1,300 pupils from 13 primary schools in Bristol have come together for a musical celebration with Bristol Beacon.

In spite of COVID restrictions and schools having to teach children remotely for many months, the 11 music tutors have managed to deliver Earthsong Programme – a joint initiative between Bristol Beacon and the Earthsong Foundation – to provide whole class singing and instrumental lessons to primary school children in years 2 and 3, aged between six and eight years. Now, they are celebrating the end of the year by bringing all of the pupils together for a special online music-making event.

On Thursday 10 June, over 630 Year 3 pupils have joined together in a ‘Start with Playing’ class, which sees the music tutors leading a mixture of songs, games and musical activities. They will have the chance to practice a range of instruments they’ve been learning – percussion instruments such as agogas, shaky eggs, claves, drums, djembes, boomwhackers, pitched bells and glockenspiels.

On Friday 11 June, another 630 or so Year 2 pupils from the 13 schools will enjoy a ‘Start with Singing’ workshop. The music tutors will lead singing, rhythm games and other musical activities. These include favourites such as ‘Chatter with the Angels’, ‘Who stole my chickens’ and the Penguin song.

The 13 Bristol schools participating in the Earthsong Programme are:

Ashton Vale Primary 
Ashley Down Primary 
Bridge Farm Primary 
Brunel Field Primary 
Cabot Primary
Evergreen Primary
Fonthill Primary
Horfield CEVC Primary 
Minerva Academy
Parson Street 
St Mary Redcliffe Primary
St Patrick’s Catholic Primary 
Stoke Park 

 “In spite of the restrictions, our music tutors have worked really hard with the schools to be able to bring a programme of music learning and experience for these children, which we hope as well as providing some much-needed relief and a boost to their wellbeing over the last year, is the start of a lifelong love of music,” said Laurie Stewart, vocal and instrumental strategy manager, Bristol Beacon.

“Originally, we planned a real-life concert to celebrate the end of the year’s programme, but with the ability to do that still some way off, we wanted to find a way to bring all the children together. Having 13 schools and 21 different classes all online on the same Zoom will be a brilliant opportunity for them to see each other for the first time, and celebrate their achievements together.”

Suze Pole, co-founder of Earthsong Foundation, added, “We want all children to have the opportunity to experience the fun and creativity of making music and the enjoyment that comes from taking part in a collective activity. We’re so impressed at how the music education team at Bristol Beacon have been able to deliver the Earthsong programme digitally, ensuring the children reap the benefits from it during this incredibly tough past year and it’s fantastic to see them now all coming together in this wonderful celebratory event.”

The Earthsong Programme was made possible thanks to an extraordinary philanthropic donation by the Earthsong Foundation. Following a pilot programme in 2019 at Minerva Primary Academy school, it was rolled out last year to 13 schools across the city, to provide whole class singing and instrumental lessons.

With lockdown restrictions, the music education staff worked hard to adjust the lessons so that they could be done either as 30-minute live lessons online or recorded content that can be split into daily five-minute sessions. The programme employs 11 tutors to deliver the lessons.

The Earthsong Programme is the only one of its kind in the UK, but the team’s aspiration is that its results will change the national understanding of the impact of music education.