Case Study: Early Years Hospital Visits

LSO Discovery’s Children's Hospitals programme works with infants and children aged 0-18 in hospitals across London, many of whom suffer from chronic, life-threatening or terminal illness. LSO players and workshops leaders engage in one-to-one bedside visits and small group sessions, as well as working in pre-existing hospital school units.

Music soothes the savage beast
‘Together with LSO players, I make around 15 early years hospital visits a year – that’s out of a total of of 36 visits overall, involving over 500 children and families. We visit places like King’s College, Royal London and Whipp’s Cross with one simple aim: to improve the daily lives of ill children.

My speciality is young children and babies. Hospitals are stressful environments full stop; the psychological vulnerability that accompanies childhood only compounds a difficult situation. Our sessions are gentle, private and spontaneous – we take our cue from the children, each of whom is totally unique. We witness so many positive results: escapism from a frightening environment of noisy machines and adult conversations. Access to important, unrealised emotions. Catharsis. It’s about expressing yourself without words, having a troubled mind nursed without medicine.

And mums, dads and nurses feel the benefit too. Our sessions are a stabilising, hopeful force in a so often unstable, bleak environment. Finally, sound mental health is an irrefutable driver of physical recovery. It constantly amazes me that by doing comparatively little we can make such profound shifts.’

Vanessa King, February 2014

Key Stage 3 Resources

PROKOFIEV Romeo & Juliet

Shakespeare’s plays have inspired countless musical settings over the centuries and Romeo and Juliet, the story of the ‘star-cross’d lovers’, has produced some of the memorable and successful adaptions. Here are just a few of them:

  • Berlioz (France, 1839) dramatic symphony Roméo et Juliette
  • Gounod (France, 1867) opera Roméo et Juliette
  • Tchaikovsky (Russia, 1869) fantasy overture Romeo and Juliet
  • Leonard Bernstein (USA, 1957) West Side Story (movie version 1961)
  • Nino Rota (Italy, 1968) film score Romeo and Juliet

Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet is now considered one of the greatest ballet scores of all time, but the work had a very troubled start. The idea for the piece came from Prokofiev’s friend, the director Sergei Radlov. Early in 1935 they worked on a scenario* for the ballet and that summer Prokofiev started to write the music. 

*A scenario is a plan of how a story is going to be adapted for the stage – what the key aspects of the plot are going to be and which characters might feature.

Initially, the Kirov Theatre in Leningrad (now St Petersburg) had agreed to stage the ballet. However, after they had heard some of the score they complained about the ‘overwhelming complexity’ of Prokofiev’s music and unexpectedly backed out of the project. The following year, Prokofiev began negotiations with the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow who agreed to take over – but not for long! The staff at the theatre declared the score ‘unsuitable to dance to’ and they too pulled out.

At this stage, worried that his ballet would not be staged, Prokofiev decided to create two orchestral suites (and ten piano pieces) from the music he’d written. They proved to be a great success and the music from Romeo and Juliet was performed in many countries throughout the world.

The world premiere of the ballet eventually took place in Brno (Czechoslovakia) in 1938 and Romeo and Juliet was subsequently performed in Russia by the two companies who had originally rejected it – firstly in Leningrad (in 1940, by the Kirov) and then in Moscow (in December 1946). Since then it has never left the repertoire and is rightly acknowledged as a masterpiece.


General information


These articles explain the synopsis, or story, of Prokofiev’s ballet:


The Play


Teachers Pack Exercises and Ideas for Active Approaches to the Play 




RSC Past Productions 


A Happy Love Story?

When adapting a work for another art form, changes are often made to the original story. Prokofiev and Radlov initially came up with the radical plan that in their version Romeo and Juliet would live happily ever after! Prokofiev’s reasoning for this was that ‘living people can dance but the dead cannot dance lying down’. 

However, this re-working of Shakespeare’s tragic love story did not go down well with the Soviet authorities, and Prokofiev was persuaded to re-write his score. 

