Well done to the sensory team… 2 beautiful performances with thoroughly engaged audiences.   The first show was a ripper, with the performers all working together with strong complicite and keen sense of timing, and all of us delighting at creating this magical moment and sharing it with children we have come to know and love.

From the start it was obvious that the children were now so familiar with the space, the performers and the characters, that they were much more willing to submerge themselves in the experience, to be present and participate with little hesitation.  Children that had arrived distressed calmed down and remained engaged for the duration (1 hour all up).   Even the presence of parents and VIPs that had come to watch did not distract them. 

Second show was perhaps a little less fluid for the performers with a couple of technical hiccups, but the students were equally as engaged. The majority of the children had not been involved in the residency, thus unfamiliar with us and the space, and it took noticeably longer for them to settle.  But once settled there was obvious curiosity and wonderment on many of their faces.

As the musician, I don’t get as much intimate contact with the children as the performers. As the children enter the space I consider my role to be creating a sound environment that feels safe and inviting.  The soundscape of the forest is subtle but to those with sensitive hearing it is foreign and new.  Occasionally children walk I with fingers in their ears, perhaps common behaviour when entering in to a new environment, but soon they remove their hands as they adjust to the sounds.  There are sounds of nature, birds, water, rain and crickets. These are all recorded on the loop pedal, and the children themselves made the sounds on the recording.  You can even hear Harrison giving his signiture humming sound on it!  Very personalised!  As everyone explores the environment I have been playing gentle guitar finger picking to create a gentle and soothing ambiance.  I feel allowing them to gain a level of comfortability from the start allows us to later create more sound that they feel ok to be present to, such as drums and cymbals.  The children respond well to the songs, many singing along and remaining involved from the process of familiarization throughout the residency.

I wish I had had more time to work individually with some students to get a deeper understanding of how they experience music.

Today all sessions took place in the assembly area where the forest is taking form! Our new structure lends itself beautifully to creating the boundaries of our magical forest and seems to be a welcome addition to the space by the students and staff.  Throughout the day, other students and EA’s came simply to be in the space, to pass through it, have an explore and a feel...lovely to see!  (Must be the "Please Play on the Grass" sign!)

The sessions consisted of letting the children on arrival have a good explore of the space, taking their shoes and socks off and rolling on the grass.  In most instances it seemed that the children felt very happy to be in the space, they felt secure, yet stimulated.  It was delightful to see a couple of students who lately have been unsettled and upset, transform in the space and become very contented and joyous!  We welcomed the students to the forest with a forest song about all the sounds they might hear, and then introduced the instruments one by one that replicate those sounds- water, crickets, birds, rain, and a touch of magic with the chimes.  The children were given the opportunity to play them as they felt.  It was awesome to be able to give all the children as long as they needed to play and explore, and the combination of being in the forest space and playing the guitar softly created a very contained space in which most children stayed very present. 

I decided to investigate working with the loop pedal, and see how the kids would respond to being recorded and hearing themselves or sounds they had created. One by one each child played one of the instruments which was recorded on the pedal, until there was a complete forest soundscape complete with all sound effects and additional ones created by the kids.  The response to the exercise was overall very positive, though there were varying degrees to which the children understood when it was their turn, that they were being recorded, and that they were hearing the sounds they had created.  Those that did understand seemed thrilled!  David especially, from Room 5 demonstrated strong feelings of accomplishment and joy, clapping whenever he heard his sounds.  We will be able to use these recorded soundscapes in the show so when the children watch they may recognize their sounds, giving them a greater sense of involvement and connection to the performance.  A slight technical blip in the last session meant we had to abandon making a recording for Bluegum’s class, but that didn’t seem to bother any of them, who were much more keen to get into playing with water! We used tubs and watering cans to let them all feel the ‘Rain” as I played the rain song, they would have all climbed in the tub if they could have fit! 

Feedback from some staff who passed by during the sessions was the ambience in the forest was so pleasant, they felt very enticed to come and join in, just to lay down and listen to all the sounds.  All I all, a beautiful day in the forest!

Mental note:  I would like to make better use of the wonderful aided language displays that are beautifully made up for us,  i have not yet been confident with how to use them so they get quite underused which is a shame, because i feel they hold much communicative and educative potential in the sessions we have run.