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Teaching Materials 2015

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Latest News

Exam boards publish draft proposals for music GCSE

15 May 2015, Katy Wright

Music is part of the second wave of GCSEs to be reformed in a process being led by the Department for Education, with the new qualifications to be taught from September 2016. AQA, Pearson/Edexcel, OCR and WJEC/Eduqas have now all published and submitted their draft GCSEs to Ofqual.

Below is a summary of these initial proposals (although changes may be made over the next few months).

Under the reformed system, GCSEs will be awarded according to a new 1-9 grading scale, and will be assessed only at the end of the two-year period of study. Performance, composition, and written examination will make up 30%, 30% and 40% of the overall mark for each course.

Across the boards, performances should contain a minimum of two pieces, one performed as part of an ensemble and one solo. A portfolio of two compositions should be submitted, one in response to a brief set by the exam board, and the other free choice.   

AQA will require its students to study works by Haydn, Copland, Santana and The Beatles. For the listening section of the exam (68 marks), candidates will answer eight questions based on unheard works and covering all areas of study; for the contextual understanding (28 marks), there will be four sets of questions on the study pieces.   

Performances are expected to last seven minutes, and will be examined on accuracy, expression, interpretation and level of demand. AQA will award marks for awareness of the composing process, as shown through a composing log.   

Pearson/Edexcel specifies eight works, ranging from Purcell’s Music for a While to Queen’s Killer Queen. The first section of the exam (worth 68 marks) will contain six questions relating to set works, one melody/rhythm completion exercise, and one multi-part question on an unfamiliar piece. The second part will be an extended response comparison between a set work and unfamiliar piece (12 marks).

Performances will be examined on technical control, accuracy and fluency, and expression and interpretation. Students will be required to work on their compositions under controlled conditions.

OCR does not suggest set works, but suggests repertoire for students to learn within five broad categories (including ‘My instrument’ and ‘Rhythms of the World’). The board does not specify the breakdown of the exam, but says that it will contain questions based around musical elements, contexts and language.

For the performance component, marks will be awarded for difficulty, technical control and fluency, and expression and interpretation. Composition briefs will be linked to areas of study, using a stimulus (whether an image, a short story or a rhythmic pattern). The free choice composition will be for the candidate’s instrument.

WJEC is also moving away from set works (with the exception of Rainbow’s Since You’ve Been Gone and the third movement of Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik), and will suggest repertoire within ‘ensemble’ and ‘film music’ categories. The exam will be made up of eight questions, six on unprepared musical extracts and two on prepared extracts.

The performance should last a maximum of six minutes, with one piece linking to an area of study. Marks will be awarded for: technical control, expression and interpretation, accuracy of rhythm and pitch, appropriate pace and fluency; effective dynamics; stylistic awareness; and ‘empathy’ (in ensemble playing). Candidates will be required to submit a composition log.

The ISM and Dr Alison Daubney have produced a comparison chart of the four GCSE courses on offer, available here.

NCEM young composers award winners announced

15 May 2015, Katy Wright

Joshua Urben and John Goldie-Scot
Joshua Urben and John Goldie-Scot

The 2015 National Centre for Early Music (NCEM) young composers awards have gone to Joshua Urben (for the 18 and under category) and John Goldie-Scot (for the 19-25 category).

Urben's Fractos Corde and Goldie-Scot's Why are you in such a hurry? will both receive their premieres from the Dunedin Consort in Glasgow on 2 October.

The competition brief was to create a new setting for a short dramatic scene from one of two works by Monteverdi: Orfeo or Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda. The works were to be written for two or three singers, accompanied by a small ensemble of instruments.

Seven finalists were invited to have their works presented in a workshop with the Dunedin Consort. The winners were chosen by a panel comprised of Delma Tomlin (director of the NCEM), Les Pratt (senior music producer at BBC Radio 3) and John Butt (director of the Dunedin Consort).

John Butt said: 'The welcoming environment which the NCEM creates for this event and their enlightened approach to encouraging young composers to write for early instruments through this award is to be applauded. We look forward to polishing the winning pieces in preparation for their premiere later this year.'

The National Centre for Early Music

Manchester Camerata welcomes young performers for season finale

15 May 2015

Ingrid Fliter

Twenty young people will perform on stage alongside Manchester Camerata and pianist Ingrid Fliter this weekend to mark the culmination of an outreach project.

The 14 to 18-year-olds, who come from across Greater Manchester, will perform a live remix of music from the Overture to Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.

RE:Figared has been created by members of the orchestra’s Youth Forum, a group of young people who act as ambassadors for the orchestra and have a voice in the organisation.

Forum members come from culturally diverse backgrounds, with musical interests ranging from rap to singer songwriter, instrumentalists, actors, writers and artists.

Fliter will perform Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 2 in B flat major, with the second half of the concert featuring Mozart’s Symphony No 41, ‘Jupiter’.

The programme also includes a performance of Etudes by Jack Sheen, winner of the orchestra’s 2015 Composers’ Project, which saw ten young composers try their ideas out at Manchester’s new UKFast Auditorium.

Sheen, from Manchester, was BBC Young Composer of the Year in 2011 and is now studying on the joint music course run by the Royal Northern College of Music and Manchester University.

The programme will be performed at the Stafford Gatehouse Theatre on Friday 15 May and the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester on Saturday 16 May.

Simon Phillippo to join RWCMD as head of keyboard

14 May 2015, Katy Wright

Simon Phillippo
Simon Phillippo

Simon Phillippo is to join the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (RWCMD) as head of keyboard at the end of this academic year. He succeeds Richard McMahon, who will retire. 

Phillippo said: 'I am delighted to be joining the illustrious team of musicians at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, and extremely proud to be following in the footsteps of Richard McMahon as Head of Keyboard. I am looking forward to collaborating extensively with my new colleagues in all departments, and to working with the fine team of staff and young pianists in the Keyboard Department.'

Phillippo comes to the RWCMD after 14 years as pianist, coach and conductor at Welsh National Opera (WNO). He was chorus master for many of WNO's productions, including the first UK staging of Handel's Jephtha and the world premiere of James MacMillan's The Sacrifice.

Simon Phillippo

AQA announces reformed GCSE content with Beatles and DJ splash

14 May 2015, Alex Stevens

A DJ set will become an acceptable form for the performance element of AQA's music GCSE, to be taught from September 2016
A DJ set will become an acceptable form for the performance element of AQA's music GCSE, to be taught from September 2016

AQA has released subject content for its reformed music GCSE qualification, to be taught from September 2016. AQA has submitted its plans to Ofqual for accreditation, and other exam boards are set to release details later today.

The release comes in the context of a programme of complete GCSE reform, which will see a new 1-9 grading scale, assessment taking place only at the end of the two-year period of study, and, according to Ofqual: ‘new, more demanding content, which has been developed by government and the exam boards’.

AQA’s GCSE will cover the second movement of Haydn’s Clock symphony (for the compulsory area of study ‘Western classical tradition 1650-1910’), Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, With a Little Help from My Friends and Within You, Without You from The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album (Popular music), Santana’s Supernatural (Traditional music), and the ‘Saturday Night Waltz’ and ‘Hoedown’ from Copland’s ballet Rodeo (Western classical tradition since 1910).

DJing - using vinyl, CDs or a laptop - has been added to the acceptable forms for the performance element of the qualification.

Under the reformed music GCSEs, 60% of assessment will be through performance and composition, and 40% will be assessed by exam.

AQA's new music GCSE

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