In recent years, Prokofiev’s original version has been rediscovered and this newspaper article explains something of the history of the ballet. It also explains a little about the politics that surrounded the arts in the Soviet Union.



During Stalin’s years as leader of the Soviet Union there were very strict rules as to what kinds of art, theatre and music were considered acceptable to the authorities. The trouble for composers, writers and artists was that these rules often changed –what was fine one year might be banned the next. The consequences for falling out of favour could be deadly: many famous people were executed on Stalin’s orders for failing to adhere to his rules.

Prokofiev was one of the few musicians who left Russia at the time of the 1918 revolution but then decided to return to his homeland. Although he enjoyed artistic freedom in the West, he missed the land of his birth and so started to split his time between Paris and the Soviet Union. This was very unusual – most people were not allowed to travel freely in the Soviet years – but Prokofiev was one of Russia’s most famous composers and Stalin was keen to tempt him back.

The commission to write Romeo and Juliet was a way to encourage Prokofiev to return to the Soviet Union for good – and it worked: the composer moved back to Moscow permanently. But almost immediately, there were new restrictions imposed on artistic expression and Prokofiev quickly fell from favour. This is probably one of the reasons that Romeo and Juliet was dropped by the ballet companies ¬– they were worried about being associated with Prokofiev.


Dancers and Choreography 

Despite those earlier claims that Prokofiev’s music was ‘unsuitable to dance to’, it’s clear that in fact Prokofiev was a genius ballet composer – and his music has inspired the world’s best dancers and choreographers.

There are several versions of Romeo and Juliet by very famous choreographers and these articles explain some more details:


Nureyev’s choreography


Macmillan’s choreography



As Romeo and Juliet is a ballet, it’s interesting to read what a ballet dancer thought of the great composer. Galina Ulanova was the ballerina who first danced the role of Juliet in the 1940 Kirov production. Here are her recollections of working with Prokofiev, published in an essay entitled ‘The Author of My Favourite Ballets’ dated April 16, 1954:

“I do not remember exactly when I first saw Prokofiev; I only know that at some point during the rehearsals of Romeo and Juliet I became aware of the presence in the hall of a tall, somewhat stern-looking man who seemed to disapprove heartily of everything he saw and especially of our artists. It was Prokofiev…

“Time was flying, the rehearsals were in full swing, but we were still badly hampered by the unusual orchestration and the chamber quality of the music. The frequent change of rhythm, too, gave us a great deal of trouble. To tell the truth, we were not accustomed to such music; in fact we were a little afraid of it…

“We did not tell Prokofiev anything of this; we were afraid of him…Prokofiev seemed unapproachable and haughty, and we felt he had no faith in ballet or in ballet artists. This last hurt our feelings deeply. Youth and professional pride prevented us from realizing that Prokofiev had grounds for distrusting the ballet theatre, for he had had bad luck with his ballets — not one of those he had written prior to Romeo and Juliet had survived…

“Gradually that air of chill aloofness we had so much resented at first disappeared.  He began to listen to our remarks with increasing interest and attention, and before long a sympathy which soon turned to warm and genuine affection sprang up between the ballet dancers and the composer. That feeling was all the more precious for having weathered the stormiest periods in the relations between the representatives of two inter-related arts who had begun by fearing they would never be able to understand each other.”


We hope you and your students find these resources useful.
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Key Stage 1 Resources

Autumn 2016 - Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type

The below resources will help you to prepare for the concert


Please use these tracks to help you learn the participation songs.

download audio

Cows That Can Type



download audio

The Letter - COWS


download audio

The Letter - HENS


download audio

The Letter - DUCKS


Participation Song Lyrics

Click below to download the PDF's of the lyrics.

download video
Cows That Can Type

download video
The Letter




We hope you find these resources useful.
If you have any trouble accessing these files, please e-mail Wallis Leahy:
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Safeguarding Policy Statement

The LSO works with children and vulnerable adults in education and community settings, in work placements in the office and with occasional child player/performers with the Orchestra. The LSO is committed to the well-being and safety of every child and vulnerable adult we work with.


