Songs for the future


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Last week the schools had a half term in most areas of England and pupils and teachers will (hopefully) be getting themselves ready for a start back on Monday. In the week before the break I was part of a morning session devoted to composition and lyric writing at the launch of a songwriting competition for schools in Rotherham.

The concept of the competition is ambitious but I am confident it is achievable in the time and the eventual performance(s) will be showcased before the summer holiday. The plan is for pupils in every school in the Borough to work on songs and submit the best one to the competition in the week before Easter. The songs will be judged and the winning entries will be arranged, orchestrated and produced ready for the summer term (my main job in the process).

The complete versions of the winning songs will be sent to all the schools for their choirs to rehearse and put together as a video and possibly performed live at a community sing event. For examples of how the final results could look see the Lincolnshire Big Sing Virtual Choir https://www.youtube.com/v/psNsU1VS2eg or the song What If on video produced for the Commonwealth Games https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmJBJV0i928.

Each year there are a number of songwriting competition initiatives, many with specific events and themes as their focus. Some examples are a song for the Rugby World Cup in Leicestershire or Music for Peace and Development as part of the Commonwealth Community Choir competition or the Amnesty International UK young songwriter awards. There are also more general competitions like the Teenstar http://www.teenstarcompetition.co.uk/ and Future Music http://songwritingcompetitionuk.com/ songwriting/performance competitions.

My thoughts about the value of competitions in music are mixed. Composition competitions often include directions to write for a particular group of instruments and for a specific duration (almost ‘to a brief’) and one of the most important skills to master – finishing a complete version of the work by the deadline (with edits, dynamics, phrasing, articulations, performance descriptions…) gives finality to the undertaking.

The performance and/or talent competitions where the competitors sing songs that were defined by known singers seem to have little musical worth but are geared towards creating a certain type of celebrity status for the participants. As such they are directed by the principles of entertainment rather than those regarding music.

This competition is based on judging the song through the combination of words and music. This may tell a story, be an anthem, create a mood or feeling… An original song created by the youth of Rotherham for the youth of Rotherham. If the enthusiasm of the music staff at the launch session is any indication of how the project will run and what could be achieved we should get a sack full of entries in a few weeks time. Good luck to everyone taking part and I hope there are clouds of creativity circling over Rotherham in the weeks to come.

© P.R.Birkby 2015

For further information regarding the competition please get in touch with me by email or contact the Rotherham Music Hub direct through their website http://www.rotherhammusichub.org.uk/#!contact/cut5

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About derangeddrums

Composer, percussionist, musical director, teacher and educator. My music has been written for audiences in palaces and in the street. Music is my vocation and my passion and I hope you enjoy it too.
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