Reflective Music for School Worship
by Brian Beresford,
headteacher at Whalley CE Primary School

The special ability to reflect on the awareness of one’s self and others, on life’s experiences and on the nature of the divine and the greatness of creation is unique to the human race. People of all ages are able to reflect through varying degrees of time and depth, and yet educationalists seldom consider giving time or priority towards developing this essential aspect of what makes an individual unique. Acts of worship in schools have enormous potential for teachers to plan for reflection, and many are skilled at “stilling” children in this context, providing a calm, safe moment for children to think deeply about themselves, God, the world, family, friends or whatever else might be part of their own awareness at that time.

The use of reflection is important in developing the imaginative part of the brain, and this helps to stimulate creativity and problem-solving. Reflection is not simply a passive act then, but something that can lead to positive benefits for each individual, group, class and school during each day. Periods of stillness are important in creating a child-centred environment, and the use of music can help to enhance an individual and collective calmness that provides each child with some mental space that can become reflective, creative and beautifully productive.

The context of collective worship is unique in providing an opportunity for collective reflection, and I feel privileged to be able to witness every child in my school become consciously involved in the reflective act.

Choosing appropriate music for reflection is a challenge in itself. Teachers leading worship frequently pick a piece of quiet classical or guitar music, put on the first minute of a track and try to encourage the children to think deeply while it is playing. This can be successful, but it can also become very tedious for children who may associate a few moments sitting on a hard floor with having to listen to “that Hovis bread tune again”.

As headteacher and worship co-ordinator, I have often struggled to find a piece of music that gives me what I need, i.e. an atmospheric piece to enhance the potential for reflection in worship. I believe that reflection is very important in this context, for it can encourage children to concentrate deeply and look into their own experiences and the world around them, even giving them an opportunity to discover their own spirit and meet with the divine. Providing such opportunities is something to be taken very seriously, and it was the difficulty faced by teachers searching for appropriate music that led me to compose and produce a CD to meet that need.

Writing pieces for reflection during worship was something that I did in the evenings over several months, working on my PC with keyboard and recording studio. I found that if I could feel myself taking on a reflective sensation I could create more appropriately for the purpose in hand. Thus, some of the results have an instant, instinctive feel because of their creation during my own reflective moments in time.

The approach I have taken is fully inclusive as, of course, the ability to reflect has nothing to do with affiliation to any particular faith, and the way a child responds to the music is as an individual, rather than as a Christian, Hindu, Jew, Muslim, Sikh, or any other faith background. Similarly, children from families with no faith background are equally able to respond.

In my school, appropriate music is played while children are guided through meditative stillness in the presence of a lit candle. Suitable images/photographs are sometimes projected onto a screen, but the children are now accustomed to closing their eyes, becoming aware of their own slower breathing and allowing their thoughts to develop within their own spiritual space. My school has 270 children, and all can now reflect together in this way. The quality of such reflective experiences cannot be quantified, but the benefits for personal development are huge.

Find out more about Brian Beresford

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