In all our work with children and vulnerable adults we adhere to the following principles:

  1. The well-being and safety of each child and vulnerable adult is our primary concern
  2. We respect the rights and dignity of every child and vulnerable adult we work with
  3. Children and vulnerable adults are treated equitably and sensitively, regardless of disability, gender, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation, or age, in line with the LSO’s Equal Opportunities Policy
  4. The professional relationships between LSO players and staff and the children and vulnerable adults they work with are based on mutual trust and respect
  5. LSO players and staff seek to achieve a balance between artistic outcomes and the social, emotional, intellectual and physical needs of the children and vulnerable adults we work with
  6. The feelings and concerns of any child, vulnerable adult or their parent/carer are listened to and acted upon
  7. All LSO players and staff who work with children and vulnerable adults, have a responsibility to prevent the physical, sexual or emotional abuse of any child with whom they come into contact. Any suspicions or allegations of abuse are taken seriously and responded to swiftly and appropriately
  8. Staff recruitment and selection processes for staff involved in work with children and vulnerable adults include Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks at the enhanced level, and specific questioning of referees in relation to the candidate’s suitability for working with children and vulnerable adults 
  9. DBS checks are also carried out for any LSO players, animateurs, chaperones and extras engaged in any work which involves regulated activity or substantial unsupervised contact with children or vulnerable adults

Key Stage 2 Resources

Summer 2017 - Stravinsky: The Firebird


The below resources will help you to prepare for the concert


Please use these tracks to help you learn the participation song:

download audio
The Deal: Vocal Recording


download audio
The Deal: Piano Recording


We hope you find these resources useful. 

If you have any trouble accessing these files, please e-mail Elisabeth Munns: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



Hospital visits

We currently run two LSO Discovery projects in hospitals – one for children and one for older adults. Through these programmes, LSO musicians and workshop leaders can help to improve mood and wellbeing and create moments of serenity within an often distressing hospital environment through creative music-making. 

Children's Hospitals

The Children's Hospitals Programme brings creativity, opportunity and fun to children in two hospitals in East London, Royal London and Whipps Cross hospitals, through providing creative music-making and quality musical experiences.

Workshops feature LSO musicians and are led by LSO workshop leaders with a wealth of experience of working alongside vulnerable patients. The sessions are based upon the needs of participants and combine performance, singing, participatory music making and composition.

"Most of the young people we see on the unit suffer from a lack of confidence and low self-esteem for a variety of reasons. I believe the workshops provided by the LSO contributed towards re-building their confidence and most seemed brave enough to take a risk either by playing or by contributing to the group discussion."
Staff member

LSO Discovery Children's Hospitals programme works with infants and children aged 0–18 years undergoing treatment in hospitals across London, many of whom are suffering from chronic, life threatening or terminal illness. LSO Discovery engages with children in short-stay wards and reaches out to children suffering from severe, long-term illnesses.

Workshops also take place on neonatal wards with prematurely-born babies and infants suffering ill health and their carers, and with under 5s on Gastroenterology and Retinoblastoma wards where children are often in isolation with only one play worker per ward.

We are thankful to our partners at Vital Arts who work closely with Royal London and Whipps Cross hospitals to ensure these visits can take place.

> Read a case study by Vanessa King who carries out the early years and neonatal visits

Supported By - Portrait

Older Adults at Whipps Cross

Hospital visit at Whipps Cross

This project brings music-making to patients in five Older Adult Wards at Whipps Cross Hospital in Waltham Forest. LSO musicians and an established music leader visit patients who are receiving treatment with Occupational Therapists. Patients are undergoing rehabilitation and treatment for a variety of conditions, infections and falls, and over 60% suffer from some form of dementia.

