Students, teachers and parents from Isle Au Haut, Frenchboro, Monhegan Island, Cliff Island and Cranberry Isles converged on Isle Au Haut September 20-22 for their annual Inter-Island event.
IRW participated with guest author, illustrator and musician Steve Costanza who hosted three workshops based on his picture book, “Vivaldi and the Invisible Orchestra,” about a young orphan girl, Candida, who cleans up behind the scenes, and secretly writes notes for the players in Vivaldi’s orchestra.
In the morning, older students listened to some Scott Joplin ragtime to get warmed up and then segued over to Vivaldi and shared what they heard as the “Four Seasons” played, including butterflies, rain, thunder, lightening and a river. Steve spoke about the sonnets upon which the music was based and then analyzed the music further with students noticing: the shepherd snoring, branches rubbing together in the wind, goats prancing on the hill, and the bark of a dog.
Steve reminded them that “Everyone has a head and a heart,” but that writing a book also takes research and a lot of work!
Later on, middle grade students enjoyed hearing about the history of Vivaldi’s “invisible orchestra,” which was an orchestra made up of orphan girls who traditionally played unseen behind a curtain. They listened to “Four Seasons” and were inspired to create their own drawings based on the music. Steve tested the students’ knowledge of music history and they were delighted to hear some Beethoven and ragtime by Scott Joplin, who is the subject of Steve’s next book.
One fourth grader said she learned a lot by listening to “Spring” from Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” and listening to Steve talk about the meaning behind each note. “At first, I thought it was just music. But then [after talking about it], I could really picture the birds in my mind!”
After lunch, it was the youngest students’ turn. Steve read from “Vivaldi and the Invisible Orchestra” and then they went outside for some movement inspired by “Spring” and “Winter.” The kids enjoyed acting out the symphony and their movement was made all the more colorful by the scarves and ribbons that Isle Au Haut teacher Rita MacWilliam had in her classroom! Blue scarves symbolized rushing water, while yellow and red scarves symbolized flowers and foliage.
The students then moved inside for the art portion of the workshop, creating artwork based on what they had just heard. There were some creative minds in this group as well.
A nighttime program for the whole community brought the day to a close as Steve gave an overview of Vivaldi, Venice, and his own illustrations – finishing with some interactive “invisible orchestra” practice of their own. The student artwork was hung gallery-style in the community center where they decorated the room for the evening contra dance – a day filled with music from start to finish! Can’t wait till next year’s Inter-Island event!