The educational outreach part of our Beethoven Plus project can consist of either a single workshop and concert, or a larger project comprising two school visits plus some creative work for the class to undertake with their teacher between the visits.
Single workshop and concert:
In this session, which lasts an hour, we play a variety of music by Beethoven, introducing him in two ways; as man and musician. We speak about his life as a young virtuoso, his success in improvisation contests, the onset of his deafness and the fact that he remained alone throughout his life. We show how he was always searching for something new in music and was able to express every possible human emotion, using sudden contrasts, drama, loud and soft, major/minor and extremities of pitch. We demonstrate how violin and piano can be used as opposites or share the same material in a musical conversation. This concert can be adapted to suit any year group, from primary through to 6th form.
The larger project:
This is suitable for ages 12+. The initial visit is a concert/workshop, same as above, but focusing on one particular piece by Beethoven. There is some added time for group improvisation and trying out some simple compositional techniques, inspired by Beethoven.
The class will then spend some time with their teacher, writing their own music (in groups), based on their response to Beethoven’s piece and the techniques we have shown them. They will also be encouraged to listen, more than once, to the particular Beethoven sonata we played for them.
During our second visit, again lasting an hour, we will listen to the pupils’ compositions, help to play the pieces and discuss them with the class. The project will end with a full performance of the Beethoven sonata, followed by a question and answer session. Participating children will be offered tickets to our public concert, should they want to attend with their parents.
There is nothing so strong, in terms of education, as experiencing the real thing. The legacy of this project is created firstly by bringing children into contact, perhaps for the first time, with chamber music of real quality. Then, from within, they get to know Beethoven a little, as a man and as an artist. Something old can be made relevant today through the children’s own compositions, however short and simple these may be. Something of the joy, but also the discipline of being creative will be revealed. Even if we don’t inspire a generation of new composers, we hope at least to open up the treasure trove of Beethoven’s music to young people through the excitement of live performance, and to show how it can become a valuable and inspirational friend for life.
These workshops and composition projects can also be taken at a higher level to college/university students, and we plan also to include some of the resulting young composers’ pieces in future Beethoven Plus recitals.