How Classic FM’s partner orchestras are inspiring us all with their educational offerings

22 January 2021, 15:13 | Updated: 16 February 2021, 11:04

How Classic FM’s partner orchestras are inspiring us all with their educational offerings
How Classic FM’s partner orchestras are inspiring us all with their educational offerings. Picture: CBSO / Benjamin Ealovega / ABRSM / PA

Top UK orchestras, from Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra to London Symphony Orchestra, are supporting home schooling and music education with these wonderful online resources.

As 2020 turned a corner and became 2021, much of the world has remained in the grips of the coronavirus pandemic.

And in the UK – whether in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales – we find ourselves in lockdown, and once again many of us are self-isolating, working from home, and home schooling.

We’re ever reliant on inspiring diversion and education online. And, luckily for us, many inspiring resources there are.

In the classical music world specifically, many orchestras and musicians have stepped up to the plate when it comes to providing virtual learning.

And Classic FM’s partner orchestras are no exception. From Bournemouth and London Symphony Orchestras, to Opera North and Royal Scottish National Orchestra, here are the best online learning resources from our friends at these partner orchestras.

Read more: The best classical music and opera online streams available in 2021 >

ABRSM, Classic FM’s Partner in Education

In 2015, Classic FM partnered with the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) and Decca Classics to launch Classical 100, a music education initiative aimed at school-age children.

The unique collection of 100 classical recordings, complete with learning activities and information on each piece, is being made available for free to all families for home schooling.

Click here to find out more.

London Symphony Orchestra, Classic FM’s Orchestra in London

London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) entertains and educates young people from age five upwards, with its LSO Discovery initiative.

The orchestra has assembled a collection of musical activities, concerts and resources to help with home-schooling, as well as keeping families entertained, active and inspired with music – whether you play an instrument or not.

Olivia Forms a Band – suitable for age 5+ or Key Stage 1.

LSO invites primary school children and their families to join in with a 30-minute musical version of Olivia Forms A Band. Sing or play along, grab an instrument if you have one, and join in with three original songs, hear pieces of classical music performed by LSO musicians, and see illustrations from the book on screen. There are practice tracks and word sheets for the two songs which you can join in with during the video, and resource pack of creative activities for teachers to download.

Where’s Simon? suitable for ages 5-12 or Key Stages 1, 2 or 3.

Conductor Sir Simon Rattle and the LSO have been adjusting to life at home, but they have missed playing together.

Simon was supposed to have been attending the wedding of his old friend Figaro but sadly couldn’t travel there. The LSO players suggested doing a special online concert for him and Simon agreed to conduct! The time arrives for online sectional rehearsals and all the players gather but... Where's Simon? This game teaches and tests your knowledge through a quiz, as well as helping you explore some listening recommendations directly from the LSO players.

Space…but not as we know it suitable for ages 7-12 or Key Stages 2 and 3.

Join the LSO for an online concert, presented by Rachel Leach and conducted by Jessica Cottis, featuring Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and music by Berlioz, Ives, Prokofiev and Haydn.

Find out what happens when an orchestra has to keep its distance! Rachel Leach explores the separation of sounds, how music travels around an orchestra and what you can hear between the notes. There are also warm-ups and listen and draw activities to get involved with, and free resources for teachers to download.

Read more: London Symphony Orchestra is here for families with its supersonic space-themed concert >

How to Build an Orchestra suitable ages 7+ or Key Stage 2 and beyond.

Discover everything about orchestras and their instruments with LSO’s beautifully-illustrated children’s book How to Build an Orchestra. This wonderfully illustrated story follows a conductor who is auditioning each instrument for his orchestra. With accompanying CDs and downloadable music, follow the conductor on his journey and uncover every detail of an orchestra.

LSO Play suitable for ages 7+ or Key Stage 2 and beyond, and big kids too!

The award-winning LSO Play is a free interactive and immersive web app, allowing you to experience the LSO on stage at the Barbican – anytime, anywhere. View the orchestra from four camera angles simultaneously, and switch between them during the performance. You can focus on anything from the tips of a drumstick to the violinists’ fingers. Find teacher resource packs for Key Stage 2 and 3 to use in classroom music lessons, Listening Activities for young people to do at home or in school, as well as masterclasses with LSO players and listening guides with information on the musical background. Choose from six performances, all filmed in HD during the LSO’s Barbican season.

