The BBC National Orchestra of Wales plays the 'Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy' by Tchaikovsky. There is an opportunity for students to listen to the orchestra play this quiet piece of music from 'The Nutcracker' and to be introduced to a special instrument called the celeste. The celeste is a bit like a piano but makes an unusual and magical sound which some students may recognise. As they listen, students could imagine themselves as ballerinas, dancing and twirling with the music. It could be used as an example of a musical style or as an inspiration for a drama or dance activity. The clip is supported by Makaton signing and Widgit symbols and is suitable for children with special educational needs (SEN).
This clip is a good introduction for the children to explore moods that music can create. Ask the group questions such as 'How does the music make you feel?', 'If you could paint a picture of the music, what colours would you use?' and 'How would you move your body to the music?' A discussion could be held about the composer's use of the celeste and why, in particular, this instrument was used to portray a magical and fairy-like mood (the high tinkling sound of the celeste) and the sound of the orchestra which accompanies it. Teachers could play small extracts of contrasting pieces of classical music, such as 'In the Hall of the Mountain King' from Greig's 'Peer Gynt Suite' or 'Night on Bald Mountain' by Mussorgsky (arr. Rimsky-Korsakov). Do these pieces sound light, happy and fairy-like? What words would the group use to describe the mood of these pieces? Help the children by creating word banks of 'mood words' to which they can refer. Develop this theme by asking the children to use movement to explore the character of the fairy or other characters from fairy tales, for example a giant, witch, dragon or prince. What sort of music do these characters make you think of? This is a good opportunity to introduce the children to a range of classical music and styles. Groups may also enjoy watching extracts from the video of the ballet 'The Nutcracker' and seeing the 'Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy'. Older children may also enjoy researching the life of the composer Tchaikovsky.