I’m A Heterophonist, Get Me Out Of Here

Around this time of year (and also at Christmas) I like to invite enthusiastic P7 pupils to perform in concert with the Guitar Group in Musselburgh Grammar School – the only cluster in which I visit feeder primary schools. The idea is to produce a stress-free, enjoyable glimpse into the future for them and this requires a part they can play with confidence. As the musical arrangements are written for secondary pupils, it can be better to create a junior part using heterophony. Basically this involves the primary pupils playing a skeleton of one of the senior parts. One way of doing this is to give them only the first note of each bar – a very easy task using “Sibelius” score writing software (more of which at a later date). Occasionally, obliterating all the other notes of the bar can result in an angular, unmelodic and unmemorable line. In this case, some of the notes ought to be changed to produce a more believable part.

For various practical reasons, the pupils may have no chance to rehearse with the seniors. Depending on how intuitive the music is, producing a play-along CD (by converting midi files into audio files in iTunes) can be helpful for home practice. It is only a few seconds work to produce, say, 5 tracks at gradually increasing speeds.

This all takes longer to describe than it does to carry out and the results are always well worth it. No-one who has benefited from the experience has turned down the opportunity to repeat it. Many of them are surprised and delighted to hear themselves announced as honoured guests in the Headteacher’s opening words.