Gamelan is the traditional music from the islands of Indonesia where it is played at festivals and ceremonies and accompanies dancers and puppet shows. The ensemble consists of a group of different pitched percussion instruments, mainly gongs and metallophones, played in specific rhythms.
The Gamelan at York University is a Javanese orchestra and the first of its kind to be built and sent to an English university. Hand-crafted from teak and brass, it took ten men five weeks to make and was shipped over to the UK 30 years ago. It has been blessed and has its own name – Gamelan Sekar Petak (which means White Flower). Even its birthday is celebrated.
Before entering the room where the Gamelan is housed, the Year Seven Terrington Hall pupils took off their shoes as a sign of respect for the instruments. Having learned the basics of each instrument and put together some simple rhythmic patterns, they played a piece together led by the drums which keep the ensemble in time.
‘The workshop builds on our work in the classroom,’ said Terrington’s Director of Music Julie Purcell. ‘It gives the children an insight into not only the cultural history behind the music, but also into a system of music which relies heavily on the participants listening intently to each other, and in particular to the drums.’
Catherine Duncan, York University’s Music Department Administrator, comments: ‘I think the reason Gamelan is now on the Year Seven music curriculum is because of the inclusive nature of the orchestra: people can learn to play it at a basic level very quickly – they mainly just have to be able to count. This works well for children as they don’t have to read music.’
Run by the students on the MA in Community Music, the workshop forms part of the Music Department’s outreach activities, and gives the students the opportunity for workshop delivery practice.
After the workshop the children attended a lunchtime concert by a jazz nonet in the Jack Lyons Concert Hall.