In the latest entry to our series on school trips, Oscar takes a look at one of the best destinations in the world for Music students...
There really isn't anything quite like live music. Sure, putting on a great pair of headphones and listening to your favourite tunes on Spotify might sound good, but you're only getting half of the experience. Hearing music live is simply magical, and it's often how many musicians fall in love with the art. I remember the first live jazz gig I attended and being utterly captivated by the band - there really is a certain intimacy that comes from being there in the moment that you lose when you listen at home.
For anyone studying Music at GCSE or A-Level, it's likely that you'll have a number of set works to study and learn for your exam. Getting to know these pieces inside out is of the upmost importance, and I would always recommend to students to go out and listen to them in person so they can really get to know the compositions.
During my final year of Music A-Level, I went to watch my own teacher (who was an excellent percussionist) perform the 'Rite of Spring' with a local orchestra, which really brought Stravinsky's dramatic ballet to life. Luckily for students who live in London, there are plenty of opportunities to grab discounted tickets for fantastic performances, and you're spoilt for choice with several world-class concert halls in the capital.
One of my favourite venues is the Royal Albert Hall, where I've been fortunate enough to visit as a member of the audience and as a performer. So, if you're thinking about running a school trip to this famous venue (or trying to convince your teacher to take your class!), I've compiled a list of things to do and look out for when you head to the RAH.
1. Find Out How The Royal Albert Hall Operates
While putting on great shows is what the RAH is famous for, you don't have to watch a performance when you go to visit it. For students with an interest in events management, the RAH offers schools the chance to take a 'Day in the Life' tour which is tailored to suit students. Pupils can find out about how the RAH operates on a daily basis and how its team brings huge shows to its stage, from the initial conception right until the final performance.
Not only that, but it represents great value at £6.50 per student with teachers going free, and it's a recommended trip for pupils studying BTec Music Events Management. If you aren't studying that particular course but you're considering taking an events management course at university, then this trip is a great opportunity to show your interest in the subject on that all important personal statement.
2. Check Out The Hall's History
This grade I listed building nestled in the heart of Kensington has had a vibrant past, and if you're planning on bringing a group of younger pupils to the RAH then their 'Discover the Victorians' tour will be right up their street. For free, actors dressed in full Victorian-era outfits will take students around the venue, teaching them about life during the 19th century and Prince Albert's vision for the RAH, as well as the Great Exhibition.
As a bonus, the tour even lines up with the current KS1 curriculum for History, so it's an ideal choice for primary school teachers looking for an opportunity to inspire their pupils about History. It's worth checking out the RAH's website for its 'time machine' tool, which lets you find out more about the hall's history, potentially making for a fun filler or introductory activity to Victorian-era history.
3. Attend A Masterclass or Workshop
We're at trip idea number 3 and I've not even included seeing a show! For students who are passionate about STEM subjects (that's Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), there are a whole host of excellent workshops and masterclasses on at the RAH which are designed especially for students with a unique focus on the connections between Music and STEM - this is a great opportunity to explore some topics on the curriculum in a fun and engaging way.
For example, their 'Discover Music and Science' workshop is tailored for older KS3 students and looks to teach them about sound and light waves in an applied context. Having attended a few workshops in this vein in the past as a student, I would always recommend them as a great way to get pupils interested in the broader applications of Physics.
4. Go to See A Set Work Performed Live
Okay, time for the obvious choice! As I mentioned earlier, going to watch live music is an incredible experience and that's only enhanced when you attend an outstanding venue like the RAH. While I could repeat my eulogy of the benefits of listening to your set works in person, here's a few cool things to check out when you head into the concert hall:
If you head over to stalls K, row 11, seat 87 and take a peek under the seat you'll see part of the first stone to be laid at the RAH by Queen Victoria. Fun fact: when the stone was laid by Queen Victoria, she used a golden trowel!
Dubbed 'the voice of Jupiter', this gigantic organ boasts a whopping 9,999 pipes and is one of the biggest instruments in the world. Placed into the hall in 1871, it has been a staple of the RAH and while many famous organists have performed recitals on it, many modern musicians can't resist the chance to play it - McFly, Muse and even comedian Bill Bailey are amongst the organ's performers.
Without disappointing any vegetable fans here, these 'mushrooms' are not real! Instead, they are huge fibreglass acoustic diffusers which hang from the ceiling of the RAH - take look up when you enter the hall! They aren't just for show either. Designed to eliminate the echo caused by the sheer size of the hall, they help improve the general acoustic of the RAH by making the performer's sound more immediate and clearer to the audience.
So, there you have it - my top 4 things to do on a school trip to the RAH. Have you ever been on a school trip to this historic venue? Maybe you've been on another trip to one of the UK's other fantastic concert halls? Let me know what you got up to via our Facebook or Twitter, I'd love to hear from you!
Blog Post Crafted by Oscar
Oscar studies Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) at the University of Warwick.
When he's not studying or tutoring GCSE Maths and Science, Oscar plays saxophone and co-ordinates the Small Band division of the University of Warwick Big Band.
In 2017 he set up his own jazz function band, Mirage Quartet, and has been a keen collaborator and ambassador for Bromley Youth Music Trust