KS2 Music: The Anglo-Saxons. 3. Beowulf - Part one
Activities during the tutorial include:
- Identifying the tone of the music in Verse 1 - happy! - and those sections where the music is 'sad'.
- Identifying the rests in the chorus. These are pauses in the singing or music, when nothing happens.
- Singing in two parts in the slow section. Identifying that it is much slower and is in the minor key - helping to show how devastating Grendel’s attack has been on everyone.
- Looking at the structure of the song. Identifying the fast sections which are in the major key (Verse 1 and chorus); the fast sections which are in the minor key (Verse 2); the slow middle section, which is in the minor key; and the last verse (Verse 3), which is fast and in the major key.
The song describes the beginning of our three-part Anglo-Saxon story of Beowulf.
It tells how Hrothgar - King of the Danes - builds a great mead hall called Heorot for his people and how, when it is completed, they hold a great feast to celebrate. But that night the Danes are attacked by a fearsome monster, Grendel, who subsequently returns night after night.
In Geatland Beowulf hears about the plight of the Danes and sails with a troop of warriors to help Hrothgar.
Click here for the lyric sheet (pdf).
Drama: Beowulf - Part one
Ensure you watch the Beowulf drama to assess its suitability before sharing with your group.
Hrothgar - King of the Danes - announces he is to build a new mead hall where his people can come together to celebrate. Construction takes two years but when the hall - called Heorot - is finally finished everyone agrees it is the most magnificent building.
That night there is a feast to celebrate. But out on the moor a monster is approaching - Grendel. Grendel breaks down the door of the hall and slaughters 30 of those inside, before escaping. He returns the following night and the carnage continues...night after night.
Overseas in Geatland, a prince called Beowulf hears of the plight of the Danes. He goes to his own king - Hygelac - and asks permission to sale to Denmark to help Hrothgar against the monster.
Click here for the episode transcript (pdf).
Focus: Note patterns - changing the order of the notes / Call and response / Rhythms - changing the rhythm of the notes
Nigel sings a note pattern with notes rising in pitch - based on the notes of the first line of Verse 3: ‘News of the crime reached the ears of Beowulf’. Pupils sing them back.
- Then Nigel sings another note pattern with notes descending in pitch. Pupils sing them back.
- Next it's the same notes, but in a different order - rising and falling - and pupils sing them back.
- Next Nigel sings the same note patterns but with changes to the rhythm each time. Again, pupils sing them back.
Full details of the music activity in the Teacher's Notes
The Anglo-Saxon harp played by Peter Horn
YouTube link. Watch section 01 51 to 03 47.
People in Anglo-Saxon England listened to music on social occasions. The poem Beowulf describes how, in a king’s hall, a poet would play a harp and entertain the assembled company with tales of heroes from long ago.
- This music is being played on a lyre or small harp. This is very similar to the type that was played in Anglo-Saxon times.
- The lyre is a string instrument. It has a wooden frame, across which are stretched strings. Anglo-Saxon harps were usually small and had about six strings. Harps that are played in orchestras today are much bigger and heavier and have many more strings.
- Style: can pupils describe the music? What are the dynamics - loud or quiet?
- Can pupils hear the repeated note patterns? Can they clap some of them?