Ten ideas for tuneful trips

Date Posted: 01/10/2014

With the new National Curriculum for Music just having come into effect, it is an ideal time to arrange a music-themed trip.

Make more of music with these ten ideas that focus on a range of tuneful topics, including England’s greatest composers, the Fab Four, ancient instruments and a memorable modern musical.

1. Billy Elliot the Musical

Now in its ninth year at London’s Victoria Palace Theatre, Billy Elliot the Musical features music by Elton John.

Set in 1984 and 1985, during one of the most damaging strikes in Britain’s history, it also provides a stimulus for cross-curricular activities.

Suitable for KS3 and above, there is a downloadable education pack that will help prepare for a theatre visit. In-theatre, pre-show workshops are also available where youngsters can create their own version of a scene from the show and explore some of the story’s core themes.

2. The Beatles Story

Located in the Fab Four’s hometown of Liverpool, this attraction uses the latest technology to take visitors on a journey through the ground-breaking culture and musical legacy of the Beatles. John Lennon and the Beatles are featured on the National Curriculum and the Discovery Zone area brings the band’s era to life.

Listen to a Beatles’ song at a recreated 1950s NEMS music store, where the record department was run by their manager Brian Epstein, and play a tune on a giant grand piano.

Downloadable teaching resources related to music include Peace Songs and the Voice of Youth, looking at the origin of protest songs by John Lennon, Joan Baez, Simon and Garfunkel, Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens and others, and exploring why they still carry a powerful message today.

3. Bate Collection   

More than 1,000 instruments are on display at the Bate Collection of Musical Instruments in Oxford University’s faculty of music, which features European, orchestral, woodwind, and percussion instruments from the Renaissance period to modern times.

Visits and workshops are offered to schools from Oxfordshire and the surrounding counties.

In addition, Hands-On Music in Museums delivers engaging sessions for Secondary schools at the Bate Collection and Oxford’s Pitt Rivers Museum and it is possible to combine workshops in both venues.

4. Horniman Museum

Housing one of the most comprehensive collections of instruments in the country, this London museum throws the spotlight on world music.

Located in Forest Hill, the Horniman has over 8,000 objects made to produce sound. The oldest is a pair of bone clappers in the form of human hands made in Egypt around 3,500 years ago, and electric guitars and synthesizers are among the most recently acquired.

The museum interprets instruments in a broad musical and cultural context, and aims to acquire sound and video recordings for each instrument to really bring them to life. Tutor-led sessions are available for all Key Stages.

A popular example is Make and Take for KS2, where participants make a sistrum - an instrument used by ancient Egyptians - which they can take home.

5. Royal Opera House

Musical studies will really hit the high notes with a visit to London’s famous Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.

Every year the schools’ matinees programme gives teachers the opportunity to bring students, aged eight and over, to special matinee performances of six of the season’s productions.

All of the opera and ballet matinees can be used to support music studies across the Key Stages.

The opera house actively encourages young people to embrace music, opera and dance through activities and events.

In addition to the matinees, there are insightful backstage tours that may include the chance to see the Royal Ballet in class; and Fanfare, a creative music competition giving 11 to 16-year-olds the chance to have their compositions played to audiences of thousands.

6. Holst Birthplace Museum

Although chiefly remembered as the composer of The Planets, Gustav Holst was a prolific composer who wrote in practically every classical genre, including chamber pieces and opera.

He was born in Cheltenham and his home is one of only two composer birthplace museums in the country, the other being Elgar.

The museum aims to honour the life and promote the music of Holst, and to encourage the performance and understanding of his work. It is a rich resource for learning, with many original objects on display such as Holst’s piano.

The house is the only example in Gloucestershire of a Victorian-Edwardian family home complete with the furnishings and utensils of that period, and little is different from Gustav’s childhood in the 1870s.

7. The Elgar Birthplace Museum

Another of England’s greatest composers, Sir Edward Elgar, was born in a country cottage near Worcester.

His birthplace now provides an atmospheric look at the composer’s life and times, and the modern adjoining Elgar Centre reveals more about the man behind masterpieces such as the Pomp and Circumstance Marches and the Enigma Variations.

Visiting classes watch a video about Elgar before exploring the various areas, and children always love experimenting with music in the jubilee music garden.

The space has been specially designed to encourage creative play and musical interaction, with outdoor musical instruments made from recycled materials and an audio ‘chatter box’ that explains how the garden was made.

There are also musical telephones that play snippets of his famous works.

8. Hampton Court Palace

Make music at Henry VIII’s favourite royal residence.

For KS2 The Prince and the Piper is a lively session that uses music to support classroom knowledge and understanding of key aspects of Tudor history.

Led by an expert music historian, the workshop investigates how music featured both at the Tudor court and throughout the rest of society, drawing comparisons between the kinds of music listened to and instruments played.

Active participation is encouraged, exploring how music was created during Henry VIII’s rule. It particularly supports elements of the music curriculum around performing, listening to, reviewing and evaluating music across historical periods, genres and traditions.

For KS1 Tudor Times includes learning a dance that was popular with Henry VIII himself.

9. The Musical Museum

From the tiniest of clockwork music boxes to the ‘Mighty Wurlitzer’, this museum at Kew Bridge in west London contains one of the world’s foremost collections of self-playing musical instruments.

Step back 100 years and more, and enter the magical world of automatic music. In the era before microphones, various instruments were invented to bring the works of the great composers into entertainment venues, homes and cafes.

The collection embraces an impressive array of instruments including pianos, organs and violins, plus an amazing orchestrion that recreates the sound of a concert orchestra.

Guided tours reveal how music was captured and the way the different instruments are powered, against the backdrop of the sounds and actions of the extraordinary instruments.

10. Wakefield Cathedral

The Education Department at Wakefield Cathedral covers a wide area of work, and themed visits extending way beyond hymns and sacred music.

The HALO (heritage, arts, learning and outreach) team, headed by experienced teachers who are also professional artists, provides creative workshops in the beautiful surroundings of Yorkshire’s tallest church.

Victorian Christmas, for KS1 and KS2, tells the Christmas story through the eyes of a Victorian child, with the opportunity to sing carols and dress up. Music Trek, for KS2, is a cathedral tour incorporating songs and music from different periods to illustrate the building’s heritage.

And for KS2 upwards, Africa! is an exciting drum, dance and singing session that raises awareness about the cathedral’s link with Tanzania and culminates with a mini performance.

School Travel Organiser's Guide