New Arrangements for AQA GCSE Music (8271)

The newly reformed Music GCSE for first examination in 2018 presents an increased challenge for students. Formerly students were required to produce 80% of performance and composition coursework with a 20% listening exam at the end. In the 2018 specification, the exam is more complex and its value has been increased to 40%. Additionally there is now a minimum time rerquirement for performance, which has created a dilemma for a wide-demographic of students. If students fail to meet the minimum time required, they will receive zero marks for performance. 
 
Traditionally, students wanting to study music at the highest university level would have reached ABRSM grade 5 or 6 in their instrument by the end of Year 11. However, nationally a large proportion of music students reach a lower standard by that point. The new criteria has been problematic, but especially so for pianists and brass players. Even at grade 6, brass examination pieces are often about one minute in duration. The new specification requires students to perform a solo and an ensmble piece, together lasting at least 4 minutes.  
 
However the introduction of an excellent 'Performance Via Technology' option has created a fantastic opportunity which should be a consideration for both traditional and technology performance students. The PvT option, though still having the 4-minute minimum time, is assessed differently, requiring the student to listen holistically to the product of performance.  They perform each part of the music into computer software, then editing and shaping every musical aspect to perfect the performance. This requires critical listening and development of values in commercial production, inspiring students to develop a deeper awareness and understanding of music theory in context. This option makes Music GCSE accessible to all, whether they play an instrument or not.
 
The challenge of sourcing appropriate performance music remains, and the '2minutes5' series is designed to offer students accessible scores of inspirational music to use for PvT performance. Each 2minutes5 arrangement is designed to be as faithful to its original as possible. Each arrangement is at least 2 minutes and 5 seconds in duration to ensure the minimum requirement is met. Every part is transcribed, showing a large amount of musical detail. In addition to providing the opportunity for performance, the score will help students of all abilities to access the required understanding of notated music to prepare for the 40% exam. Arrangements of Skyfall by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth and Game of Thrones by Ramin Djawadi are available here now.  
 
This article is based on experience of guiding students through the first cohort of AQA GCSE Music 8271. It is not connected to, endorsed by or written for AQA.

A New Song for All - The Story of "I am free"

In February 2018 we began the development of a new song intended for use at remembrance services from November 2018 and to mark the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day. We began by considering the people who would sing the song, recognising that individuals attend remembrance services for many different reasons and from different faith backgrounds, some who would say they have no Christian belief at all, but for whom remembering a loved one is greatly important to them. 

 

The lyrics use both “I” and “We”, which although unusual in a song of this genre, is important as it considers a deep personal reflection, which is individual, as well as describing the context of remembering and supporting each other together. The focus of the song is very much about the people feeling a sense of freedom, both physically and spiritually. Its hope is to inspire a collective determination to seek this ‘freedom’ through unity of all people.

 

From early feedback from church groups and choirs, people have found one phrase in the second verse especially poignant and helpful. “We are gathered all as one, to honour those who have become a reflection in our lives everyday”. People have described how the death of a family member, whether relating to the military or not, creates a daily thought that stops the otherwise continuous flow of life. Often remembering and reflecting is part of our everyday life and some aspects of life are particularly important to us.

 

For people of Christian faith, the freedom, often described as ‘new life’, is the belief that God sent his son Jesus Christ to die for us, so that we can be forgiven for the things we get wrong. On Armistice Day, also known as Remembrance Day, Christians meet at churches to give thanks for and to remember Jesus dying for us. 

 

The Bible teaches us to surrender to God’s plan for our lives. The concept of ‘surrender’ can appear like a weakness or aspect of negativity. It is a word synonymous with Armistice Day 1918. However, Christians all over the world would describe how this surrender to God actually leads to the greatest sense of spiritual freedom. 

 

Musically, there is a large range of pitch. Some phrases are purposely composed in the lower range to encourage a more reflective, deeper approach. The early part of the bridge especially is intended to be a deep soulful reflection. In contrast, the pitch of the opening lyrics of the chorus “I am free, I am free” is high - it cannot be sung softly. It is intended to be sung loudly and with determination so that others can hear the message of the song.

 

It is free, it is free!!

“We are gathered all as one (I am free)” by Dave & Miriam Lowe is available free from www.davelowemusiconline.com Just fill out the contact form below and drop us a message to say if you would like to receive the sheet music, audio backing track or both. Please feel free to photocopy, print and share.

 

We are gathered all as one,

To worship Father, Spirit, Son.

We are gathered here together in His name.

We remember what the Lord

our God in heav'n has done for us,

we are thankful, we are thankful

for what He gave.

 

We are gathered all as one,

to honour those who have become

a reflection in our lives every day. 

We remember those who fought,

for the freedom of our land,

we are thankful, we are thankful 

for what they gave.

 

I am free, I am free

because someone died for me

gave their life, everything,

so that I can be free.

Now we’re here, we must be

looking to the future.

We must never stop,

the fight for unity.   

 

We are gathered all as one,

for the victory is won,

the price is paid

for the promise of new life.

Let us now with one voice sing

all our praises to the King,

we surrender, we surrender in His name.

 

I am free, I am free...

 

If we long for

peace across the nations

we must stand as one

and tell all the generations

x2

 

I am free, I am free...

 

 

 

Introducing "Architecture".

An inspirational collection of new works for piano by Dave Lowe.

Listen to Part 1 | Open Spaces

Sheet Music

 

 

 

 

Dave's book, published in 2015, is designed to support music students of all ages as they develop their understanding of     the creation of new music. It is now used in over 400 schools across the UK and is an officially recommended text on the new AQA GCSE Music Specification for examination from 2018.

