Posted in activities

Issue 10 activities: mad scientists!

"Issue 10 cover Alphabet Soup"We’ve updated the ‘Activities’ page! (You’ll find the page on the menu across the top of the blog, under the header picture).



1. PLAY with chemistry online. Check out ChemiCroc—a cool website for primary school kids, with online activities.

2. Check out the International Year of Chemistry 2011: Australia website. There are some chemistry-related word searches and activities.

3. HANDS-ON CHEMISTRY: Visit the CSIRO website to see how you can make your own bath bombs. (Give as gifts, or drop one in your own bath and watch it FIZZ!)

4. TRY a YUMMY EXPERIMENT: experiment with reactions—visit the Science Wizard’s website to find out how to make your own sherbet. Yum! (You’ll find citric acid in the grocery store,  near tartaric acid.)

5. READ some chemistry-themed books! We like George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl. Can you think of any others? Click here to tell us your favourites, and we’ll add them to the list!


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.)


"Music for the Royal Fireworks cover"This is a suite—originally for wind-band and later re-scored for orchestra—composed by George Frederic Handel in 1749. The music was commissioned by King George ll of Great Britain to celebrate the end of the War Of Austrian Succession and the signing of the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748.

The music was first publicly performed in rehearsal on 21st April 1749 in Vauxhall Gardens, London. Over twelve thousand people attended the rehearsal, causing a three hour traffic jam of carriages, after the central arch  on the newly built London Bridge collapsed.

During the actual concert on the 27th April, the musicians were housed in a purpose-built theatre which caught fire after the collapse of a bas-relief scultpure of King George during the fireworks!


In 2003, researchers in Italy began transforming the low-frequency seismic rumblings of volcanoes into musical scores in an effort to predict when the volcanoes would erupt. Researchers created a concerto from the underground movements of Mount Etna in Sicily and created melodies from Tungurahua in Ecuador. By correlating music with precise volcanic activity, researchers hope to learn the signature tune of an imminent eruption.

3. CARL PHILIPP EMMANUEL BACH (1714-88) compared the music of his father’s generation with “overly-spiced cooking”.

Erik Satie likened the chromaticism of Wagner’s music to sauerkraut!

Sergei Prokofiev compared the cloyingly sweet berries he sampled on a visit to the country with Chopin’s “effete” nocturnes.


Love Potion Number 9 is a classic popular song written in 1959 by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. It was originally performed by The Clovers that year. The well-known version was recorded by The Searchers in 1963.

5. THE ENGLISH COMPOSER EDWARD ELGAR is said to have believed that the tune of the first of his “Pomp and Circumstance” marches would “knock ‘em flat”. As an amateur chemist, he proved that literally …

"Pomp and Circumstance cover"His friend, the conductor and composer William Henry Reed, tells how Elgar delighted in making a ‘phosphoric concoction’ which would explode spontaneously when dry—possibly Armstrong’s mixture, red phosphorus and potassium chlorate, used in toy cap guns. One day, Reed says, Elgar made a batch of the stuff but then musical inspiration struck. He put the mixture into a metal basin and dumped it in the water butt before returning to the house.

‘Just as he was getting on famously,’ wrote Reed, ‘writing in horn and trumpet parts, and mapping out wood-wind, a sudden and unexpected crash, as of all the percussion in all the orchestras on earth, shook the room … The water-butt had blown up: the hoops were rent: the staves flew in all directions; and the liberated water went down the drive in a solid wall. Silence reigned for a few seconds. Then all the dogs in Herefordshire gave tongue.’


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).

See the activities and the themed listening list for issue 7 (winter 2010).

Posted in activities, teachers' resources

Activities page for issue 8

Issue 8—spring 2010

ACTIVITIES"Issue 8 cover"

1. VISIT the Arts Alive site! You can look at virtual instruments and click to hear a short sample of what each instrument in an orchestra sounds like.

2. MAKE your own musical instruments. There are some ideas on page 14 of the spring issue but we’re sure you can come up with some of your own. (Raid your craft box, or even the saucepans drawer!)

3. HOW MANY WAYS can you make music with your body? (Have you ever made a popping sound with your finger in your mouth? Try stomping your feet on the floor, clicking your fingers, or slapping your hands on your legs.) Chant and clap rhymes like ‘Miss Mary Mack’.

4. SING A ROUND with a friend. Do you remember Three Blind Mice? Start singing, and when you start singing ‘See How they Run’, that’s when your friend starts at the beginning of the song. If you haven’t tried it before it can be hard not to sing your friend’s part! (If you have a third friend, they can start singing or chanting from the beginning when you start the part that goes ‘They all run after the farmer’s wife”.)

Try chanting it instead of singing. It can get very noisy!

5. HAVE A RHYME-OFF. Find a friend (or find a whole bunch of friends and separate into two teams). The aim of the game is to see who remembers the most Nursery Rhymes. The first team begins by singing or chanting one verse of a Nursery Rhyme. When they finish, the second team has five counts to start singing or chanting another Nursery Rhyme. And when they finish, the first team has five counts to come up with another Nursery Rhyme. And so on. The winner is the team who sang or chanted the last nursery rhyme.

