Primary Robins: music appreciation

This new academic year will bring many challenges as the DfE’s guidance on singing in schools says that it must be limited to groups of no more than fifteen and in rooms with good ventilation. We feel that it is vitally important to keep Primary Robins going at the schools where it is currently taught and, indeed, to spread the project more widely.

During lockdown our teachers have made videos that have been put on the schools’ websites as part of their home learning, and many of the children have commented on how much they have enjoyed them. One little girl said she had really missed the happiness she feels when she sings together with her class and that the videos made it feel like she was back at school with her friends.

To keep music alive in those schools in which no form of singing will be possible in September, Primary Robins is going to create a series of videos that will explore the history of opera. We will look at some of the greatest operas by the world’s best loved composers. Many of our teachers are professional opera singers so they can really bring the music to life by singing the most famous arias from each opera.

First in the series will be Puccini’s La Bohéme – which ties in with next summer’s production. The teacher will sing Mimi’s aria, Mi chiamano Mimi, then explain the story of the opera, the context of the aria and talk a little about Puccini. They will then look at and learn the children’s chorus from Act 2. If singing is not allowed, they will engage the children in learning some of the rhythm, using body percussion, and also look at some basic music theory in the piece – for example musical terms and note values.

Another music appreciation series will include a guide to instruments of the orchestra. We will look at the different families of instruments, discovering the beauty of some through listening to excerpts from Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals and Prokofiev’s Peter and the Woolf.

Another video will focus on the different voice types from Bass to Soprano and include hearing some of the greatest opera singers – from Callas to Pavarotti.

“Rosie’s videos have really brought singing to life for the children, they are so pleased to see her and they are really engaging with the videos. As a teacher it has been great to see the thought which has gone into the song choices and also that the children are being exposed to the correct technical musical vocabulary and terms.” Sythwood Primary School