Luke and his pipe dreams

Soundcastle is a musical social enterprise sparking imaginations, expanding horizons in musical leadership and much more. [1]

I was pleased to accept Soundcastle’s invitation to The Centre, Merchants Street in East London to take part in the Friday after school session of Musical Beacons. [2]

I had previously observed Soundcastle’s work with Southwark’s Saturday morning Creative Orchestra. [3] There I saw the very model of a facilitating environment, something that Soundcastle’s practitioners have great expertise in creating and sustaining.

The Musical Beacon’s programme is family and community orientated serving those living within a radius of 0.3 miles of The Centre. It is the idea of ‘community connectedness’ that underpins the weekly family workshops.

Music is the connector.

3.30 comes and parents and children drift into the welcoming informal atmosphere of the generous space where we will be musical beacons. There are babies in arms and all ages up to eight.

It is only when we all feel ‘at home’ that the music making can begin.

We gather in a circle. With measured poise and calculated tempo Hannah strikes her drum and we start connecting to the regular 1 2 3 4 pattern, learning to co-ordinate our cries of Hey and Hoe, while together making our first music of the session.

Breaking from the circle we walk the beat. And now a different timbre to perceive while conserving the beat – the sound of wood on wood from the drum’s rim used as the signal to walk backwards. Walking backwards I almost collide with Theo * who politely tells me, ‘look over your shoulder’.

Now Hannah asks the children to provide themes from the recent Halloween-tide so that our walking has a distinctive character. In turn we become Spider-Man, vampires, skeletons. For skeletons I lean forward reach out my hands and spread fingers as wide as I can. When the music stops eyes close and Hannah asks us to locate particular children. ‘ Where’s Joshua?’ We point, and yes, how did we know that?

We are getting to know each other.

Back in the circle and a little commotion eased through a call to breathe out and a calming shhhh from Hannah that we all partake in.

Off now into three groups and I am in the group led by Lauren who provides a perpetual mobile balafon support for the musical inventions that follow. The adults respond immediately as a musical narrative is built through Lauren’s skilful process of elicitation with the children watching from the safety of their parent’s arms while being drawn closer to making their first musical imprints on the work in hand.

Luke is in a shall I – shant I state of being. Before him lies the Pipe Dreams [4], an instrument new to me, and there inviting Luke to play.

He watches other children as they venture forth picking up their beaters to make their musical mark on the ensemble. Then Luke picks up his beater but for the moment that is all as he retreats to mother. Then again and his first musical gesture, and little by little, more and more, until a flow of sounds come forth that find synchrony with Lauren’s music.

Oh what a mystery is the child’s mind that we can never know except by responding to their responses, being ever more attentive and becoming attuned to the cause of authenticating musical dialogue.

Then groups come together for each to show. Luke is in fine form.

Now we all move to a corner to sing under the leadership of Fernando and his guitar. There is deep enchantment as Fernando makes beautifully gentle sounds and tells about his magical instrument. Then a reggae song and a voice calls ‘I love reggae’. Its ‘Three Little Birds’ and we sing our way to the end of the session.

There are Musical Beacon’s Diaries to complete and for the older children there is time to work at their Arts Award.

Musical Beacons is a safe place to be, where music does the connecting, where the connecting makes the music and where Luke knows about pipe dreams.


* Children’s names are made up.



[1] See

[2] The Musical Beacons project is supported by Youth Music and using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts council England.

[3] See

[4] See

And what about this?

And for the origin of the term ‘pipe dream’ see

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