RNCM Orchestra Helps Create Britten App

Benjamin Britten’s vision of introducing children to classical music by using the mass media of the day began in 1946 with a film featuring what became his most famous work, The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. The Britten?Pears Foundation now brings that pioneering idea to the digital age with a creative and fun iPad App.

Developed in partnership with the RNCM and supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, the Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra by Benjamin Britten App is designed to introduce a new generation to the orchestra and to the music of Benjamin Britten as part of the global celebrations of the composer’s centenary in 2013.

Featuring specially-commissioned illustrations by award-winning artist Sara Fanelli, a specially-recorded complete performance of the The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra from Sir Mark Elder and the RNCM Symphony Orchestra, the app includes creative games, a chance to create music, aural quizzes, information about Britten’s life and the genesis of the work, archive photographs, a copy of pages from Britten’s original manuscript, an interactive score, and unprecedented insight into orchestral instruments and their players. There’s even a light-hearted personality quiz which matches users to instruments of the orchestra.

Richard Jarman, Director of the Britten?Pears Foundation, says: ‘In 1946 Britten was in the vanguard of music education with the film Instruments of the Orchestra, which used the most modern technology of the day to introduce children to the orchestra. We started by asking how Britten would have done this if he were alive today and could use our modern technologies. Our answer has been to create an App that will give children and families lots of fun in exploring the orchestra and its instruments. In doing this we ourselves have had lots of fun working with the enthusiastic students of the RNCM and with the wonderful illustrator Sara Fanelli. We hope the result will draw children into Britten’s world.’

Helen Lax, Regional Director, East, Arts Council England, says: ‘It is fantastic to see digital technology being used so effectively to bring Benjamin Britten’s work to life for new, younger audiences. This is a strong example of how digital technology, which provides an interactive way for audiences to engage with the arts, can make this happen.’

The App is a key part of the British Library exhibition Poetry in Sound: The Music of Benjamin Britten (1913 – 1976), which runs until 15 September in The Folio Society Gallery. The exhibition – which puts the manuscript of Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra on public display for the first time – explores the poetic and literary influences on Britten’s distinctive musical sound world, including his creative collaboration with W H Auden and his settings of texts by such authors as William Blake, Wilfred Owen, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and William Shakespeare. Alongside the App, the exhibition features manuscripts of some of Britten’s most celebrated compositions, photographs, concert programmes, and hitherto unpublished recordings of his music.

The App is available to download free here.

App Content:

• Information on Benjamin Britten’s life and the genesis of the work illustrated with archive photographs, recordings and manuscripts (including childhood works by Britten, pages from the original sketch of The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra and an early copy of the Purcell tune that Britten uses as the theme).

• A new recording of The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, multi-tracked so that the material can be used with the interactive score, the creative elements and the quizzes. This recording, conducted by Sir Mark Elder and produced by composer Colin Matthews, will be shared world-wide through the app and associated website. The complete recording will be available on all platforms.

• An interactive score gives users a chance to enjoy the patterns of the musical notation in relation to the sounds they are hearing, even if they do not yet read music. There are options of either watching a video of the orchestra or reading the narration.

• Discover the instruments and Meet the Players section. Interactive interviews with some of the inspiring student players that took part in the recording, who talk about themselves and their instruments.

• An Aural Quiz, with carefully devised levels, helps participants become familiar with the instruments of the orchestra and score, and develops their listening skills.

• Personality Quiz. An enjoyable way to introduce the instruments by matching them to users’ personalities.

• Be the Composer; Fugue and Variation Games. By using elements from the score, users are able to make up their own compositions.


1 July 2013