continued to use them for the ensuing Goodbye Song.

The Music Therapists told us that the learners are not used to music sessions that last as long as a full hour, but that on this occasion it was good for them to have time for a wide range of activities.

The lunch-time session on the Monday was spent playing folk fiddle music to a large group in the hall, with maximum participation from hand percussion led by the two Music Therapists Claire and Tim who were both able to give their lunch-hour to share this time with everyone. The lunch-time therapy session on the Tuesday was also devoted to folk fiddle and clarinet; we worked in a therapy room with a smaller group of learners who were mostly lying down, some on resonance boards, and for these learners staff were energetic in drumming rhythms on the boards to match the tempo of each new jig or reel.

The school has an open door policy for parents to share time with the children, and it was delightful that one of the younger boys was able to share his session on the Tuesday afternoon with both his parents who took great delight in the chance to play the wide range of instruments. It was lovely to see how much their mood was lifted by sharing in the fun.

Sarah and I were impressed throughout by the willingness of all the staff to engage with each activity;  staff help was invaluable in enabling each individual learner to access the different instruments and the different playing techniques to best advantage. We realised that it was important for us as the visiting musicians to make it clear to staff that we really did want them to take part in the music-making in their own right, and not just as support for the learners, as we wanted them to enjoy themselves too. In this way everyone in the room was contributing to the music, lifting the mood and giving greater energy to the results.

Feb 152015
 

Percussion Play at Rutherford School

Margaret Archibald writes:

Rutherford School, under the umbrella of the Garwood Foundation, caters for children with profound and multiple learning difficulties. Sarah Stuart and I visited on three separate occasions in late January and in early February. At our preliminary visit we spent a morning popping into the children’s classrooms; we were able to hop around the building easily with Sarah on folk fiddle and me on my little C clarinet, and we were helped by Music Therapist Sarah Kong to carry several bagfuls of small handheld percussion for the children to play. We performed a varied selection of folk tunes from England, Ireland and the USA, and staff and children together joined with each on different styles of percussion to suit the mood and tempo. It was lovely for me to meet the children again, many of whom were familiar from previous workshops at the school including most recently in 2013 with percussionist Scott Bywater working alongside Music Therapist Stephen Haylett who spends every Friday at the school and who has become our own Everyone Matters Music Therapy Advisor. For Sarah Stuart this was her first encounter with the children and she showed herself both sensitive to their needs and very encouraging in enabling their participation.

Sarah’s ability to come alongside the children was increasingly in evidence as we progressed through our two full days of percussion workshops during the first two Wednesdays in February. Sarah arrived early for these in order to have time to unload her van that was stuffed with large and exciting orchestral percussion instruments. She brought a full-size chromatic xylophone, two kettle drums, a bass drum, a tam-tam, a side drum, suspended cymbals and, perhaps smallest but by no means least effective, a set of sleigh bells. Our programme was devised to give each group of children an experience of a wide range of tones and timbres of percussion, with maximum opportunity for participation, and wherever possible giving children experience of playing the large orchestral instruments themselves. The smaller instruments could be placed on a lap or a wheelchair tray, held by a teacher, or strapped to a wrist or an ankle to make each new type of percussion as accessible as possible; with the big instruments we found ways to turn the wheelchairs, change the angle of stands, or hold sounding surfaces close to feet or hands. For many of these children access is a constant issue requiring creative solutions to enable them to enjoy experimenting with the sounds on offer; they may find gripping a beater impossible, or they may suffer a degree of visual impairment. Our aim with each new piece of music was to lead the children through changes of mood, pace and style, encouraging different responses and eliciting varying degrees of motor control in order to produce appropriate sounds to match the music’s dynamics, tempo and character.

