Primary pupils explore classical music with video resources


Psappha is a professional contemporary classical music ensemble. Formed in 1991 by its artistic director Tim Williams, Psappha specialises in the performance of music by living composers and that of the 20th and 21st centuries. The group has an extensive and varied repertoire of hundreds of works and a reputation for technical assurance and interpretive flair. Psappha has commissioned and premièred many new works by a wide range of composers, including our patron, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. Supporting the next generation of talent in the form of student and early career composers is also an important strand to their work.

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Manchester-based music ensemble Psappha have created Psappha Kids: Music Explained, a film-based resource specially devised to support the teaching of classroom music for children aged between 7 and 11 years. The resource is available free-of-charge, and is suitable for both non-specialist and specialist music teachers alike.

Psappha is northern England's only stand-alone, professional contemporary classical music ensemble. Their new resource has been created in collaboration with the educationalist, musician and composer Alison Carver, and is presented by guitarist and Radio 3 presenter Tom McKinney.

“The idea for Psappha Kids arose from my concerns that music in primary education was diminishing due to schools not having a music specialist to call upon,” said Tim Williams, Psappha’s artistic director and percussionist. “With only 1 in 3 primary school children taking part in music activities, compared to just over half in 2010, we decided to create a resource that could be used by teachers with no specialist music training.

“Having established The Composition Lab  – which has been really successful and used in 73 countries so far – to support composition in schools and colleges for students 16+, we felt that teachers in Primary schools needed our support to bring music back to the classroom.”

Psappha Kids: Music Explained offers fun scheme of work which teachers can deliver, including lesson plans to download that provide a clear method to deliver the music curriculum, develop class-based musical activities and extension work. It also provides insight from Psappha’s world-class musicians through a series of short films, and each section is introduced and explained by Tom McKinney through a series of short films. There are filmed performances of each piece, and pupils are able to meet the musicians and their instruments. Further schemes of work are to be added over the coming months.

These lesson plans are centered on pieces of music by living composers. The first scheme of work is based around the piece History of the World in Seven Acts, by American composer and chair of composition at the New England Conservatory of Music, Michael Gandolfi, in collaboration with computer animator, Jonathan Bachrach. The work is performed by Psappha and available to view online with animation or separately with the musicians in performance. Children inspired by the music they’ve heard in school can easily listen at home via the Psappha Kids website.

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