'My mother is 92 and has dementia, but she has been out of bed dancing and singing with the nurses saying it was just like when she danced with friends at parties held during the war.'
Lawrence Muggeridge

Working with Vital Arts, the LSO's visits offer participatory and performance music activities to the patients in the wards, to help improve mood and wellbeing and create moments of serenity within an often distressing hospital environment. The visits encourage social interaction and communication in a fun, calming and inclusive way, giving patients the opportunity to sing along to musical classics, discuss their favourite music and get to know their bedside neighbours.

Visits take place bedside and on the ward, to both individuals and whole wards; and in day rooms, where participants come off the ward to participate. Group sessions comprise introductions, gentle physical and vocal warm ups and breathing exercises. Patients are invited to participate in singing, music-making and listening to a range of music by an LSO musician.

The Older Adults hospital programme is generously supported by The Lambert Charitable Trust.


Early Years Outreach Visits

‘If children are not introduced to music at an early age, I believe something fundamental is actually being taken from them.’ Luciano Pavarotti

LSO Discovery runs early years workshops both at our Music Education Centre, LSO St Luke’s, and at children’s centres and nurseries in Islington and Hackney. Led by our Early Years music specialist, Vanessa King, and supported by LSO players, the workshops are interactive, musically informative, and above all, a lot of fun. We also run termly Under-5s Concerts at LSO St Luke’s. These events are a lovely opportunity for these local children to be part of a musical storytelling concert which brings lots of different nursery groups together.

We believe that exposing children to music from a very young age can help them to build in confidence and learn to express themselves in a creative way. Music is a tool which strengthens relationships between children and their parents or carers and our sessions are designed to equip adults with the tools and confidence to use music themselves in the home or the nursery.

During our early years sessions, children are immersed in a wide variety of musical activities which bring many benefits including helping to develop social, language, listening and motor skills, all key areas of the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum. Musical activities are often cross-curricular in nature and can be linked to other subject areas including literacy, science and maths. Counting songs, for example, can help to develop children’s knowledge of numbers and sequences, while hearing live instruments helps them to begin to understand the basic principles of sound production.

Musical activities are repeated within and between sessions to give the children time to enable them to grow in confidence and as a result become more participatory. The sessions have a familiar structure, with a calm beginning and end, but there is also opportunity in every session for free play and movement. As well as having the opportunity to be active through singing, playing and movement, the children are also encouraged to listen attentively at points during the sessions to help develop their concentration as well as their listening skills.

For many children the opportunity to hear and see orchestral instruments in the workshops is a new and exciting experience, particularly the more unusual instruments like the gigantic double bass! LSO players enhance Vanessa’s sessions by providing music accompaniment for games and songs, as well as interacting directly with the children through music.

LSO Early Years Outreach projects are generously supported by The Ashla Charitable Trust, Finsbury Educational Foundation, Mrs Margaret Guido's Charitable Trust, Rothschild Charities Committee and LSO Friends.


A few words from Vanessa King

'In my many years of working with young children I have found that music is such a joyful inclusive medium which everyone can join in with, on their own level. It can greatly enrich the development of each child and their understanding of the world around them.

Music is such an important part of our lives and is very natural to us all. Children especially love to sing and dance. Everyone responds to music, it nurtures every part of us, makes us happy, makes us sad, excites us, calms us down and enables us to access our emotions in a healthy way.

Other benefits music-making can bring are:

  • SOCIAL SKILLS - music-making encourages sharing, turn-taking, communicating and ultimately boosts children’s confidence.
  • LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT - songs are sung at a slower pace than speech often with much word repetition, facilitating language development.
  • LISTENING SKILLS - in this busy world just stopping and listening is hugely beneficial, developing concentration and encouraging creativity and imagination.
  • MOTOR SKILLS - the child’s response to music through movement helps develop co-ordination.

I have yet to meet a child who doesn’t engage with music at some level. Even the very shyest has found their voice and the very loudest been engaged into contemplative thought! And it is these responses that bring me joy and make me feel very privileged to help enrich the lives of others which in turn enriches mine. I very much hope you can find the fun and joy that has followed me from nursery to nursery. Happy music making.'