One real highlight came on our last day when one teenage boy took full advantage of a short extra lunchtime session that Sarah offered for him alone. We were able to manoeuvre his wheelchair so that his knees fitted neatly under the xylophone and for the next ten minutes he experimented with striking at the wooden bars, stroking a glissando with the soft end of the beater, then switching to a glissando with the hard end of the beater, adding strokes on a suspended cymbal, returning to the xylophone, realising that it was not so effective played with feet, and then finally adding side drum that he played alternately with a beater and with his hand. It was thrilling for us musicians, and for the school staff who knew him well, to see how much he was able to choose to experiment with different types of stroke to access different types of sound, truly a revelation for us and clearly a source of enormous delight to him.
These sessions were made possible by generous financial support from the Lucille Graham and Red Socks Charitable Trusts and with a slab of funding from the school. We were happy that the headteacher was able to join our sleighbell group for a rendition of Troika, played on clarinet and xylophone with a posse of bells jingling away from everyone else in the room, children and staff alike.

May 222014
 

John Webber and his Elm Singers shared the platform at St Mary’s Shortlands with Stone Road Single Reeds on Saturday 17 May for a Summer Concert in aid of Everyone Matters. Reverend Morag Finch welcomed us all to her spacious modern church that on this gorgeous summer evening was flooded with both sound and light. Bromley Arts Society mounted an exhibition and the evening’s music juxtaposed Palestrina with Pinafore, Schubert with Shearing. The performers ranged from youngsters in their teens to seniors in their mid-80s, a real advertisement for the power of music to bring the generations together in a shared pleasure. Four young professional clarinet players from the Band of the Grenadier Guards gave their time to support the wind ensemble, and were especially featured in Mozart’s glorious Adagio for 2 clarinets and 3 basset horns K.411. Schubert’s Shepherd on the Rock was sung by Margaret Cadney with Margaret Archibald on clarinet obbligato and John at the keyboard. There was an excellent turnout in support of the event, including one friend newly returned from a trip to Vietnam, and another whose house is almost within sight of the church. Barbara’s interval refreshments, the collection plate at the end, and subsequent postal donations have between them raised nearly £400 for Everyone Matters. The funds will help towards several projects requested for June including a new interactive workshop programme for young people with severe learning difficulties and on the autistic spectrum that is being devised at the invitation of Priory School;Image

 A post-16 student launches into a spontaneous Cossack move during  an Everyone Matters dance workshop at Priory School in South Norwood.

to be called “Changing Times”, it is to be a musical exploration of changing moods, styles, rhythms and tempi, and will celebrate the school’s move this term to a brand new building.

Apr 302014
 

How exciting! Sitting here with Jean starting a blog…

Everyone Matters is passionate about bringing music to people who can’t get out to hear it or to play it themselves.

We visit nursing homes, schools for children with special needs, day centres, etc. We have projects especially devised for groups of all ages, including tots under 5 and people diagnosed with dementia.

Our professional musicians are committed to sharing great music with every group they visit. They turn up with anything from a ‘cello and a clarinet, to a van load of exciting large percussion.

Young violinists, who performed alongside our professionals, see the funny side in post-concert chat with older people at Day Opportunities Chislehurst, Age UK Bromley and Greenwich. This intergenerational project was funded by the National Lottery through the Big Lottery Fund.Young violinists, who performed alongside our professionals, see the funny side in post-concert chat with older people at Day Opportunities Chislehurst, Age UK Bromley and Greenwich. This intergenerational project was funded by the National Lottery through the Big Lottery Fund.

 

Choreographer Lauren Potter leads a circle dance with students aged 16+ at Priory School for young people with severe learning difficulties and on the autistic spectrum.

 Choreographer Lauren Potter leads a circle dance with students aged 16+ at Priory School for young people with severe learning difficulties and on the autistic spectrum. 

 

“Big Chief” Scott, having just performed “Red Indian War Dance”, supports the weight of his antique bass drum to give this learner a closer encounter with its powerful “boom”...

 “Big Chief” Scott, having just performed “Red Indian War Dance”, supports the weight of his antique bass drum to give this learner a close encounter with its powerful “boom”.

 

Young musicians from Bishop Justus School perform alongside Everyone Matters musicians in Bromley nursing homes.

Young musicians from Bishop Justus School celebrate their success as performers alongside professional musicians in Bromley nursing homes. 

I hope you enjoy our new blog, and I look forward to keeping in touch! Please let me know your thoughts and ideas for our music making!

