In my new school I found twenty plastic fifes. They are very similar to recorders but you play them like a flute. I’ve now started Y4 fife club on Tuesday lunchtimes as the extension to Y3 recorder club. The fifes will then go into the orchestra when they have got to a reasonable standard. I thought they would be a good entry point to learning the flute but the more I think about it, actually I would prefer the sound of the fife with our very eclectic orchestra. Just because of the instruments we have in school we have an orchestra currently with two fifes, tubular bells, flexitones, a bass guitar, a trumpet, a keyboard, violins, cellos, drum kit and some tuned percussion. I’m thinking of going down the Early Music route and turning it more into a contemporary broken consort playing predominantly Renaissance and early Baroque music with a modern twist. A colleague has even introduced me to “Bardcore Music” but I am not sure I want to get the kids playing a medieval rendition of Gangsters Paradise, as fun as it could be!
So far in our little orchestra we have played a few pieces that I have written myself and Suzuki’s “Allegro” but I am thinking about arranging Charpentier’s “Te Deum” and some Christmas carols. We also have loads of alto recorders in school and one tenor but I am unsure how to teach these as they are transposing instruments. Another thought I have had is we can turn this ensemble into an Irish band – interestingly, in Penang where I am teaching they have an annual Irish festival which we are invited to. I have a book of jigs, reels and hornpipes that I am going to look at arranging for the future.
Orchestra will certainly be a challenge but I think with a bit of strategy we can make something interesting. Almost all the children are not having instrument lessons outside of school so it puts quite a bit of pressure on me to train them up to play something. Strategically, I need to work out how to share the burden – we have some good musicians in the staff but everyone is so busy. We have two teachers who play the cello who say they can play a bit nearer Christmas time (after reports due) and an oboist but he hasn’t got his oboe in Penang.
Anyway, orchestra is going to be my big project for the next couple of years. I am used to be able to just give kids music and they learn it with their teachers and come to orchestra rehearsal able to play but I can’t do that here. If anyone has an ideas or advice, leave a comment below!