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Government publishes new GCSE, AS and A Level subject content

28 January 2015, Thomas Lydon

The Department for Education has published details of the subject content for the GCSEs, AS Levels and A Levels in music to be taught from autumn 2016. It is anticipated that exam boards will soon publish their own specifications, based on these guidelines.

The headline here is that the much-criticised compulsory 1700 to 1900 area of study at all levels has been widened to the more conventional stylistic boundaries of 1650 and 1910, largely due to the efforts of the ISM's Protect Music Education campaign. The other specification at all levels has also been re-framed, now stating that one other area of study ‘must not be drawn from the Western Classical Tradition’. Otherwise, there are no huge surprises here, with the final content guidelines being based  largely on the consultation documents published last July.

Some of the more proscriptive language around the demands on the composition element at all levels has been dropped (no longer must students be able to show that they have achieved their work through one or more of a set list of ‘means’, including experimenting, developing, or critical refinement).

At GCSE, the ‘musical elements’ have been updated to include sequences (listed at A Level in the consultation) chord progressions and simple modulations.

At AS and A Level, we're pleased to report that the ISM’s sub-campaign to save the gerund has been successful, and the terms ‘performance and composition’ from the consultation documents have been re-phrased as ‘performing and composing’, presumably in response to the ISM’s stated preference for stressing the ‘musical processes’ rather than the ‘end products of study’. Elsewhere, in the ‘musical elements’ section, all reference to identifying sonorities of different instrumental groupings has been removed, and there is some genuinely interesting new wording in the 'musical context' section. Lastly of note, in the ‘appraise’ section, the requirement to be able to make critical judgement about your own work has been removed.

The GCSE content can be found here

The AS and A Level content can be found here

If you want to play a game of 'spot the difference', here are the consultations documents for GCSE and AS/A Level.

New Chairmen for EU Youth Orchestra

22 January 2015

The European Union Youth Orchestra is in a period of considerable change and development, in fulfilling the objectives of ‘Towards 2020’, its international cooperation project co-funded by the European Union’s Creative Europe programme. It is in this context that the well known arts advocates ,Sir John Tusa and Ian Stoutzker, CBE, have joined the Trustees as Co-Chairmen with immediate effect.  


President and Co-founder, Joy Bryer: ‘Sir John brings unique talents to the future of the Orchestra and will, I am convinced, give it broader understanding and worldwide attention. Ian’s dedication to Live Music Now epitomises the great need for culture in today’s world. He will be a significant and inspirational addition to the team’.

Obituary: Michael Kennedy, 19 February 1926 ‒ 31 December 2014

21 January 2015

The death of Michael Kennedy at the age of 88 removes perhaps the key remaining source of reminiscence of Ralph Vaughan Williams. Their close friendship meant the former’s biography of the composer carried a special authority, although (as Kennedy reminded me just before Christmas), ‘VW’ was frustratingly tight-lipped about his own music.


Kennedy’s passion for British music is also reflected in studies of Britten, Elgar and Walton. Other biographies include those of fellow (if adopted) Mancunian John Barbirolli (another close friend and like-minded cricket-lover) and Adrian Boult. To these must also be added significant works on Mahler and Richard Strauss, and editions of the Oxford Dictionary of Music which eventually also involved his devoted second wife Joyce. The couple’s shared love of opera prompted travels far and wide in recent times.

Above all, Kennedy was a journalist, rising to become northern editor of the Daily Telegraph, a post he held for 26 years having started his career at the paper as a 15-year-old copyboy. Always, however, there was the pull of music reviewing, both for the daily and Sunday editions. He was chief music critic of the latter until 2005. In an interview for CM we discussed whether or not he suffered from writer’s block. Occasionally, he admitted, ‘but once I find my first sentence, I’m off’.

Kennedy was an accomplished broadcaster on tv and radio, shown not least in contributions to Radio 3′s Building a Library, although he was never a sharply critical critic: he admitted it wasn’t his style.

 The renaissance of the Hallé Orchestra under Mark Elder gave Kennedy huge satisfaction. Fitting, then, that this time last year he was putting his weight behind the orchestra’s involvement in a major project featuring his beloved Richard Strauss.

Trinity Laban - ‘Side by Side’ orchestral programme

20 January 2015

Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance have announced an expansion of their popular ‘Side by Side’ orchestral programme. 


This concert series, launched as a pilot programme in 2013, involves Trinity Laban students in performing works from the orchestral repertoire alongside experienced professionals, giving the students invaluable experience and mentorship. Appearing with Trinity Laban students will be current or former principal players from the Philharmonia Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, ENO Orchestra, London Mozart Players, London Sinfonietta, Britten Sinfonia and BBC National Orchestra of Wales. 

Each ‘Side by Side’ project culminates in a free public performance in front of a large audience at Blackheath Halls. According to Havilland Wilshire, Assistant Director of Music and Head of Performance, the projects ‘really encapsulate the conservatoire experience. Students can learn from experienced professionals, make contacts within the profession, and gain performance skills in front of an appreciative audience’. 

Three concerts have been announced for the spring of 2015, focusing on works by Beethoven, Tchaikowsky and Stravinsky: Tue 3 Feb, 18.00h: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 Fri 27 Feb, 18.00h: Tchaikowsky’s Symphony No. 6,  the ‘Pathétique’ Venue: Great Hall, Blackheath Halls.   

Tickets are free but you need to book:  go to http://www.trinitylaban.ac.uk/whats-on/music-events

British Actress Rachel Shenton searches for next generation of Deaf Dance & Music Stars

19 January 2015

Former Hollyoaks star, Rachel Shenton, is helping the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) encourage young deaf dancers and musicians to showcase their performance skills and enter Raising the Bar, a new music and dance competition which launches this month.   


Raising the Bar was developed by NDCS to make dance and music more accessible for the 45,000 deaf children and young people in the UK. It aims to increase the levels of deaf awareness through the arts, whilst also raising the expectations and standards of what deaf children and young people believe they can achieve.   Entrants to the competition (eight to 16-year-olds) will have until 22 February 2015, to create and submit a video of themselves performing a dance or music routine. Ten lucky winners will be selected by NDCS staff and leading deaf professionals from the arts industry, and invited to attend a two-day masterclass on 24 -25 May 2015.  
Masterclass training sessions will be led by ‘Def Motion’, the UK's only touring deaf dance crew, the acclaimed deaf flutist Ruth Montgomery, and Danny Lane from ‘Music and the Deaf’, a charity working to ensure everyone has the opportunity to enjoy music.   

The weekend will culminate in a live showcase of the newly found Raising the Bar stars, at The Rep Theatre in Birmingham, demonstrating exactly what deaf children and young people can achieve.     

Hayley Jarvis, Head of Inclusive Activities for NDCS said: “Deaf children can do anything other children can do, given the right support. Participation in the arts gives deaf children and young people the chance to learn new skills, and feel more confident and empowered – and participation is what Raising the Bar is all about!   “We will also be developing a ‘toolkit’ for teachers to raise the awareness and expectations of deaf dance and music professionals. We hope this will inspire professionals across the arts to deliver accessible activities for deaf children and young people.”   

 To sign up to the competition please visit: www.buzz.org.uk/raisingthebar


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