Margaret Archibald

Artistic Director

Apr 212013
 

A Pageant of Dance

 

Our links with Priory School started in 2012 when teacher Monika McIvor invited Everyone Matters to provide a short performance for the Post-16 Centre during Arts Week. In response Julia and I tucked an extra concert into our “Mood Music” project that we had already devised for presentation at three other schools, and the Priory students, young people with severe learning difficulties and on the autistic spectrum, wholly engaged with the music that we played. In particular they had fun dressing up in tails for conducting and in silly hats for our Rondo game and enjoyed participating alongside us using percussion, interactive features that inspired Monika to request a full project from us this year in which students could access elements of movement and costume. We decided to collaborate in a dance project and invited Lauren Potter to lead it.

Choreographer Lauren Potter (in the brown hat) has a background in contemporary dance; she was a member of London Contemporary Dance Theatre for many years and was a founder member of Siobhan Davies Dance. Her response to the three groups of students whom we met at Priory School was truly inspirational; she was always ready to change emphasis to catch the mood of the moment, constantly moving around the group in order to engage individual students in a way that would be accessible to them, and yet maintaining the momentum of the session so that we easily covered the full range of activities, flowing effortlessly from one style and mood to the next. Props such as long lengths of vibrantly coloured silks, dyed feathers, percussion instruments and a huge crate of hats, resources that Julia, Lauren and I had all pooled in advance, gave the different activities an added focus, and Monika McIvor, the teacher at the school with whom the workshops had been set up, identified the use of props as one of the features that particularly engaged the students.

We were struck by the freedom with which these young people moved, responding to the varied programme of music, some fast, some slow, some sad, some exhilarating, that we chose for our dance sequence. When Julia and I started playing an Allegro by Stravinsky one young man immediately leapt from his place in the circle of chairs to take centre stage with a spontaneous Cossack dance.

It was good to know that our workshops were building on a regular programme at school called “Step into Dance” and we were especially delighted that the teachers and teaching assistants were happy to join in the activities alongside the students, enabling them where necessary and also simply sharing the fun.

I feel very strongly that the power of great music is one of the most important gifts that Everyone Matters can offer during workshops, and for our “Pageant of Dance” Julia and I had identified and adapted music mostly from the early 20th century, including short pieces and fragments drawn from Stravinsky, Bartok, Gershwin and Satie. As the music’s energy shifted from fast to slow, from energetic to hypnotic, Lauren was able to lead the group from bursts of activity to moments of repose, from a march to a seated yawning dance, from a percussion band to silent creatures gliding through the jungle. Lauren here describes the use of chairs as an anchor, and the patterning of moods that shaped each session :

 

The semi-circle of chairs [was] an anchor point for the students, so they could return to the ‘safety’ of their seat as each ‘event’ unfolded then concluded.

 

As Monika wrote in her evaluation of our first full day of workshops at Priory:

 

One Teaching Assistant made a comment about one of our students that she hasn’t seen him move so much in years! At the end of the session some students were asking me if they were going to do it again. The students have enjoyed it so much!


 

A project led by choreographer Lauren Potter. Live music played by Julia Desbruslais, ‘cello and Margaret Archibald, clarinet.

Supported by the Lucille Graham Trust and the Red Socks Charitable Trust, with contributions from the schools.


 

Mar 262013
 

Texture, touch, tone and timbre

Supported by the Lucille Graham Trust, the Red Socks Charitable Trust and the schools

Since Christmas Scott Bywater and I have had the privilege of delivering workshops at three schools for children with profound and multiple learning difficulties. In January and February we visited Rutherford School in South Croydon and the Surrey Teaching Centre at the Children’s Trust in Tadworth. Then, in March, we returned to Tadworth for a further two days at the School for Profound Education.

Staff, pupils and parents were moved and uplifted by your sessions and we had so many positive comments. We were so touched at the effort you put in bringing so many instruments and building in responses from one week to the next, not to mention your totally thorough planning and evaluations.

