“School is the ideal environment: youngsters need the exposure to the wonder that is music from the start. Music develops listening skills, collaboration, the capacity to reconcile conflicting ideas and it nurtures intelligence to a much greater degree. These components …. Make it a real metaphor for life.”
Sir Antonio Pappano, The Royal Philharmonic Society Music Awards 2015
Music plays an integral part in the life of Monmouth School Girls’ Prep. All girls sing in a choir throughout their time in the school and have opportunities to perform regularly throughout the year at events such as Harvest, Christingle, Eisteddfod and Speech Day. Instrumental music is also important and all girls in Year 3 learn the recorder and either the violin or cello. Going into Year 4, girls can choose whether to continue with a string instrument and play in the Year 4 ensemble, or become recorder specialists. In Years 5 and 6, girls either continue with their instrumental ensembles or have the opportunity to try keyboards. If girls would like to ‘have a go’ on a particular instrument there are often opportunities to have a trial lesson on their chosen instrument.
The Michaelmas term begins with the girls looking at the basic musical elements of rhythm, pitch and tempo, through clapping names, recognising which instruments play high notes and which play lower notes, and by looking at how changing the speed of music can change how it feels. The girls then look at the Carnival of the Animals, commenting on the use of musical elements and how music can represent different creatures, using examples including elephants, swans, kangaroos and birds.
Lent begins with cross-curricular activities such as linking with art and Lowry using music “A Window on the World”, and English using characters from the book “Charlotte’s Web” as stimulus. The highlight of the Lent term is preparing musically for the Eisteddfod where all girls enter the recorder preliminaries, and may also choose to enter piano and/or instrumental as appropriate. The girls learn to perform by using their peers as their audience. One girl from each house is chosen to represent their house in the Eisteddfod.
The Summer term sees the girls listening to music from around the world including Indonesia, Africa and India, and trying to decide what instruments are being used, before creating their own compositions using Indian raga. Following this, a visiting musician will perform for the girls on instruments such as harp, guitar or bagpipes, allowing the girls to experience different types of instruments from the standard orchestra. A concert is the highlight of the Summer term, showcasing music the girls have been rehearsing using their recorders and violins or cellos.
The girls begin Year 4 by looking at the musical elements Dynamics and Texture. Using familiar tunes and rhythms to build the texture in a class composition, the girls listen to pieces of music and discuss in pairs what the texture is like in the music, before composing a piece of music in small groups that has different layers, building both dynamics and texture. The highlight of the Michaelmas term is the Christingle where the girls learn to understand performance etiquette including sitting quietly, clapping to show appreciation, clear spoken introduction, good diction when singing and bowing after performance to recognise applause.
In the Lent term the girls learn that music, like pictures, can describe images and enhance narrative. They explore the different properties of the four families of instruments and how they are used to describe characters in the story. Finally there is the preparation for the Eisteddfod where the girls learn how to rehearse and perform a solo piece in front of an audience.
Summer term sees the girls learning about Programme Music, with an emphasis on Journeys. They listen to the “Flight of the Bumble Bee” and create a mime to it. They then listen to “Boogie train blues”’ introducing 12 bar blues and improvisation. As a class, the girls then create a sound picture to represent a train journey from buying tickets to reaching destination.
The girls begin the Michaelmas Term in year 5 by drawing on their own experiences of music and instrument playing to create a chart of the Elements of Music. They then move on to listening and evaluating Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and discussing Baroque music before looking at composing and performing some music from this time period. Following this the girls move on to Tudor music and Henry VIII’s compositions, listening to Greensleeves as a song and harmonic minor scale.
In the Lent term the girls look at the instruments and how they make up the four sections of the orchestra, before moving on the look at Welsh music as a run up to our school Eisteddfod. They complete the term by looking at traditional music from around the UK.
Summer term sees the girls looking at the Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Dukas, and Peter and the Wolf by Prokofiev, giving them a chance to consolidate their knowledge of instruments and elements of music. The girls take a look at the use of music to denote characters and have an exercise in creating some music to portray certain characters or to tell a story.
Year 6 begins with an evaluation of musical knowledge learned in previous years. The girls then move on to looking at the Last Night of the Proms with Elgar’s “Land of Hope and Glory”. They then move on to look at instruments of the world including Sitar, accordion, shen, koto and gamelan. Music theory makes up the remainder of the term with the girls looking at note values, simple time signatures, barlines, rest values and the treble clef.
The Lent term begins with a brief theory recap before moving onto Smetana’s “Vltava” and an introduction to descriptive music. The girls then look at the “Carnival of the Animals” including completing a compositional task.
To complete the year, the Summer term starts with enhancing the girls knowledge of music theory by introducing the base clef and compound time signatures. The girls then take a look at African drumming/tyko drumming as an introduction to drumming and rhythm. The term is completed with African folksongs.