Lockdown Listening – suitable for ages 7+

With the challenges of homeschooling in mind, the orchestra has also released ten pieces of music with accompanying creative tasks, aimed to bring creativity to younguns’ daily learning. Animateur Rachel Leach has created a series of daily musical listening tasks for you to do at home – with your children, with your class or even by yourself, around popular classical pieces, including Ravel’s Boléro and Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 ‘From The New World’.

A-level Revision suitable for ages 16+ or Key Stage 5.

Includes a YouTube playlist of revision shorts from LSO Discovery to support students studying music and seminars with in-depth analysis of set works and performances from LSO players.

The orchestra is also continuing its Always Playing campaign to bring music to everyone, everywhere while they are unable to perform live. Even though concert halls are closed, the LSO is endeavouring to bring the music to your living room, with a digital programme of archive streams of full concerts twice a week, lunchtime recitals, interviews, articles, playlists and activities for young people and families.

Click here to find out more.

Click here to listen to the Classic FM Revision playlist on Global Player, the official Classic FM app >

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Classic FM’s Orchestra in the South of England

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra has an educational arm called BSO Participate, which started some new initiatives to inspire all ages and support families in the first lockdown and summer months – and they have more coming, so watch this space...

The orchestra is also continuing to allow you to enjoy their music from the comfort of your own home. Their 2020/21season concerts are available to watch live, and then on demand for 30 days after the original performance date.

Click here to find out more.

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Classic FM’s Orchestra in the Midlands

The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) has launched a series of free educational video resources, aimed to inspire children aged 5-10 through the magic of music.

MusicBox11am Thursdays

Created by CBSO violinist Georgia Hannant, MusicBox is a series of ten short videos designed to encourage children to sing, think about music, and participate. Each session will begin with songs taught in Solfa – a method of learning and reading music which uses seven note names for a scale (‘Do’, ‘Re’, ‘Mi’, ‘Fa’, ‘So’, ‘La’ and ‘Ti’), with a hand signal for each syllable. Worksheets are provided with follow-up activities for the children to do in their own time, or together with family. The sessions aim to cater for a variety of musical levels and abilities, from complete beginners to budding instrumentalists.

Race Through Space 11am Mondays

CBSO violinists Charlotte Skinner and Bryony Morrison present a series of short videos taking young astronauts aged 4-7 on a musical adventure through space. Over six weeks they’ll explore orchestral repertoire and different elements of music in order to design a musical spaceship built from the interrelated dimensions of music featured in the Key Stage 1 curriculum. Accompanied by well-known pieces of music, each week they will look at one of six musical building blocks and encourage children to create that part of the spaceship in preparation for blast-off!

The CBSO is also continuing to release new digital concerts each week for you to enjoy online and from the comfort of your own home.

Click here to find out more here.

Opera North, Classic FM’s Opera Company

Whether you’re new to opera or have a lifelong passion, Opera North has created a host of resources to help young people discover more about this brilliant, moving, surprising art form.

Classic FM’s Opera Company has recently announced new selection of educational offerings for young people.

Opera North’s Little School of Music features quizzes, games and music-making challenges aimed at children aged 5 upwards.

Orchestral Academy Online is aimed at young instrumentalists, offering masterclasses and workshops with the Orchestra of Opera North – from Monday 15 February onwards.

From Couch to Chorus invites us to ‘sing into Spring’ with our families, learning to sing opera from the comfort of our own homes. This course is open to singers of all levels, from complete beginners to experienced choir-goers. If you don’t read music or know your voice type, it doesn’t matter, as you’ll be provided with all the resources you need to help you experience what it’s like to sing in an opera chorus. Starts 24 Feburary.

A-Z of Opera helps you get to know your Britten from your ‘bel canto’, your tenors from your trouser roles, and all things opera with this handy A-Z guide.

A Brief History of Opera enables you to discover how opera came into being with this potted history explored through the team at Opera North’s favourite works.

In a Nutshell… guides help you find out everything you need to know about your favourite operas. What’s the story? Who are the characters? What is the music like? What is the production like? Who was the composer?

