This project explores the role of music during WW1; how it would have reflected the mood of society at the time and given people a chance to express their emotions and support each other in a collective way. For this project we give pupils a choice. They can a create a song in a pastiche Music Hall style, or use some of the concepts behind the lyrics of a popular WW1 song to create a composition.
We are using the well-known song Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag by George Asaf and Felix Powell as inspiration and pupils will learn about the brothers who wrote this song and how it bought them fame, fortune, and, ultimately despair. We also take the WW1 Kit Bag, something every soldier would have been issued, discuss what would have gone inside it and what we would put into our kitbag if we were a WW1 Tommy.
This project can act as a standalone project, where pupils compose a song or composition based on the theme of the kit bag. It can also act as preparatory work for the film music project, Somme Unseen, by giving pupils an opportunity to start some musical ideas that they can then develop for that project.
This project would suit pupils in the GCSE/Higher age range and those with suitable musical and compositional ability in lower years. If you have strong singer-songwriters in your class, this would be a good project to do, and you don’t necessarily have to stick to a piano-based Music Hall style if you would prefer not to.
The instrumentation for these compositions and arrangements should reflect the resources available in the class. We recommend that pupils compose their pieces individually for this project, unless working with younger age ranges, and arrange their tunes for mini ensembles that can be performed by fellow class members.
3 – 4 hours spread over hourly lessons (or less time if this is preparatory work for Somme Unseen)
- To understand the role of music in the trenches and at home during WW1
- To learn about the style of the Music Hall songs in the early 20th Century
- To have a go at song writing, pastiche writing or composing soundscapes about specific places
- A song or a piece of music based on the concepts or style of the song Pack Up Your Troubles.
Equipment and Resources:
- Sounding the Somme Website
- Whiteboard and pens
- Keyboards or other instruments for composing
- Computers with composing software e.g. (Logic, Pro Tools, Que Base, Audacity, Sibelius) (Optional)
- Manuscript paper
- To give this project a contemporary feel, refer pupils to Eliza Doolittle’s 2010 hit Pack Up, which was inspired by the song and uses a mix of the lyrics in the chorus. See the resources page for the video.
- If time in the classroom is short, this lesson could be done in an hour – give a brief introduction to the song using some of the resources and get pupils to write something in 30 minutes and see what they come up with.
- To immerse yourself in the Music Hall style, look up the musical film Oh! What a Lovely War for inspiration.
- Research your local area to see if there were any battalions from WW1 based near where you live. Did they have any mottos that you could use for inspiration for this piece?
- If you live near to a working military base, why not make a visit and speak to real soldiers about what they take with them when on assignments, or what music they might listen to when away .
And finally, don’t forget to take a look at the resources for all of the Sounding the Somme projects, you may find something useful elsewhere. When you have finished your compositions, please do share them with us.