Primary Robins

Primary Robins Orchestral Workshop

The Derrill Alatt Foundation took members of the Berkeley Ensemble to work with our primary robins who have no other music at school. A child with ADHD and who has trouble sitting still, sat spellbound for the whole 30 minutes and, at the end, simply said,  “Wow, you are very talented”.

They started by introducing their instruments: clarinet,  bassoon,  cello, double bass.For most children, it was the first time they had seen these instruments.

We discussed the wind and strings families.

Much to the children’s surprise, Andrew likened his bassoon to plumbing under the kitchen sink. All became clear when he showed his bassoon’s U-bend.

The children were mesmerised by a Poulenc duet. When it had finished, a hand shot into the air. “How do you do that?”

“Practice.” was the reply.

“When did you start?”

“When I was ten.” John answered

“So I could do that?”

Inspiring stuff.


Then we went on to the string family. Many children could thought Gemma’s cello was a violin. So she tried to put it under her chin – lots of giggles. A little girl asked why the double bass was so big – we talked about how the bigger instrument makes a lower sound – cue the ‘Jaws’ theme on the double bass. Lauchy then made his double bass sound like an elephant, a seagull and, of course, a motorbike.

Gemma and Lauchy played a Rossini cello/bass duet and the children were asked what they  felt or what they thought was happening.

Ideas included: a conversation with the Royal Family, something to do with the war, a couple arguing.

Pizzicato became the word of the day but it had to be said with an Italian hand gesture.

Musical Mirrors was a great hit – someone would come up and stand in front of one of the players and make different movements and the player had to mirror the moves in rhythm and pitch.

We had some wonderful compositions. Particularly entertaining was the cello’s version of the dance craze known as ‘the floss’.

It was a wonderful day enjoyed by both the children and teachers alike, and I am certain it will have inspired a few Robins to learn a musical instrument.

Annabel Larard – Project Leader