While the company cannot perform live, it’s sharing some productions and performances with viewers online. From Wagner’s Ring Cycle to Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, you can stream full productions from the comfort of your own home.

Opera North also recently launched ONe to ONe, which features personal online performances from members of the Chorus and Orchestra of Opera North that you can book. From a cappella arias to Bach cello suites, the new initiative promises a totally bespoke music experience over Zoom. Sessions are sold out currently, but keep checking back for more opportunities to book an experience.

Click here to find out more.

Philharmonia Orchestra, Classic FM’s Orchestra on Tour

While we still can’t gather in the same room, the Philharmonia Orchestra is inviting us to enjoy concerts online, including with star violinist Nicola Benedetti performing Beethoven and Stephen Fry re-telling the myth of Prometheus.

Click here to find out more.

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Classic FM’s Orchestra in the North West of England

The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (RLPO) has a learning programme that’s continued throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Through In Harmony Liverpool, a community-based music education programme in Anfield and Everton, over 1,400 children have received weekly instrument lessons and ensemble rehearsals since schools reopened in September. During periods of lockdown, children continue to receive at least one live music lesson a week. And schools are provided with online resources, including filmed musicianship and instrumental activities. Children based in school ‘hubs’ and at home access the same provision, ensuring consistent learning and progress for all pupils.

After-school ensemble rehearsals, secondary school age instrument lessons and other activity has moved online, including RLPO’s talent development programme in partnership with Royal Northern College of Music. Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Company provides weekly sectional and ensemble rehearsals for members of Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and Choirs.

The Rushworth Young Composers scheme provides mentoring and rehearsals with professional players as they work towards recording their new compositions in May. And the RLPO’s Christopher Brooks Composition Prize was awarded in December to 19 year old Alex Papp from Southport. 

Activities and ensembles led by RLPO musicians for undergraduate and postgraduate Music students at the University of Liverpool have moved online. And the orchestra’s MA in the Classical Music Industry (delivered in partnership with the University) commenced online this January.

RLPO is also continuing to bring the magic of Philharmonic Hall to our homes. The orchestra’s critically-acclaimed series of on demand concerts, filmed in the Autumn, are a great way to escape and enjoy the world’s greatest music.

Click here to find out more.

Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Classic FM’s Orchestra in Scotland

Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) is continuing its digital season enabling you to enjoy their music from the comfort of your own home.

The orchestra has also announced a special concert for primary schools, featuring Zeb Soanes’ popular children’s book series, Gaspard’s Foxtrot, set to music by composer Jonathan Dove, and with the book’s illustrations by James Mayhew brought to life by production company Visible Fictions.

The RSNO is calling on primary schools across Scotland to sign up to receive the film, as well as accompanying education resources – including an online workshop with presenter Lucy Drever and sessions for teachers – ahead of the free concert’s release on 10 May.

Click here for resource release dates and to find out more.

The musicians and staff of the RSNO have also been busy creating online content to keep children and adults entertained whilst staying connected to the orchestra. At Home with the RSNO includes:

#RSNOchallenge – 14 fun, family-friendly, musical challenges to keep children entertained.

Tara the Tugboat – Join RSNO musicians as they follow the adventures of Tara the Tugboat on the River Clyde. With pirates, mermaids and songs to sing along to, this family-friendly concert is perfect for young children. There’s also a BSL version of Tara the Tugboat too.

Nursery Sounds – Join RSNO musicians with your little ones as they sing, play and sign Makaton along to your favourite nursery rhymes.

Community Orchestra: All Together Now – Do you miss making music? Join All Together Now, the RSNO’s Digital Community Orchestra, to play, share, create and learn.

Friday Night Club – 15 free-to-watch archive concerts on top of the orchestra’s digital season.

Sunday Sounds – an opportunity for adults and children to relax ahead of another busy week by listening to beautiful music performed by RSNO musicians recorded in their own homes.

Click here to find out more.

The Sixteen, the Voices of Classic FM

Join The Sixteen on A Choral Odyssey – a voyage of choral discovery exploring some of the UK’s most fascinating buildings and the unique stories that bind them to our choral heritage. The fascinating series is available to watch on-demand until 1 April – as a package of five concerts for £45, or individually, at £10 for each concert.

Click here to find out more.

Click here to explore more learning resources from Classic FM and its partners.