Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring could be an entire lecture series at undergraduate level; so how do we know when to stop for A level Music? How much is too much, and what exactly is needed for the highest marks in Question 6 essays? This Webinar will begin by examining how best to place Stravinsky’s music into context. Suggestions will be made for how to get students confident with a general overview of Russian and European music from the late 19th and early 20th centuries in a relatively efficient way, with a particular focus on the ideas and repertoire that explain Stravinsky’s musical choices across The Rite of Spring. The second part of the Webinar will look at what contextual information an examiner is expecting within a top-level essay, before finally exploring the deeper analytical aspects that existing resources miss. Tips for constructing Section A questions will also be given, as will general strategies and resources that enthuse students about this set work and its context.


  • Clear and valuable guidance on mastering the context and analysis of an academically dense set work;
  • Essay concerns: examiner-led advice on how to embed context, AO4 and Wider Listening in essays for the highest marks;
  • Tips on getting students to make deeper analytical points, rather than point out surface features.
  • Clear advice on embedding context within an essay, and using this and Wider Listening examples to illustrate and justify analytical points;
  • Mastering Section A demands with this set work, building on previously examined questions and generating potential future questions for students.
DATES & LOCATION Online | Wednesday 13 January 2021 – 120 minutes 4pm
  • Heads of Department
  • Experienced Teachers
IN-SCHOOL You can also book this as an In-School Course
  • A specially prepared folder of 50+ pages full of detailed notes, practical advice and guidance
  • Notes prepared by the educational experts leading the course
  • Expert produced PowerPoint presentations
  • CPD Certificate of attendance


4.00 – 4.05pm Welcome and Introduction

4.05 – 4.45pm Contextual Knowledge for the Highest Marks – Directions that Explain the Music

  • Targeting contextual research: focusing students on key areas of late-Romantic Russian thought; understanding the role of self and other, and ideas for getting students confident on key ideas of nationalism, folklorism and orientalism.
  • Quick ways for students to understand key concepts through pertinent Wider Listening examples.
  • Getting students curious before studying Stravinsky: balancing pressured lesson time with the need for a wide contextual understanding.
  • ‘But this is an A level in Music…’ – how much do students need to know about the Ballet Russes and the cultural environment of 20th century Paris?

4.45 – 5.45pm: Top Level Analysis – Tying together technical, musical and contextual

  • The art of combining deeper analytical points with contextual information, and how to illustrate and justify points to an examiner.
  • Examining the more advanced technical features across the three extracts that are often missed, and combining these with AO4 points throughout an essay.
  • Getting students confident with more advanced analytical concepts in The Rite of Spring and applying them to other 20th century music.
  • Helping students to think and write clearly in a Question 6 response; tips for success.

5.45 – 6.00pm: Section A                

  • Building on previously examined questions, how to prepare students for Section A questions on The Rite of Spring; thinking like an examiner.

Alex Aitken

Alex Aitken is an A level examiner with Edexcel, and was also on the review team for the GCSE textbook, having written the analysis for Defying Gravity. A former organ scholar of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, he has been teaching for fifteen years in a variety of schools, as well as privately, and is formerly Head of Academic Music and Choirmaster at Stowe School. His unique, innovative and holistic teaching approach has consistently yielded outstanding A level and GCSE results across all components of the specifications and this, alongside wider educational work, has led to being in great demand as a visiting leader of INSET days and departmental reviews in schools across the UK. Alex is currently the Children’s Musical Director and Cover Conductor for Mary Poppins in London; a role he combines with other freelance work as a musical director, pianist and organist (notably with MK Chorale, the National Youth Music Theatre, National Children’s Choir, and CBSO). Alex has composed scores to numerous short films, which have premièred at both BAFTA and the London Film Academy, and holds Licentiate diplomas in piano performance from both the Royal Schools of Music and Trinity College London, and the Associate diploma in organ performance from the Royal College of Organists.