National Centre for Early Music

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Teaching resources

This page contains resources for use in the classroom. They are appropriate for children in Key Stage 2, but could also form the basis for more advanced lessons with lower Key Stage 3. They explore Purcell's music, life and times in more detail.

Activity 1: The Great Fire of London, a musical diary
Activity 1.pdf
This activity is relevant to History and Music. Its main focus is on improvisation and composition.

Through the activity, children will:

  • Learn (or revise what they already know) about the Great Fire of London and the way it was recorded by diarists such as John Evelyn and Samuel Pepys.
  • Learn (or revise) 'London's Burning' and sing it in a round
  • Invent ostinato patterns to accompany the song
  • Compose short atmospheric pieces using classroom percussion instruments to represent each day of the Great Fire of London
  • Compile and perform a piece that uses 'London's Burning' to link each atmospheric 'diary' piece

Activity 2: Write your own ode
Activity 2.pdf
This activity looks at Purcell's ode 'Come ye Sons of Art'. It contains links to affordable mp3 recordings of the ode, and ideas to encourage 'active' listening and engagement with the recorded music. Its focuses are Music and English.

Through the activity children will:
  • Learn to sing 'Come ye Sons of Art' from Purcell's ode
  • Listen critically to further extracts from the ode and learn about the ode's historical context
  • Think about reasons why royal odes were composed and performed in the seventeenth century
  • Look at the extracts of the text of 'Come ye Sons of Art'
  • Write their own couplets, inspired by Come ye Sons of Art, for a class ode

Activity 3: Play a Passacaglia
Activity 3.pdf
This activity explores Purcell's uses of a ground bass (a short pattern of notes played by a bass instrument which
is repeated as an ostinato while a singer or other instrumentalistperforms a much longer, varying melody.)

Through the activity, children will:
  • Learn what a ground bass is and listen to some of Purcell's ground bass songs
  • Play as a group the chords that make up a passacaglia ground bass
  • Play melodies that fit with this ground
  • Arrange the bass line, chords and melodies to make an effective piece
  • Perform their own arrangement

Activity 4: Battle rhythms
Activity 4.pdf
This activity helps children develop their aural memory, a sense of pulse and the ability to play a variety of simple rhythmic patterns.

Through the activity, children will:
  • Sing 'Come if you Dare' from Purcell's King Arthur
  • Learn about and discuss the roles of trumpeters and drummers in a seventeenth-century army
  • Invent their own drumming signals
  • Learn to recognise the different signals and respond by obeying the instructions they communicate
  • Communicate instructions by playing these signals themselves