How to Write Great Music

Biography

Dave originally trained as a classical pianist and post-production engineer for film, TV and animation. He studied at the University of Huddersfield where he received a 1st Class BSc (Hons) degree in Music Technology. His final year dissertation in ‘Studio Solution Design & Sound for Animation’ earned him the Arts and Humanities Research Board Postgraduate Award for Music Technology. Dave went on to study Sound Design at Masters level at the University of Bournemouth where he discovered a passion for film sound. 

Dave began to write music at an early age, often by sitting at the piano and playing for enjoyment. By his early teens, Dave had become fascinated by Jazz music and began to collaborate with fellow young musicians to create music together. Dave has performed in many venues across the UK including the Royal Albert Hall and Royal Festival Hall. He has also given performances in Italy and the USA.

These days, Dave is Head of Music and Director of Performing Arts at Manor CE Academy in York. He regularly scores music for the Manor Concert Orchestra, writing music that is inspirational and fun to play, while encouraging the students to ‘aim high’ and focus on developing the quality of their musicianship. Dave has written music for a number of events including choral and orchestral works for the Manor Christmas Carol Services at York Minster.  

Dave is a member of St Michael-le-Belfrey church in York where he regularly serves in the worship and media teams. 

In education, Dave has led courses in Music and Music Technology and has been a consultant for the development of national GCSE Music qualifications. Dave has written numerous courses in ‘Music for Film and Television’, ‘Post-Production Sound’, and ‘Composition’. He has taught Music Technology to degree level and continues to be a guest lecturer for university post-graduate teacher training courses.

In 2018, Dave led the first music-related masterclass on the highly-regarded York ISSP programme. "The Quest for True Sound" series involved students from nine schools across York, representing schools in both the private and state sectors.

Dave has created music and sound for film, animation, theatre and computer games, as well as producing music for commercial release. In 2013, his EP, “Six Shades of Yellow”, featured in the iTunes Top 20 Jazz Album Chart. The six tracks, inspired by musical techniques and concepts learned from people in different parts of the world, feature some of the original music he’s written to encourage young people to get involved in live performance.

Dave is also the owner of Rawcliffe Records, a small label with the purpose of supporting young artists as they begin their careers in music.

 

Christmas Overture for Electric Violin & Minster Organ

On 6th December, a special event took place at York Minster. The Manor CE Academy 'Nine Lessons and Carols' event about 'The Light' was directed by Dave Lowe and featured a variety of new arrangements scored specially for the evening. The music for this event was led by the Manor Concert Orchestra, Multi-part choir 'Voices' and the Manor Community Choir along with soloists and Minster Director of Music, Robert Sharpe. 

As it was the final of five Christmas Minster services for talented Year 11 violinist Eleanor March, it was decided that a new processional would be scored for her to play. Eleanor collaborated in the development of the work and performed it with Robert Sharpe. 

The composition was developed specifically for the incredible acoustics of York Minster. The concept of using the Electric Violin was based on requiring the combination of the awesome power of the Minster Organ together with the gentle beauty and 'sweet' tone of the Violin. A combination that, at the required audio level, would normally be uncontrollable with an acoustic violin and microphone, due to the natural feedback produced. The composition team decided on the following brief as focus when developing the music. "Our starting point was the theme of the service 'Light'. We've also considered aspects in the music to describe a rich, royal, bright and celebratory image as well as a more reflective contrast. We've talked about the music having a complexity, using bell-like scales, sequences, canonic/fugal writing to represent greatness as well as intricate or delicate details (movt. of inner voices) to portray the simplicity in the Christmas story. The harmony has a focus on warmth to represent the light".

Listen to the recording made at York Minster on 6th December here.

The Light - Manor CE Academy Music

"The Light" is title of the Manor CE Academy Christmas Fundraising Album for 2016. The project began in September 2016, with the announcement of a 'Song for Christmas' competition for Year 9 GCSE Music students. Over a period of 3 weeks, students were taught about the processes of commercial song-writing including the creation of original lyrics and how to develop chord progressions and ensemble arrangements. They were given one further week to finish their songs before recording a preview track. Eleven songs were developed in total and the winner announced as "The Light Rap Song" by Josh Burland. 

Immediately following the period of composition, a serious accident occurred and one of our talented young musicians had to be taken to hospital by Air Ambulance. We are grateful to the many people from around world who have sent good wishes to the young man and his family. He has made a miraculous recovery and is even attending music lessons again. It had always been the intention to release the winners' song for charity, but following their incredible support, it was decided to choose the top 6 songs and release them as an EP with all profits going to the Yorkshire Air Ambulance

The pre-production, based on the Garageband files created by the students, began on 26/10/16. Two of our instrumental tutors Phil McKenning (Electric Guitar) and Sam Johnson (Music Theory) contibuted additional lines as requested by the students. During the w/c 31/10/16 all the vocal parts were recorded by the students in the music room at Manor, with the exception of track 5, which required some further compositional development. The tracks were edited, mixed and mastered by Dave Lowe the following week and distributed by Rawcliffe Records through Tunecore. 

The release was initially supported by Adam Tomlinson at BBC Radio York and the story has since been covered by many other media organisations.

When "The Light" was officially released on 5/12/16 it went straight in at No. 1 on the iTunes Christian & Gospel Chart. The release continues to be available to download or stream from 39 online stores around the world including iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and Apple Music.

Josh went on to perform his winning song at York Minster on 6th December. The performance was very well received in a venue that does not usually feature rap music. Josh was joined by 20 members of his music class who all learned the offical dance, developed by Manor dance teacher Jeanette Couldry.

"Six Shades of Yellow" is available on the iTunes Music Store here.