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Jonathan Dove children's opera to mark LSO Discovery 25th anniversary

21 May 2015

© Andrew Palmer

The London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) will mark the 25th anniversary of its LSO Discovery education programme with the performance of a new children’s opera by Jonathan Dove this summer.

On 5 July, the LSO and music director designate Simon Rattle will be joined by students from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and 220 amateur singers from the LSO Community Choir and LSO Discovery Choirs.

The Monster in the Maze, which retells the story of Theseus, Ariadne and the Minotaur, has been composed specifically to allow students to perform alongside professional musicians.

It is the first in a series of new children’s operas commissioned jointly by the LSO, the Berlin Philharmonic and the Aix-en-Provence Festival, with performances lined up in London, Berlin and Aix.

The work will be premiered in Berlin in June with Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic, and will receive two further performances by the LSO and the Mediterranean Youth Orchestra at the Aix-en-Provence Festival on 8 and 9 July.

The 5 July concert will also include a performance of Walton’s First Symphony, in which students from the Guildhall School will play alongside members of the LSO.

Music teacher Lila Hallett receives local outstanding contribution award

20 May 2015

© Will Hay

A Cheshire music teacher has been honoured with the outstanding contribution award at a new awards ceremony.

Lila Hallet, 83, was presented with the prize at the inaugural Cheshire West Community and Voluntary Arts Awards at Chester Town Hall on Tuesday.

Hallett is a piano teacher and accompanist who has worked as a music teacher in four Chester schools.

She was programme secretary for the Chester Music Society Club Concerts series for over 30 years and was instrumental in proposing the recent Chester Young Musicians of the Year competition.

She was also involved with setting up the Chester Music Society Youth Choir in the 1980s and is a longtime supporter of the city’s People to People Association, which chooses a talented musician each year from Chester to exchange with one from Colorado, US.

The Cheshire West Community and Voluntary Arts Awards were created by the Cheshire West Voluntary Arts Network to recognise the work of arts groups in the community.

There were award categories for music, children and young people, community performing arts and community visual arts. The music award was won by the Movers and Shakers Choir, a project for people with Parkinson’s disease.

The Chester Youth Symphony Orchestra performed at the awards ceremony.

David Woods, chairman of Cheshire West Voluntary Arts Network, said: ‘We want to celebrate the contribution that community and voluntary arts groups make to the cultural life of our community.

‘We know that participation in the arts either as a participant or as a member of the audience enriches the quality of life, improves a sense of wellbeing and promotes community cohesion.’

BBC Ten Pieces project extended to secondary schools

20 May 2015, Katy Wright



Ambassadors Peter Moore and Clean Bandit
Ambassadors Peter Moore and Clean BanditPhotos: Kaupo Kikkas / Joshua Schulz

The BBC’s Ten Pieces initiative will be extended to secondary schools from Autumn 2015.

A new set of pieces has been chosen to tie into the 11-plus curriculum. Teachers will once again have access to a range of online resources to explore the works in their own lessons, encouraging pupils to respond to the music through composition, dance or art.

The Ten Pieces for secondary schools are:

  • Bach orch. Stokowski - Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565
  • Bernstein – ‘Mambo’ from West Side Story
  • Bizet – ‘Habanera’ and ‘Toreador Song’ from Carmen
  • Anna Clyne - Night Ferry
  • Haydn – Trumpet Concerto (third movement)
  • Gabriel Prokofiev – Concerto for Turntables and Orchestra (fifth movement)
  • Shostakovich – Symphony No. 10 (second movement)
  • Vaughan Williams - The Lark Ascending
  • Verdi – ‘Dies Irae’ and ‘Tuba Mirum’ from Requiem
  • Wagner – ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ from Die Walküre
The BBC Philharmonic orchestra will perform in a new film featuring the new selection of pieces, which will be shown free of charge in special screenings across the UK in October 2015. Live performances featuring the Ten Pieces will also take place throughout the year.

New ambassadors joining the project include cellist Julian Lloyd Webber, electronic band Clean Bandit, trombonist Peter Moore (former BBC Young Musician of the Year and co-principal trombone of the London Symphony Orchestra) and musician, producer and composer Nitin Sawhney.

