BBC Proms is one of the world’s biggest classical music festivals, running this year from July 14th until September 9th. Starting July 28th, SymphonyCast (Fridays at 8pm on Classical 91.5) will broadcast performances from this year’s BBC Proms.
Proms isn’t the only way BBC supports classical music in the U.K. Two years ago BBC started the Ten Pieces project to encourage students to engage with classical music. They put together a list of ten pieces of classical music, and then created a collection of resources around these pieces for teachers to use in the classroom. The project is aimed at students ages 7 to 14, so the films, arrangements, and other resources were developed with that age range in mind.
As a set, the Ten Pieces are meant to introduce students to a range of eras, styles, and themes. There are two sets—Ten Pieces I was created for primary school students (ages 7-10) and Ten Pieces II was created for secondary school students (ages 10-14). There are some old warhorses, like the first movement of Beethoven’s Fifth and Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries, and some lesser known works, like Night Ferry by Anna Clyne. Across Ten Pieces I and Ten Pieces II, there are four works from the 18th century, six from the 19th century, seven from the 20th century, and three from the 21st century. Check out the repertoire here.
For the students, the process begins with screening the Ten Pieces film (Inspiration). Short films about each piece introduce the emotions and story present in the music in an interesting way. For example, here’s a link to the video introduction of the Firebird. The goal here is to make these pieces accessible to the students. Too often classical music seems hard to understand and irrelevant to our modern lives, and that’s why many students write it off. The film helps the students get inside the emotions of the music and inside the composer’s head. Here’s a short report on the films (video).
The next step is Exploration. The BBC website has arrangements of each of the pieces for various levels of musicians, allowing students of all abilities to produce the music. The arrangements get the students to produce the music so they can explore it and connect with it before responding to it. BBC also helps to arrange opportunities for student to be coached by local professional musicians. While exploring the music further, the students begin to develop ideas for creating their responses.
The final step is Performance. Students produce their own creative responses to one or more of the Ten Pieces, in the form of visual art, dance, reimagining the music in a new way, or really anything else they want. This year, on June 15th 2017, over 500 schools across the U.K. participated in Ten Pieces Assemblies showcasing these responses, in celebration of BBC Music Day.
Ten Pieces has also been featured at Proms the past two years. Watch the full concert from 2015 on YouTube. See what happened behind the scenes in 2016. Unfortunately, the videos on the BBC website are not accessible in the US currently.
BBC recently released Ten Pieces III for the 2017-2018 schoolyear. Just like the first two lists, Ten Pieces III is a sampling of music from various time periods. One of the pieces was specially commissioned for this project—Kerry Andrew’s No Place Like. A work for a cappella voices, the lyrics for No Place Like are taken from submissions from students about their home.
To find out more about this project, visit the website: BBC - Ten Pieces