Young Composers at King’s St Alban’s
Composition is an integral part of the music curriculum at KSA, with every child from Reception to Year 6 using creativity to support and develop their understanding of musical concepts. For our youngest pupils this will be very first experiments in pitch and dynamics or creating simple rhythmic accompaniments to songs. By Year 6 our children are studying more advanced ideas, such as ternary form, repetition and layering in gamelan or the use of phasing techniques in minimalism. Trying out a wide variety of compositional techniques allows the children to really dig deep into a topic and they are often able to listen to music with greater understanding and appreciation as a result.
This year, it has been really lovely to see two of our older pupils develop their composition away from the classroom, working independently and at an incredibly high level for their age to produce pieces for competition and performance beyond their music lessons. James (Y6) and Ottilie (Y5) have both demonstrated real aptitude and enthusiasm for composition and have thrown themselves wholeheartedly into a range of creative challenges.
In the Autumn Term, both children entered the Choir School’s Association competition to compose an introit. This required them to write for an SATB choir, with organ accompaniment, using a set text taken from Psalm 95. Although they both play the piano, writing for the organ encouraged them to think in a very different way and I know that a lot of research needed to go into this project. As a chorister, James has sung a great many introits. Composing one is quite a different matter!!
In her spare time, Ottilie has enjoyed composing a number of pieces inspired by the Nevermoor series of books. During the Spring term, Ottilie entered a composition competition at Gloucester Music Academy, which she attends on a Saturday. For her entry she composed a piece for string orchestra based on Ezra Squall. This is how Ottilie described the piece in her submission:
“This theme tune starts with the Republic’s view of Ezra before moving into Nevermoor’s view of him. It ends with his own view: controlled anger but sad and vengeful and his determination to gain control of Nevermoor once more”.
Ottilie was awarded a runner-up place in the competition for her piece and we were thrilled and proud of her. She intends to expand the piece for full orchestra in the future. You can listen to a Sibelius file recording of the work below:
This term has been equally busy and productive for James. Having been commended in music lessons for a ternary form brass fanfare he composed as an experiment in structure, James was invited to compose a fanfare for performance at February’s Foundation Orchestral Workshop day. Knowing that this would definitely receive a live public performance made this quite an imposing challenge and James rose to this beautifully. Inspired in part by the simplicity of Renaissance music and the poise and space in Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, James composed a super piece that was really enjoyed by the children taking part in the workshop. He even conducted the world premiere – no mean feat for a ten-year-old! James said of the experience,
“It was terrifying to conduct my piece, but really exciting too!”
Click this link to watch a video of the performance.
So, what next for our budding composers? Ottilie is currently working on a piece for performance by the KSA string group in a future concert alongside a number of other projects. James has started working on a celebratory piece for trumpet ensemble that will be performed in front of staff, parents, pupils and governors at King’s St Alban’s Day in the summer. Clearly there are exciting times ahead and we are looking forward to supporting them on the next stage of their composition journey.