Composing Themselves

Posted on: 15/05/2020

Lockdown may have made Music teaching more difficult. But young Harrodian musicians have made good use of the added peace and quiet to concentrate on creating compositions of their own. 


Harrodian's Head of Music, Hannah Ashe admits that teaching Music remotely is difficult. 'Practical music teaching is very dependent on access to musical equipment,' she admits. Even so, Mrs Ashe does believe that there is a musical upside to Lockdown. 'What's cheering is the number of pupils who are making the most of free time and lack of distractions to express themselves musically,' she says. 'I think perhaps their experience of 'slow living' and the peace and quiet available at home has inspired children to think harder and to try their hand at compostion.' The Music team is impressed with the quality of work emerging from this new surge and is keen to showcase them here on


Of course, Music teaching and participation is still very much alive and kicking at Harrodian. 'We give our youngest pupils the chance to sing along in Ms Horan and Mr Hooke's weekly live assemblies,' above, says Ms Sampson Head of Pre-Prep Music, 'And we hold live music lessons with each of the Pre-Prep year groups who sing together and choose favourite songs to practise every Wednesday.'   Ms Sampson is also continuing the much loved Pre-Prep tradition of Friday afternoon singing in the Auditorium, below, as an online event. 


Now Ms Sampson provides them with a link to her YouTube channel (click here) and they can sing along to the songs she uploads onto it. 'All the children have the option to take part in Friday singing but they now have the choice to do it in their own homes whenever it's convenient,' says Mrs Sampson.   One Harrodian family - the O'Byrnes - have three girls at the school, with only one left in Pre-Prep, and still the whole family sings along every Friday afternoon.

Ms Sampson has also been recording videos for the Lower Prep, and supplying YouTube links to backing tracks, word document links for lyrics and providing other fun resources for pupils in the 8s - 10s. Some of the projects she has set them in the last few weeks, like asking them to write their own song lyrics, have generated fabulous pieces of work. Ms Sampson was also impressed by the portraits produced by her 8s pupils, below. They were asked to draw or paint a picture of a friend or relative that they are missing in the lockdown and to write about the piece of music that reminds them of that person dear to them.


Zoe (8s)



Ramsey%20-%208s%20portrait.jpgRamsey (8s)


Ella (8s)

In the 9s and 10s, the boys and girls are working really hard to create their own lullabies and composing film music. Ms Sampson is looking forward to listening to these as they are submitted over the next week or so. 

In the Upper Prep and 13s, Ms McTighe and Ms Osborne have been keeping their pupils equally busy. They set their classes the challenge of creating an uplifting composition for people who are alone in lockdown. Meanwhile the 14s were tasked with composing a musical response to Hokusai's painting 'The Great Wave of Kanagawa.'

The results have been incredible, with a whole range of music on display, from spoken word performances to rap, folk-inspired guitar or piano accompanied songs, jazzy instrumentals, classic and contemporary piano solos and pop anthems. Many of those who submitted their own compositions either recorded them on their phones or used apps like note flight, GarageBand and LogicPro. 

Here were just some of the compositions submitted (we recommend listening to them in the browser):

Harry (11s) enjoyed working collaboratively with family to come up with his catchy quarantine rap, recorded on the GarageBand app, above

Listen to Matthias's instrumental composition, above, which he wrote all in notation.

Stavros (12s) on drums and his mother on piano, both perform his instrumental composition, above.

Georgie from the 13s has been playing the piano since she was 5 years old and is already on Grade 7. She composed this piano composition called 'Harmony', above, and worked on it by putting the chords together first and humming a melody over the top. 

Jessie (13s) recorded her  'Doing Well' pop song, above, with the GarageBand app. She found writing the lyrics easy but finding chords to fit was more of a challenge.

Thalie (13s) composed her own impressive piano piece, above.

Felix (14s) used classical and contemporary influences in his piano piece, above, which he composed in response to Hokusai's The Great Wave of Kanagawa.


To access more songs on the Harrodian Lockdown music composition playlist, please click the link below:

Meanwhile in the Sixth Form, learning is being enriched with subjects that go beyond the curriculum. Students are discovering famous pieces of classical music by composers such as Vaughan Williams, Elgar, Copland, Bernstein and Stravinsky that are not covered in the A Level syllabus. This will help those keen on studying music at university to broaden their musical knowledge. Learning to be screen savvy also has its advantages as Mrs Ashe explains, 'many of our pupils, in particular our Sixth Formers, are learning new and important skills in presenting themselves musically on screen, which is key when more and more auditions for overseas universities and in the world of professional music are taking place via online platforms.'

Many of our pupils, in particular our Sixth Formers, are learning new and important skills in presenting themselves musically on screen

Mrs Ashe, Head of Music

However extra-curricular activities also play a big part in music. With this in mind, Mrs Ashe and Ms McTighe have been very keen to keep Jazz Band and Orchestra Club going and have set up Google Classroom groups for both clubs as a place where members can still connect. They post links to interesting jazz and orchestra pieces/performances that members of the respective clubs can listen to and appreciate. To create interaction and discussion, members can comment on content uploaded by the teachers or upload and share their own. Future plans for these clubs include providing music for members to practise for when they can next reassemble in person.


One-to-one music lessons are also still taking place. Pupils across the school are enjoying individual music lessons taken by our peripatetic teachers and conducted via a range of online platforms. Despite the obvious challenges presented by IT issues, the feedback from both teachers and pupils has been really positive and nearly all of our students have chosen to continue with their lessons this term. 

Regardless of the positives, Mrs Ashe and the music department can't wait for the return to school and face to face lessons again, nothing will ever replace seeing their pupils in the flesh! In the meantime they hope that some of what has been documented above will act as inspiration to those who are yet to find their musical mojo.