info, teachers' resources

Activities and music list for issue 12


For each issue of the magazine (starting with issue 7), we will add activities and a themed listening list to this page. Enjoy!


Alphabet Soup magazine, spring 2011


for Issue 12—SAIL AWAY!

1. MAKE a pirate’s treasure map. Hide something in your garden (or in your house if it’s raining). Then on a large piece of paper, draw a map so someone else can find the treasure. Use footsteps and arrows to show the way to go. Include some landmarks (like the tree with the tyre swing, or the kitchen table). Mark the hiding place with a red X. Give the map to a fellow pirate—can they find the treasure using your map? (Tip: make your pirate map look old and authentic by using a damp tea-bag to stamp all over it. When it is dry, roll up your map and tie it with a piece of string. Arrr!)

2. PLAY Ship to Shore (sometimes called Captain’s Coming!). One person becomes the captain and shouts out commands to the group—like ‘Ship!’ (everyone must run to the side of the room designated as the ship), ‘Shore!’ (run the other way), ‘Captain’s Coming’ (stand still and salute), ‘Shark!’ (lie on stomach and swish tail). Anyone who fails to follow a command correctly is ‘out.’ For a list of commands (and some more detailed instructions) visit the myplaygroundgames blog.

3. MAKE an origami boat: Using paper-folding techniques, make some paper boats to sail. Here are some instructions. 

4. EXPERIMENT—float or sink?: Grab a variety of objects from around your house or garden (check with a parent that it’s OK) e.g. a feather, an apple, a pumpkin, a plate, a paperclip, a coin. Try to predict which objects will float and which will sink. Were you right?


Our listening list is compiled by Danielle Joynt, from Cantaris. Danielle has also included comments for some of these pieces. (Tip: Ask about CDs at your public library—libraries often have a good collection of CDs for loan if you prefer not to buy.)


1. Sea Pictures is a song cycle by the English composer Sir Edward Elgar, consisting of five songs written by various poets.

The songs and poets are—

A. Sea Slumber Song by Roden Noel
B. In Haven (Capri) by Caroline Alice Edgar (the composer’s wife)
C. Sabbath Morning At Sea by  Elizabeth Barrett Browning
D. Where Corals Lie by Richard Garrett
E. The Swimmer by Adam Lindsay Gordon

Adam Lindsay Gordon, although born in the Azores and educated in England, lived most of his life in Australia. His collection—Bush Ballads and Galloping Rhymes—is regarded as one of the most important pieces of Australian literature.

Sea Pictures was composed in 1899 and premiered the same year with the famous contralto Dame Clara Butt singing, dressed as a mermaid! Two weeks later Dame Clara performed the cycle for Queen Victoria at Balmoral.


The music for Drunken Sailor was taken from a traditional Irish dance and march tune Oró Sé do Bheatha ‘Bhaile (“Oró, you are welcome home”).

First appearing in print as a sea shanty (shipboard working song) in 1824, the song was widely sung when hand-over-hand hauling on ships. It was also known as “Early In The Morning”.

The Australian composer Percy Grainger used the song and lyrics in his work Scotch Strathspey And Reel.

The main theme from the first movement of Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Major by Shostakovich mimics Drunken Sailor.

The melody of Drunken Sailor is often used in SpongeBob Squarepants!


La Mer (The Sea) by the French composer Claude Debussy is a shimmering musical sketch inspired by the sea.  Debussy’s use of  instruments to create soundscapes and moods was groundbreaking for the time.

Movement 1 “From dawn to noon on the sea” is an instrumental mixture of floating colours. The music seems to wander around, never settling in to any form. The composer Erik Satie joked that he liked the part at 11.15am!

Movement 2  “Play of the waves” is much livelier, with orchestral swells imitating the waves.

Movement 3 “Dialogue of the wind and the sea” is very dramatic, illustrating the clashing forces of the wind and the ocean.

Although La Mer was not initially well-received when it premiered in France in 1905— due to lack of rehearsal—it soon became a great favourite of audiences at subsequent performances.

One American critic wasn’t so impressed however; he thought a better title would have been “Mal de Mer” which means seasick!


Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage is the name given to two much-loved pieces of music—a 1815 cantata by Beethoven and an 1828 concert overture by Mendelssohn—both set to poems by the German writer Goethe. Beethoven’s piece is dedicated to Goethe.

The poems are not synonymous; however, in the days before steam, a totally calm sea was cause for alarm—it is only when the wind rises that the ship can continue its voyage.

The first half of Beethoven’s cantata depicts a ship becalmed, the second half, its success in resuming its voyage.

Mendelssohn’s overture (inspired by Beethoven’s work—and in the same key, D Major) finishes with a fanfare of trumpets, suggesting the ship’s safe arrival at its final destination.

See the activities and the themed listening list for issue 11 (winter 2011)

See the activities and the themed listening list for issue 10 (autumn 2011)

See the activities and the themed listening list for issue 9 (summer 2010).

See the activities and the themed listening list for issue 8 (spring 2010).