In the autumn term 2014, some young instrumentalists from six Camden primary schools were involved in a composition project which resulted in 270 new pieces being written. The starting point for the project was Holst’s “Mars” from his “Planet Suite”, one of the BBC’s chosen “Ten Pieces”.
The schools, Carlton, Christchurch NW1, Eleanor Palmer, Kingsgate, Richard Cobden and St Albans, are part of the Camden Music Service Wider Opportunities Strings programme. Each class received a visit from the Stella String Quartet. The Stellas introduced the children to how a string quartet works, playing a close-up, interactive classroom concert, encouraging the children to explore what the instruments can do.
The children were then introduced to Holst’s “Mars” through the BBC Ten Pieces DVD. Working at the Camden’s City Learning Centre with Rod Arran and Sheena Masson from the Camden Music Service, each class had a composition day. They used the sequencing software Logic and Holst’s ideas of repeating five beat patterns and layered motifs to create their own compositions. Combining ostinati and tunes along with improvised solo passages, the children wrote for the Stella String Quartet, incorporating arco, pizzicato and col leg no techniques.
All the original individual compositions, played from Logic, are here.
The recordings above were made at 3 live concerts at the Royal Academy of Music. Sadly there were too many pieces for them all to be played – we would have been there for several days and the Stella String Quartet would have been very tired! Rod Arran and Sheena Masson compiled and transcribed a selection of the compositions. Some pieces were performed in their entirety; others were incorporated into combined compositions.
The Camden Music Service would like to thank the Stella Quartet for their involvement in this project and the Royal Academy of Music for making the whole programme possible.
Scores and parts are available from Camden Music if anyone would like to have a go at playing them.