Appoint someone to be the umpire to make sure no-one repeats a Nursery Rhyme or goes beyond the 5 counts, to say whether they’ll accept a particular song as a Nursery Rhyme or not, and to decide how many people on a team have to know the rhyme for it to ‘count’.

OR divide the grown-ups into groups at the next family gathering and YOU be the umpire! (Grown-ups know heaps of Nursery Rhymes, they just need their memories jogged a little!)


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.)


There are many, many beautiful pieces written for the viola – with and without orchestra. Here are just a selection –

(i) Sinfonia Concertanate (1779) by Mozart. This was one of the first pieces to treat violas and violins as equal partners. Before this, Bach, Handel and Vivaldi had given the viola important passages in several of their fugues and concertos.
(ii) Potpourri. Johann Hummel – a virtuoso pianist and pupil of Mozart – wrote “Potpourri” for Viola and Orchestra and the shortened version – “Fantasy” is a staple of viola repertoire. It contains many quotes from the operas of Mozart and Rossini.
(iii) “Harold In Italy”
by Berlioz, is a four-part work with extensive viola solo throughout. Berlioz composed “Harold In Italy” at the suggestion of Paganini. Paganini had acquired a superb Stradivarius viola, but lamented to Berlioz that there was no music good enough for him to play on it. He asked Berlioz to compose a solo piece for viola, adding the Berlioz was the only one he could trust.

When Berlioz showed Paganini the Allegro movement – which had lots of rests for viola – Paganini took offence, telling Berlioz it would not do, as he expected to be playing continuously. The two then parted ways. When Paganini heard it – years after it was written – he loved it!

William Primrose (see below) made the first recording of this work in 1946.

(In 2009, the composer/accordionist William Schimmel wrote the piece ” Harold is alive and doing (seemingly) OK somewhere in Lisbon” for chamber orchestra and solo accordion, instead of viola)

(iv) William Primrose, Lionel Tertis and Paul Hindemith were viola virtuosos in the twentieth century. Hindemith wrote concertos for the Viola, as well as pieces for Viola and Piano and solo Viola works.

(v) Ralph Vaughn- Williams composed the Suite for Viola and Orchestra in 1934 for Lionel Tertis. The suite is a beautiful set of dances.

(vi) William Walton wrote  his Viola Concerto in 1929, for the Viola virtuoso Lionel Tertis. Tertis originally shunned the work, with Paul Hindemith premiering the work that same year, with Walton conducting.

Lionel Tertis later took up the work himself . Yehudi Menuhin and Nigel Kennedy have also recorded the concerto on viola, although they are better known as violinists.

(vii) In January, 1945, William Primrose commissioned a viola concerto from Bela Bartok.  Already gravely ill with leukemia, Bartok began the work and, by September, had completed the viola part and sketches for the orchestra. He died later hat month, however, and the concerto was completed by his pupil Tibor Serly. Bartok’s son Peter revised the concerto in the 1990s. There are four versions – all completed by different composers – in existence – and all hotly discussed and disputed!


Sumer is Icumen In is the oldest surviving round in English. (See an image of the manuscript here.) Here’s the Hilliard Ensemble performing it:

The first published rounds in English were by Thomas Ravenscroft in 1609. Including –

Three Blinde Mice,
Three Blinde Mice,
Dame lulian,
Dame lulian,
The Miller and his merry olde Wife,
shee scrapte her tripe licke thou the knife.

(What do you think that song is about? The words use old fashioned spelling but can you recognise the song?)

Hear a Frog Round for three voices (see the free mp3 at bottom right of the Cantaris site)

Popular rounds you might know include –
Row, Row, Row Your Boat
London’s Burning
Frère Jacques

Chant is the rhythmic speaking or singing of words or sounds.
Chant is found all over the world  African, Native American and Australian Aboriginal culture, Gregorian chant, Vedic chant, Jewish chant, Buddhist chant, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Eastern Orthodox and Anglican chant.

Rounds were also mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays!


Well-known Bagpipe pieces include “Scotland The Brave” and “Amazing Grace”, although there are thousands of traditional bagpipe pieces (and many different types of traditional bagpipes) from all over the world. Listen to The Pipes and Drums of the Chicago Police Department perform Amazing Grace:

In modern culture, they can be heard on many pieces, including “Mull Of Kintyre” by Paul McCartney and “Orkney Wedding. With Sunrise” by Peter Maxwell Davies.


In 1803, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote a poem based on the story of the Pied Piper that was later set to music by Hugo Wolf.

“Der Rattenfänger von Hamelin” is an opera in five acts by Viktor Nessler to a German libretto by Friedrich Hofmann.

John Corigiliano composed “The Pied Piper Fantasy” (1982), a concerto for flute and orchestra, first performed by the flautist James Galway.

See the activities and the themed listening list for issue 7 (winter 2010).

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