One Arm Point school workshops and concert

At One Arm Point school we worked with a specially-chosen group of 10 young participants – the teachers nominated people they thought would benefit from taking part in the project (or invited students to nominate themselves), and so we had a group of participants whose ages ranged from 7 to 14.

As at Djarindjin-Lombadina, the focus was on creating original music, and we started work on these originals right from the first day. However, we also knew that we wanted to work with every child in the school in some way, so we decided to involve them in a body-percussion dance, that could be performed as part of the Drum Groove we’d composed with the core group of participants. The core group of children invented some steps and moves and helped us sequence these into an 8-beat routine, then went with Tony and I to each of the classes in turn to teach them the dance, in preparation for Wednesday’s concert.

Body percussion learning 1 (G. Howell, One Arm Point)Body percussion learning 2 (One Arm Point, G. Howell)Body percussion learning 3 (One Arm Point, G. Howell)By the end of Tuesday afternoon we had created a song about culture and country (with recorder interlude in the middle of it), a funky Drum Groove, and a song in 3-part harmony.

Recorder group, One Arm Point (G. Howell)We spent the last session of Tuesday making posters for the concert to put up in the local community shop and office. Making concert posters (One Arm Point, G. Howell)    School concert poster, One Arm Point (G. Howell)At the concert on the Wednesday, everyone joined in with the body percussion dance – even the teachers, and some of the audience members, who just learned it on the spot!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABody percussion dance (G. Howell)We felt so proud of the students – it was a lot of musical material to invent in just three days! They looked like they felt proud of themselves too. And there is no doubt that others – their friends, teachers, parents, and other community elders – were impressed by their achievement and the musicianship shown in the concert. It was sad to say good-bye, but the plan is to bring us back in 2014 – which means it is not good-bye for long, only until we meet again and get to make some more music together. I for one can’t wait! It’s been an amazing few weeks. Thanks Tura!

As ever, thanks to the sponsors of Tura New Music’s Remote Residency – Healthway Smoke Free WA, and Horizon Power.

Second day at One Arm Point Remote Community School

Our work is fast-paced and focused! Today, in our second day with the core group at One Arm Point Remote Community School, we created a short body-percussion dance, developed a drum groove with the instrumental sections, wrote the first half of a song that builds on musical material we developed with the small group on Friday, and led short workshops with all the other classes in the school, ably assisted by our group of young musicians.

Highlights of the day:

  • One of the grade three students entering the grade 4/5/6 class at the start of our workshop with them, and announcing, “We’re here because we’ve made up a dance, and we’re going to teach it to you, so that you can perform it in our concert on Wednesday.” Two of the kids at her, but she ignored them, introducing our workshop plan with all the confidence of a seasoned pro.
  • Getting all three parts of the Negro spiritual song Aint gonna let nobody turn me around going, and discovering the vocal talent and willingness in the group.
  • Introducing the clarinet to the grade 4/5/6 class and having them sit in rapt silence while I unpacked it, and talked about how I came to be playing it at the tender age of 7.
  • Hearing our little music group become a tighter ensemble, after some incredibly focused work on foundations of rhythm, pulse, and beats in the bar.
  • Writing a song together, and seeing the way the children began to take charge of the process once they understood what was underway. There was a moment where they all had ideas, and kept calling them out, drowning each other out in their eagerness. Suddenly our song was in progress. It had this huge creative momentum.
  • Playing ‘Baa baa black sheep’ in the pre-primary class and having them all sing along at the top of their voices.
  • Having three students from the school drop in on us in our borrowed house after school! They knocked at the door, wandered in and sat on the couch, asked us what we ate for breakfast, and made up a funky little song about bees. Totally charming.

Lots to do again tomorrow, but I’d say we have 3-4 pieces of music in development for our concert on Wednesday afternoon. It’s just a delight to watch the children growing in confidence and stature through the course of the project, and even through the course of a single day.