Jackie Winter, Deputy Headteacher, Surrey Teaching Centre

Scott and I had first devised our percussion project at the behest of Stephen Haylett, Music Therapist at Rutherford School. Most of the children at Rutherford have no access to spoken language, suffer some degree of visual impairment and are nearly all wheelchair users, and Stephen had suggested that we could engage them initially by appealing to their sense of touch.

Our starting point in devising the project was that we would explore different textures for their sound-making potential, show ways that staff and children together could create simple percussion instruments in class, and then use the children’s own shakers and drums in our hands-on music-making sessions. It was delightful to see the range of instruments, mostly shakers, that resulted from this, including some that were beautifully decorated with beads or paper butterflies, and even two water bottles that had become a tiger and a leopard, complete with eyes and a tail! However, it has to be said that in the end it was the quality of Scott’s many large and exciting orchestral percussion instruments that carried the sessions, and the compelling power of  some great music, chosen from classical and modern repertoire, including such percussion-rich warhorses as Ravel’s Bolero and Bizet’s March of the Toreadors.

Throughout our days at all three schools the greatest thrills were from experiencing the wonderful range of percussion instruments that Scott piled into his van for each visit. We had always planned to make a big feature of the vibraphone, and the tremulous magic of its unique sound did indeed fascinate many of the children. Some were able to see the vibraphone’s fluttering mechanism and one young lady accepted her own pair of beaters and joined Scott to play Twinkle, twinkle; others were able to join in by playing gentle chimes or bells that matched the mood of gentle pieces, including Chick Corea’s “Crystal Silence” that allowed each session a moment of repose. Progression from one visit to the next was difficult to guage at Rutherford School, but Stephen Haylett commented on the greater confidence that grew as children became familiar with us and the sounds we were making. It was especially exciting to see one pupil’s response to Scott’s bass drum; this is a boy who usually enjoys his music sessions, and on both our visits Scott was able to take direction from his increasingly excited gestures, mostly indicating “faster” or “louder” – the school staff said they had not seen him so animated for a long while!

I felt that the activities in which the responses of the children dictated the style, pace and direction of the music were most effective.  For instance, some of the groups seem to prefer a softer, more reflective style of music-making, using bells and chimes as the predominant musical texture.  Other groups revelled in boisterous and extrovert playing, especially when featuring cymbals, bass drums and timpani.  There were some wonderful examples of musical interaction between Scott and the children, enabling some of them to experience at close hand the vibrational and distinctive sounds of the larger percussion instruments.

Stephen Haylett, Music Therapist

Sharing activities together was also especially important to the children at the Surrey Teaching Centre, and we were able to develop ensemble work with several groups. We had been asked to support some curriculum work with a group of young people working at Key Stages 3 and 4 who were studying music from around the world, which we felt gave us a cue to hand out maracas, guiros, cabasas, a cowbell and an agogo and to layer rhythms in a Latin-American song, something we developed on our second visit into quite a sophisticated samba. Their teacher Cath wrote:

These sessions worked especially well for a student with severe memory difficulties and it was evident from her high level of independence and her animation in the sessions. CB

I was glad to be able to play melodies on my clarinet to suit the wide range of percussion sounds that Scott made available, but perhaps the most moving moment for me was to watch Scott working with the two boys at the Surrey Teaching Centre who had suffered tragic brain injury in accidents, helping each in turn to hold a stick and strike the kettle drum, and then wait for each one to initiate the next stroke with the tiniest flicker of a sign that this was what they each wanted to do.

We can’t thank you enough… come back again.

All our good wishes,I hope you continue to have fun with many more pupils, children, students, parents and staff for many years to come.

Jackie Winter, Surrey Teaching Centre

Sep 152012
 

This new project was devised in January 2012 by Margaret Archibald and Julia Desbruslais for children with profound and multiple learning difficulties at Rutherford School. The project is being offered to The School for Profound Education at Tadworth in April, and to St. Nicholas School in Purley in May when the project will be adapted for young children with moderate learning difficulties, speech and communication disorders and autism.

A Mood Music workshop at The School for Profound Education, Tadworth Court

Margaret Archibald describes the project at Rutherford School:

Julia and I visited Rutherford School for two linked workshop days; on the second day we aimed to bring to performance level music explored on the first day.

