Afternoon in a Meadow

As our Behind the Lines* project is coming to an end, the penultimate family workshop took us on a musical journey out of the city to a sunny field as we learned about Ivor Gurney and his piece ‘Severn Meadow’.

BTL Early Years workshop on Ivor Gurney, Westminster Music Library May 2014A very enthusiastic group of 2-5 year olds came to Westminster Music Library this month, despite the beautiful weather outside. But they weren’t disappointed as they were transported to the sunny countryside with the music of Ivor Gurney.

The workshop leader was Sam, who was wonderful and energetic and had everyone ready and excited for playing some music. The day’s RPO musicians were Russell on violin, Helen on flute and Andy on French horn. These three instruments contributed to the calm pastoral scene the group was creating, influenced by Gurney’s Severn Meadow.

BTL Early Years workshop on Ivor Gurney, Westminster Music Library May 2014

Ivor himself was inspired by a particular meadow to write this piece of music but we created our own countryside scene with long swaying grass, daisies, poppies and bluebells, and creepy crawlies. Everyone put their creative thinking caps on to try and imagine what all these things would sound like on musical instruments but with a huge variety to choose from the ideas were flowing quickly. Soon the library was transformed into a summer meadow with a blue sky and fluffy clouds, and there were even grasshoppers, caterpillars and butterflies! Everyone left feeling very sleepy and relaxed!

BTL Primary workshop on Ivor Gurney, Westminster Music Library May 2014

The next group of 5-11 year olds was even sleepier though, and needed an intense and vigorous warm up to wake up a bit for their music session! But soon they were imagining lying in a green grassy meadow too as they listened to the RPO play the relaxing music once more.

As everyone was lying down and dreaming of making shapes out of the clouds, they imagined being surrounded by rabbits, butterflies, grasshoppers and beautiful summer flowers. Ivor Gurney himself was using his imagination in this music too as he wrote it. In fact, he wrote it whilst in the dirty, wet, horrible trenches during WW1 but was thinking about his homeland of Gloucester, England and reflecting on his thoughts and memories of it – he obviously had a great imagination!

BTL Primary workshop on Ivor Gurney, Westminster Music Library May 2014The group was then turned into an orchestra (to replace most of the RPO who were off on holiday for the Bank Holiday weekend!) and created their own pastoral scene full of ideas and imagination. After everyone chose an instrument, the group set the scene with a calm drone and steady rhythm. The scene came to life with a variety of dynamics and sounds, then the group split into instrument families to experiment on music influenced by Severn Meadow with an oompah pattern and a variety of rhythmic and melodic ideas. Some lucky people even had a solo or two! There was a great team effort by the group as they all decided together how the music would sound. Adding some of the original music from Ivor Gurney’s piece, the orchestra played a brilliant finale with their creation of a country meadow in the summer.

[Jane McConnell]

Behind the Lines: The music and composers of the First World War*Behind the Lines is a year-long programme of participatory events run by Westminster Music Library in partnership with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, to encourage local communities from across Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea to engage with the Library and its collections.

The programme uses the centenary of the First World War as inspiration for a series of interactive workshops and creative projects designed for adult, family and school participants.

There are plenty of music workshops to come for all ages and abilities, check out our website: to find out more.


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