What Exactly Are the BBC Proms Ten Pieces About?

By Rachel West, Pianist

The BBC Ten Pieces Initiative was created with the aim to inspire a generation of children to get creative with classical music.

The Ten Pieces programme invites children aged 7-14 to develop their own response to ten pieces of music.

The initiative has so far reached over four million school children across the UK, sold out four BBC Proms concerts and won a BAFTA for the Ten Pieces II film.

In a Proms first, a press conference was created for children and held in collaboration with BBC School Report where young people from across London asked questions of leading professionals from the classical music world.

Musicians in attendance included composer, DJ and producer, Gabriel Prokofiev (Concerto for Turntable and Orchestra, and Grandson of the renowned Sergei), actress, composer and comedian, Vikki Stone and Sasha Boult, a cellist from the National Youth Orchestra, all led by BBC Entertainment Reporter, Chi Chi Izundu.

The conference heard a wide array of questions with insightful encouragement for pursuing a career in the arts. Questions were raised from ‘do you model your composition style to other musicians’ to ‘do you sing in the shower?’!

There were themes of musical energy, exertion and commitment (such as the popular notion of ‘10,000 hours to be a master’ of your craft), combined with achieving a variety of fulfilling rewards such as the intrinsic joy of discovering and engaging in music-making well into the adult years; opening up fantastic experiences, meeting and working interpersonally with new like-minded people, being driven by passion, and the goose-bump-inducing, humbling feeling of hearing an orchestra play something you wrote at the first rehearsal.

Emotional preparation when considering stage fright was also a topic, with advice on how to channel nerves into adrenaline and never think of any negatives or criticism, as well as practice tips for getting into the National Youth Orchestra.

Refreshing insights were given into composers jotting down inspiration by suddenly recording a voice memo whilst shopping in Aldi(!), or bolting wide awake in the middle of the night.

The life of a composer was fascinating to the children, as a path that was driven by inspiration, described as ‘something I can’t help doing’, whether for the purpose of a commission or not, yet still treated with a resolute work schedule framework and much self-discipline.

The ‘playlist generation’ we live in can be beneficial for musicians to keep their genres as broad and eclectic as possible, with inspiration being drawn from Bach to ’80’s pop’, as well as the opportunity to surround and immerse yourself in new music, the Proms of which is an optimal opportunity.

Sadly, classical music has a reputation for being ‘elitist’ but it couldn’t be further from the truth - these composers were musically conveying incredibly down-to-earth issues and emotions, epitomised in the immersive video representation, featuring appearances from Top Gear’s James May and other familiar faces.

An excerpt from Bizet’s Carmen was portrayed with a modern spin, in order to understand the ‘love triangle’ narrative, as well as Gabriel Prokoviev’s Concerto for Turntable and Orchestra, a symphonic fusion breaking ‘classical’ barriers, and Haydn’s Rondo form was intuitively brought to life depicting a striker formation in a football match.

Composer Kerry Andrew says “I am honoured to have been asked to create a piece for the BBC Ten Pieces. 'No Place Like' explores the idea of what home means to young people, and includes musical moments for schools to put their own stamp on it, depending on where they live!

The lyrics were adapted from a huge amount of words sent to me by primary school children around the UK. They told me where they were from - everything from 'my mummy's tummy' to 'the Big Bang'. Their contributions were heart-warming and inspiring - a portrait of the nation through the eyes of kids.  I’m really excited to imagine that children all around the country will be taking my piece and making it their own.”

Ten Pieces is a project delivered by BBC Music and BBC Learning in conjunction with the BBC Orchestras and Choirs. Schools can find out more information on the Ten Pieces website.

You can listen to the Radio 2 broadcast of the BBC 10 Pieces Prom on August 18 at 8pm.