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Primary Robins Workshop

Primary Robins workshop with The Berkeley Ensemble

Last Thursday, the Robins at Redbridge and Tanners Brook Primary Schools in Southampton were treated to fantastic workshops by members of The Berkeley Ensemble.

We had John on the clarinet, Andrew on bassoon, Sophie on violin and Martin playing the double bass.

They started by performing Funiculi, Funicula – the Neapolitan song by Luigi Denza.

Sophie introduced the violin, explaining how the bow created vibrations on the four strings. She played some Vivaldi to show us how high the violin could play.

When Martin asked if anyone knew what his instrument is called – a hand went up – “Is it a big violin?” Martin explained that the double bass is often used to create an effect or to accompany a melody. When he played the famous two notes from the theme to Jaws, all the children started singing “Baby shark”. Same animal, of course, just different generations.

The whole then class joined in singing the famous Queen song “Another one bites the dust” followed by Sophie and Martin playing a wonderful Tango by Piazzola.

After this is was time to learn about the clarinet and bassoon. When asked which family these instruments come from, someone answered “the blow family” –  which seems a very sensible answer.

John and Andrew showed the different types of reed that their instruments use and how both instruments are made from wood. They pointed out that the sound is made by blowing and that the pitch is changed by pressing the shiny buttons and covering holes in the instrument. They then played a Poulenc duet. The children sat mesmerised and, when it had finished, they asked the children to describe what it made them feel or, if it was music for a film what would be happening. Answers included; lots of animals running away and lunchtime on the playground

Finally it was time for questions and so many hands went up.
How heavy is the double bass?
How much practice do you do?
When did you start playing?
How expensive are your instruments?

One Robin cleverly pointed out that “often expensive things come in small packages” so they thought the violin would be the most expensive of the instruments. Sophie told us that a Stradivarius violin reportedly sold for 9.5 million pounds.

The final question came from a Year 6 – “What inspired you to play?”

Sophie, Martin, John and Andrew told us what had inspired them to play and then another Robin said, “You have inspired me to try playing a musical instrument!”

Thank you to The Berkeley Ensemble and The Derrill Allatt Foundation for an inspiring day enjoyed by the teachers and children alike.

Annabel Larard
Primary Robins Project Leader