Our primary aim was to explore contrasting moods through imaginative use of music, words, lighting, props and percussion, and thus to immerse the children in a multi-sensory theatrical and musical experience through participation in works by great classical composers

We have enjoyed close links with Rutherford School over more than two decades, for many years as musicians with the London Mozart Players and more recently with Everyone Matters. Our aim is always to build on our experience at previous workshops in developing each new idea.

An important goal was that we should work collaboratively with Rutherford School’s three regular visiting Music Therapists, with their detailed knowledge of each child’s response to music, and also with the Rutherford School care staff with their intimate knowledge of the children day by day.

We were also keen to develop creative use of great classical repertoire by some of Western music’s greatest composers, each piece powered by its own characteristic rhythmic momentum and providing a safe musical space within a logical framework.

Thanks to the experience gained when Everyone Matters delivered workshops alongside Stephen Haylett at Rutherford School in spring 2011 we retained what we had seen as a clear benefit to the children of working with small group sizes and mixed age ranges, thus giving them a different experience from their daily routine in the classroom.

Hello and Goodbye Song

In this musical “hello” we played a sequence of well-known tunes with linking music between each one. The cello provided a continuous accompaniment and with my more portable instrument I was able to play the linking music and walk to each child in turn to perform that child’s special “signature” tune. We used this device as a “goodbye” at the end of the session, and on Day 2 we developed the idea further by adding a special percussion instrument for each child so that they could use it to say “hello” and “goodbye” to us.

Mood Music

A few lines of poetry introduced each item and set the scene through vocal tone as much as through meaning. Coloured lights (available at Rutherford) bathed the room in colours to match the mood of each piece.

Props and costumes helped to tell the story behind each piece of music, with a special role for lengths of brightly coloured silks that sometimes draped the floor and sometimes were worn by being draped around the children themselves, and because these children’s lives are often so static we sometimes asked the adults to create movement in the room by swirling the fabrics around.

Percussion instruments were matched to the style and character of each piece and were chosen so that children could experience them, if possible by striking or waving the instruments themselves, or by feeling the vibrations against their skin or through their clothes where they were unable to manipulate them. The adults were always on hand to back up the children so that, if at all possible, the children could choose when and how sounds should be created.

The Swan

Introduced by a few lines from The Silver Swan.

– blue fabric “river” and feather boa “swan” – dream chime that helpers could hold for children to sweep their fingers through to create a gentle chiming, creating a peaceful, floaty mood.
Sequence: The Silver Swan – chimes – fabric – gentle bluey-green watery light – clarinet ripples from behind – cello melody

America

Introduced by a stanza from West Side Story.

– bright red-orange fabric – Latin-American costume – castanets and maracas to establish the characteristic Latin-American dance rhythm.
Sequence: – establish rhythm– add children’s different pitch maracas –introduce red-orange fabric and lighting – add cello accompaniment – clarinet rides in with tune.

Morning

Introduced by a few Lines on Westminster Bridge.

– golden fabric and lighting – jingles, either held or worn around the wrist, for a sparkling sunrise effect. Sequence: – establish cello pizz – add golden dawn lighting effect – add jingles – add arpeggios on clarinet – cello swings into the tune.

Cushion Dance

Introduced by lines from A Piper.

– multi-coloured fabrics – large and small drums struck by hand or with beaters for a mood of celebration. Sequence: – shifting coloured lighting and coloured fabrics give a disco feel – the cello establishes Bartok’s dance rhythm – drums join – clarinet adds tune.

On Day 1 we introduced four contrasting pieces of music, two peaceful items (The Swan and Morning) and two lively pieces (America and Cushion Dance). We performed each piece for the children while at the same time associating each piece with a few introductory lines of spoken poetry, with brightly coloured sari lengths of fabric and with ambient coloured lighting (thanks to being in a room which made this possible). We then engaged the children and their helpers through atmospheric use of different types of percussion as we performed each piece for a second time. The Swan was accompanied by gentle dream chimes, America featured Latin-American style maracas, Morning used tinkling bells and oriental cymbals and Cushion Dance provided a chance to play drums, large or small as appropriate to each child. The children were invited to play the percussion instruments to whatever extent was possible for them, or at least to experience the sound of percussion at close quarters through their adult carers enabling the sounds for them. Strong rhythms were provided thanks to the participation of Rutherford’s Music Therapists Sarah Kong and Victoria Brock, underpinned by our own orchestral instruments and, in the case of America, by my drumming feet!

