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Green Love! Songs to Save the World

Green Love! Songs to Save the World

Catherine Barker, Head of Music and Performing Arts at United Learning, tells the story behind the Group-wide 'Green Love' project, which saw over 2,000 pupils across 40 schools perform virtually in a digital performance that premiered on Friday 15th October.

Reducing emissions, becoming carbon neutral and saving the planet are three phrases we hear about frequently at the moment – particularly in the run up to COP26.  Only today, I heard a radio interview in which we were told that we all need to ‘do our bit’ to minimise our impact on the environment.  It clearly is a non-negotiable and, as schools, we have a very important role to play.

At United Learning, this is a role we take very seriously; indeed, we are working towards becoming carbon neutral by 2030.  Across our schools, reducing our emissions is a key focus both for our management and estates teams as well as our teachers as we seek to nurture the green citizens of the future.  PSHE lessons on the environment, litter picking and recycling drives are all well and good but this is such an important issue that we felt a more innovative approach was needed.

Delivering an Education with Character is a key pillar of United Learning’s approach and through the arts, sport and a wide range of enrichment opportunities we seek to develop character, compassion and service in our pupils so they are inspired to make a positive contribution to the world they live in.  Addressing the world’s climate crisis is a natural fit for this work.

And so, the Green Love project was born.  Beginning during the lockdown of 2020, we commissioned L’Estrange Music to compose six songs focusing on the environmental challenges we need to tackle.  The community choral pieces which include parts of body percussion are striking musical compositions. Whilst the lyrics send a clear message, the driving rhythms convey a real sense of urgency.  I couldn’t wait to start introducing the music to our pupils.

Not knowing when we would be able to bring all the pupils together physically, we planned for the whole project to be delivered online and I am glad we did given the lockdown of January 2021.  As schools returned to remote learning once again, body percussionists from Beat Goes On and experts from Voices Foundation delivered training to teachers online.  These sessions sought to increase their confidence, develop the skills of non-specialist teachers and deepen the expertise of our specialists.  Despite the challenges of remote learning and their other priorities during this difficult time, it was so heartening to see teachers make the time for these sessions.  Covid didn’t mean that everything had to stop; indeed, we had a responsibility to continue our teachers’ CPD and give our pupils a breadth of new and inspiring experiences.

Seizing the opportunities presented during the pandemic with online learning, our schools then came together for national music assemblies, modelling best practice in online teaching and allowing everyone to see themselves as part of a larger, collaborative group of musicians. The isolation caused by the pandemic made this connection particularly important and it was simply fantastic to see 4,500 pupils across 23 primary and secondary academies and independent schools participate in our national online music assemblies.

Pupils then learnt and rehearsed their parts during the summer term before recording their performances.  Where end-of-term concerts were not possible, these recordings kept our pupils singing.  Amazingly, more than 2,000 pupil singers – some in bubbles, some socially distanced – from 40 schools across England were involved in these recordings, alongside more than 150 teachers. We received over 700 submissions that were skillfully edited into a final, combined performance by the talented Jeremy Hubbard from Night Owl Media.

On Friday 15th October we were proud to premiere the final, combined edit of Green Love to an online YouTube audience. Thanks to new opportunities for digital performance, we will ‘spread the Green Love’ further than ever before.

Green Love! Songs to Save the World will be published shortly by Andagio for schools and community choirs to enjoy worldwide.  You can see United Learning’s performance of Green Love! here: https://youtu.be/EGXiLXxEgSg

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Posted: Oct 27, 2021,
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Author: Grace
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