Sharing sounds in the times of a pandemic

Reflections on the Shared Sounds Programme

by Sorrel Harty

As the country descended into full Lockdown due to Covid-19 in April 2020, Note Weavers were embarking on our first Shared Sounds Early Years Music sessions with local families in Blackburn. Our partner ‘The Bureau Centre for the Arts’ had been awarded funding from The National Foundation of Youth Music. The aims of Shared Sounds: to develop an early years music programme at the Bureau; to support families to engage with their pre-school children through musical activity; to develop the experience of music leaders and early years practitioners to embed quality music activities in their programmes. Musical instruments were bought, music bags lovingly sewn and filled with interesting combinations of pictures, props and percussion instruments, but now we couldn’t actually meet any of the families, or run our planned core and satellite groups, connecting with our community with songs, craft, conversation and food. With a collective urgency to get something happening, we changed tack regarding delivery, and went online! This was the most obvious solution worldwide following lockdown restrictions, and was the saving grace of many a situation. We used Facebook live for our delivery, streaming weekly, and attracted a decent following. From a non-tech-savvy person, this was a massive learning curve, and a daunting aspect, but one I tried to embrace with a positive attitude, as did the similarly non-tech-savvy others involved in the project! In fact it was obvious immediately that there were actually multiple benefits to our new situation and method of delivery, which we’d have never explored or realised if our project had run to the original plan.

The reach of the project was suddenly hugely increased, potentially worldwide, quite an expansion from our planned delivery in Blackburn, Lancashire, where the project is based. Also the twelve 30min sessions now preserved online on our various partner organisations YouTube channels are suddenly a valuable resource which we can share, support training, engage in a layered approach with our families, and spread the word to other organisations. Families can watch sessions multiple times, and we can signpost to the videos as a supporting aspect to our actual face to face sessions. We are now going to connect our related craft activities to these videos, supporting and extending the engagement and connection within families using the songs and themes of Shared Sounds.

As part of the Shared Sounds project, I had received a funded place on the Certificate of Music Education in Early Childhood level 4, based at CREC (Centre for Research in Early Childhood) and validated by Trinity College, London. This has been a valuable point of connection and sharing regarding working in early years music, and being part of such a community during this time of change and restrictions, I have felt supported and reassured by both the other course members and the tutors/mentors. Conversation and ideas for alternative ways to work have enabled a sense of positivity and confidence in the unknown world we’ve found ourselves in, and course requirements have been fluid and flexible, reassuring us all that we can do this, we can weather the storm!

With Covid-19 restrictions now starting to ease a little, we are actually hoping to run some real live sessions very soon, with 4 families at a time, socially distanced and the rest. We are also going to jump on Zoom and connect with our local groups in this newly learnt way, introducing them to the Shared Sounds videos and suggesting to other organisations how to use this resource integrated into their own Zoom sessions.

The music bags, each set of 12 containing a selection of instruments, props and pictures along with suggested songs and activities, (all now with supporting examples on the Facebook videos!) are finally being allocated to the groups accessing our face to face and Zoom delivery, and also offered to local organisations who want to connect to our work even if remotely, as now our actual face to face numbers have to be more limited than originally planned.

We put such a lot of our belief and passion into the planning of the Shared Sounds project that when the world around us changed, we knew we had no choice but to adapt. We embraced the new landscape in which we had to work with enthusiasm and energy, finding hidden gems and bonus features on our way. Although it is with relief that we are now about to meet our first actual real group of families, give them their sets of bags, and engage personally with them, the navigation through Covid-19 landscape has certainly educated and honed us, and the project has grown stronger during the experience.

“Hi Sorrel, I’ve just watched your zigzag zebra music session with (my toddler), having spotted it on Facebook.It’s really lovely, and he absolutely loved it – he wanted to watch it again instead of having lunch (and he’s a big fan of lunch!) He was half way through watching it for a third time when I dragged him away… Thanks very much!”

“(granddaughter) and I watched last week’s show and we loved it – (granddaughter) is joining in a lot more.For some reason she’s been reluctant to try the words – shy? But she’s humming along very tunefully and loving doing the actions.We’ve got a bottle bee in the making.What’s the theme today? Keep up the good work”…

“As for (granddaughter’s) singing – she’ll no doubt come up with the songs in her own time – she’s always singing! And we repeat the songs again and again and so she gets more confident – she’ll repeat after you Hickety Tickety Bumble Bee… each week she’s trying more – the changing actions are fun for her and changes of rhythm and dynamics.”

You can watch all twelve of these music sessions on: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbQoQaEw1Q0FTGSoPM0DqdA

October 2020

Sorrel is a musician & early childhood music educator working in a variety of settings. She is also a Director of Note Weavers CIC

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