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In the news - Angela Blackwell

Angela is director of music at Portsmouth High School. She recently took a group of young musicians from the school to perform a special concert at the Louvre in Paris to mark the 100th anniversary of the theft of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa. Thirty-six girls from Year 7 took part in the performance and the three-day trip included a tour of Paris and a chance to see the famous painting.

Why the trip?

We wanted to arrange something a bit different for the children, but which had real educational value. We look for anniversaries to be the basis for our projects and decided on the Mona Lisa. Learning about the painting and exploring cross-curricular themes has been a unique and memorable educational experience - and what better way to end it than with a performance at the Louvre?

So the pupils engaged with the topic?

Yes. Some imagined they were the Mona Lisa herself, sad at never being able to see Leonardo da Vinci again, or excited at being "whisked away" when they were stolen. The pupils were also interested in her enigmatic smile. They suggested she had been captured dreaming and was about to tell da Vinci something she really shouldn't have.

Did the children look forward to visiting Paris?

The girls were very excited about playing at such a famous venue. While they were curious about the painting, they seemed most excited by the glass pyramid outside the museum and seeing the Eiffel Tower. It's fantastic that we were granted special permission to perform our work at the Louvre. It was a wonderful way to end a topic the children have been really interested in.

What did they perform?

The children and staff have written a variety of French songs - such as Chanson pour Leonard de Vinci - which were performed in the style of Renaissance dance in the Tuileries Gardens. It was a real mix of stuff, from ballads to a "thief's rap".

Are trips like this important?

A trip such as this and the project on which it is based have so much positive educational value. They cater for children who respond to creative representations, help develop their discussion and vocabulary, and make them appreciate the cultural heritage of works of art. While research suggests we forget a lot of what we learn at school, trips and performances like this will hopefully stay with pupils for life. Our orchestra has previously played at Blenheim Palace and the Wales Millenium Centre. Last summer we went on a trip to Cuba.

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