Transforming Communities

Delivering a residency in a pandemic

‘East Riding Folk’ was a project collaboration between Riverside Community Special School and Live Music Now musicians The Dovetail Trio. The aim was to increase music-making opportunities for pupils at Riverside School by exploring local folk music – broadening the musical horizons of pupils and staff through a 12-month Musicians-in-Residence programme. Riverside School applied to Youth Music for funding and were awarded just over £10,000 to devise the project which included working within the local community. In March 2020, the funding arrived.

In September 2020, with a lot of rethinking and re-working (think risk assessments, social distancing, masks, plenty of ventilation, bubbles and Microsoft Teams!) the project was ready to begin.

The Dovetail Trio prepare to deliver an in-person, distanced concert.

Initially, The Dovetail Trio worked with a range of groups across the full Key Stage range – sometimes live, and often projected into classrooms from the main hall to ensure ‘bubbles’ remained intact. This approach had the added benefit of being able to reach families and children who were isolating at home. The musicians delivered harvest-themed workshops, covering many aspects of making music including soundscapes, song-writing, rhythm and listening skills through a variety of folk songs. The children participated well using actions, singing and playing both tuned and untuned percussion, and the level of engagement was high, even through a screen.

Towards the end of the term the musicians explored Christmas songs, tunes and traditions. The students were interested to learn about folk instruments, as well as the local Yorkshire carol tradition and Mumming. They joined in with lots of singing and even learnt an ancient French dance (branle de l’officiel) to the tune of ‘Ding Dong Merrily on High’. The school were quick to capture the benefits of live professional musicians on site – ensuring that they collected footage of The Dovetail Trio performing (in school) the songs they had introduced to the children, including John Barleycorn and Sweet Christmas Bells.

Students and staff participated actively in the sessions.

Facing another lockdown in January 2021, the project had to be re-worked again to accommodate plans for a Musician-in-Residence led by vocalist Rosie Hood. Riverside School and Rosie worked to build a new pattern of delivery using Microsoft Teams as a streaming platform for live work. By this point school staff, pupils and musicians were confident in using digital teaching methods and Rosie was able to work with several classes on a regular basis. These sessions enabled pupils to explore and develop their composition skills in the context of local folk songs – supporting the development of a sense of ‘place’ and heritage. One highlight was the reworking of local song The Red Herring in a truly Riverside School style. The pupils also continued to learn about folk songs from the area, finding and researching songs themselves using the English Folk Dance and Songs Society’s VWML website. There was also the opportunity to focus on listening and comparing live and recorded versions of songs and improving listening skills, identifying folk instruments, tempo, dynamics and arrangement ideas. As part of their research they discovered a song with links to the local area entitled ‘The Golden Glove’. The resources produced by the school and the musicians now remain with the school for their continued use.

The project engaged 38 children, 5 staff and 3 Live Music Now musicians on a weekly basis. 24 KS4 students were supported in achieving their ASDAN Expressive Arts Award – which was an unexpected benefit of the delays over the academic year! The final workshop sessions in July were attended by over 120 students.

Students took part enthusiastically in a session at Riverside School.

“Not only were the children able to learn about folk music, its songs and instruments but also practised work on call and response, rhythms and song structure. Sometimes the focus was more of a concert and sometimes more of a workshop, but on all occasions the warmth and knowledge of the Trio shone through.”
Martin Cox – Assistant Head, Riverside School

The students learnt about the roles of storytelling within folk songs and some other traditions including May Day and different Morris dancing traditions. I taught the classes about drones used in English folk music and their links to other traditional including Indian Classical music and Scandinavian folk music.
Rosie Hood – Musician

Comments from the pupils were also very positive, saying:
“They were very talented,” “They all seemed very passionate about what they do,” “Great company who were very friendly,” “The dancing was great, we really enjoyed that,” “Cool and cheeky!” “Clever at playing different instruments,” “Every lesson was new and exciting,” “Good singer!”