The pre-planned groups of children necessarily changed as the school adapted to cope with each child’s individual needs throughout the day; I suspect this was a headache for the Rutherford staff but it was not a problem for us as we were always helped by the staff to work with each child in ways appropriate to them. I was very happy to be able to build on the experience gained last year of keeping group sizes small, something that enabled us in each session to relate to individual children. We began every session with a hello song devised by Julia in which a short linking phrase led to a special tune personalised for each child in turn, and this was a lovely device for giving each child a sense of being special; eye contact was achieved with several of the children, especially at the end when each child’s special piece was used to say goodbye. Because group sizes were so small it was always possible to achieve giving each child their own special musical moment but in a short space of time.

Our aim on Day 2 was to work at specific pieces requested by each group, developing percussion effects and rhythms, making more vivid use of scenery, props and lighting, and bringing the whole together into a satisfying performance that enveloped the children in a multi-sensory and multi-art-form experience.

Julia and I developed the hello and goodbye songs by finding a special percussion instrument that each child could play, perhaps with some extra help; we took care to repeat each child’s special tune from Day 1 and so hoped to create a link and a sense of progression across the two days, separated as they were by only one intervening day in the same week.

We introduced a few new pieces of music and used them in short performances to enhance the mood of each participatory item; thus the slow movement melody from Dvorak’s New World Symphony created a still, quiet “darkness” from which “Morning” could grow, “Consider Yourself” from Oliver provided a rousing introduction to the strong rhythms of “America” and Mozart’s Rondo alla turca involved the children and their helpers in playing jingling percussion as an introduction to some energetic drumming in the “Cushion Dance”.

Music Therapist Stephen Haylett supported me and Julia throughout Day 2, using percussion to enhance our musical ideas and using his intimate knowledge of the children from his music therapy sessions with them to guide us in helping each child to join in to best effect.

All three of Rutherford School’s visiting music therapists completed detailed evaluation forms on our behalf, avidly read by me and Julia, and invaluable in helping us develop the work in the future:-

Here are some of the comments offered by Victoria Brock:

“I expected an interactive music session for the children, involving instruments for the children and music to listen to. My expectations were exceeded; the additional use of moving fabrics, lights and enthusiasm from both Margaret and Julia created a captivating ambiance and created a supportive atmosphere for the children. The spoken introductions/ setting the scene worked well for both staff and children.

I enjoyed the whole atmosphere created and was really impressed by the way Margaret and Julia spoke to the children – they used a tone of voice that was exciting, engaging and yet not patronizing.
I felt staff knew what was expected of their role and everyone joined in whole-heartedly.

For me as a music therapist it was useful for my own professional development of new ideas etc.”

…and by Sarah Kong:

“Music is key to Rutherford’s profound education curriculum and accessed the child’s learning in prominent areas such as:-Communication, social, life skills, sensory cognitive and motor….all these were covered, but feel that communication was highlighted the most with response to sound / voices / touch / motivation / initiation / turn-taking.”

…and by Stephen Haylett:

“I thoroughly enjoyed working with Margaret and Julia in the second of the Rutherford School workshops, and was impressed by the enthusiasm, professionalism and child- centred approach that they both brought to their work.”

…and here is Julia’s response:

“Living in the 21st century where life rushes by and there seems to be so little time to make people feel valued and important, it is a real privilege to work for an organization that lives out its name Everyone Matters.

I have really enjoyed helping to create a workshop directed at children with profound and multiple learning difficulties and feeling a real connection with them through the shared experience of music-making, the common language we all share. The response of the children at Rutherford School was a varied as the personalities we played to and so moving to be part of.”

Julia Desbruslais (Co-principal Cello, London Mozart Players)