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Byrd 2023 School Outreach

Reasons to Sing: a history, music, & welfare outreach initiative

2023 is the quatercentenary of the death of English composer William Byrd (d. 1623). As one of the country's most beloved and influential composers, and a Catholic working for Elizabeth I, Byrd’s music and history continues to inspire the public, providing audiences with unique insights into the complexities of English politico-religious and cultural history. Bringing together education outreach specialists, performers, teachers, and academics, this education outreach project aims to engage Year 8 state school students with the latest research on Byrd's music and culture.

In Byrd's print Psalmes, Sonets, & songs (1588), he lists his 'Reasons to Sing', which outlines in early modern terms how singing benefits physical, spiritual, and emotional health. This list of 8 points anchors our learning activities, which also allows students to also reflect on how recreation and creativity positively impact their own physical and mental health. The product delivered will include a CPD workshop for teachers, a series of live zoom coaching sessions for students addressing musical and historical learning aims, a virtual learning area for teachers/students, an in person singing workshop at the school with professional singers, plus a concert showcasing student work alongside performances by professional singers.

 

Our initiative demonstrates the social and educational relevance of early modern research outside of higher education, providing the resources to support high quality public engagement with industry partners. Year 8 in England engages significantly with Tudor history and is a crucial year for students selecting GCSE options. Our programme will empower students and their teachers to interact with music as a form of history, giving them the skills and confidence to listen to this music in an informed way. Our interdisciplinary programme hits targets for KS3 National Curriculum for History while developing students’ skills in musicianship, musical literacy, and performance. 

 

The first of two pilot sessions of our new curriculum have just commenced, thanks to generous funding from the University of Birmingham Public Engagement Fund and the Society for Renaissance Studies Public Engagement Grant.  We are currently applying for funding for scaled up delivery during the Byrd Anniversary Year itself (2023).

1 - Pilot at Chiswick Academy (used with permission)
1 - Pilot at Chiswick Academy (used with permission)

Students conducting Horizon Voices - learning beat patterns, dynamics and tempo directions

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2 - Pilot at Chiswick Academy (used with permission)
2 - Pilot at Chiswick Academy (used with permission)

Student groups composing melodic and rhythm patterns for their song

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3 - Pilot in Chiswick Academy (used with permission)
3 - Pilot in Chiswick Academy (used with permission)

Horizon Voices in classroom setting

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1 - Pilot at Chiswick Academy (used with permission)
1 - Pilot at Chiswick Academy (used with permission)

Students conducting Horizon Voices - learning beat patterns, dynamics and tempo directions

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Testimonials

from students and teachers during the 2022 Byrd: Reasons to Sing trial projects

At the beginning I didn’t really know [about Byrd] but now I think his music is cool and upbeat

Student

‘They [students]  loved the inclusivity and how everyone was able to produce music no matter how good they thought they were

School Music Teacher

I learned that songs in the 1500s used the same themes used in today’s music

Student