Sawhney said: ‘I am delighted and honoured to have been asked to act as an Ambassador for the BBC’s Ten Pieces project. Children need to challenge their imaginations and a formal education in the arts instils children with confidence and an ability to learn through intuition as well as intellect. It empowers children to understand their own identity and emotions. I hope that through my participation in this wonderful project I could somehow contribute to that journey and process.’

Bob Shennan, director of BBC Music, said: ‘The glowing success of Ten Pieces is a testament to the dedication and passion of its executive producer, Katy Jones, who sadly passed away earlier this year.  It’s a fitting tribute to her that we now launch Ten Pieces Secondary featuring a diverse and entertaining range of pieces which Katy herself loved.’

The Ten Pieces initiative launched in autumn 2014, and has worked with nearly half of all UK primary schools. The resources for Ten Pieces Primary will be available throughout 2015/16, with schools encouraged to continue their involvement.

BBC Ten Pieces

Guildhall School awards joint Gold Medal in centenary year

19 May 2015

© C Totman

The Guildhall School of Music and Drama has chosen joint winners for its 2015 Gold Medal.

Soprano Jennifer Witton and mezzo-soprano Marta Fontanals-Simmons have both been awarded the annual prize for outstanding soloists, which celebrates its centenary this year.

The final took place before a panel of judges including soprano Sally Matthews, baritone Alan Opie and David Syrus, head of music at the Royal Opera House.

Witton studied at Bishop Luffa School and Chichester College before completing undergraduate and postgraduate courses at the Guildhall School.

Fontanals-Simmons is from Castle Cary, Somerset and attended St Antony’s Leweston School in Sherborne, Dorset.

She said: ‘I am over the moon to have won such a prestigious award amongst family, friends and colleagues, especially in this the centenary year.’

The Gold Medal award was founded and endowed by H Dixon Kimber in 1915, when it was also awarded to two winners. Since 1950 it has been open to singers and instrumentalists in alternate years.

Previous winners include William Primrose (1922), Jacqueline du Pré (1960), Patricia Rozario (1979), Tasmin Little (1986) and Bryn Terfel (1989).

Big Noise orchestras praised by researchers

19 May 2015, Katy Wright

Big Noise Raploch celebrates 6 years
Big Noise Raploch celebrates 6 yearsMarc Marnie

The initial findings of an 18-month study show that Sistema Scotland’s Big Noise orchestras are having a positive effect on the local community.

Researchers from the Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH) concluded that the projects had the potential to ‘significantly enhance participants’ lives, prospects, health and wellbeing’ and strongly endorsed the Big Noise projects.

The researchers have been examining the economic, education and community impacts of the Big Noise schemes since September 2013. They found that children taking part in the scheme had higher school attendance, improved handwriting and greater confidence.

The orchestras, based in Stirling’s Raploch and Glasgow’s Govanhill, were established in 2008 and 2013 respectively. Both schemes have attracted widespread acclaim, with Stirling’s programme praised for ‘exceptional achievement’ by government inspectors earlier this year.

Sistema Scotland chairman Richard Holloway said yesterday: ‘Today's findings by independent experts show very conclusively that these orchestras can make a better Scotland - a fairer and happier country with the potential of its children fully realised. The heroes in all of this, though, are the children in Raploch and Govanhill who are showing us all the way.’

GCPH director Carol Tannahill said: ‘This evaluation strongly endorses Sistema Scotland’s approaches to delivery: the short and medium-term impacts of the programme evidenced at this stage of the evaluation are very encouraging. What is also certain is that Sistema Scotland’s Big Noise programme has the potential to significantly enhance participants’ lives, prospects, health and wellbeing through a variety of identified pathways in the long-term.’

Based on Venezuela’s El Sistema, Sistema Scotland draws children from disadvantaged backgrounds and immerses them in music. Approximately 1,300 Scottish children currently participate in the intensive orchestral programmes, which involve regular coaching, performances and trips to concerts. 

The study will continue in order to observe the long-term effects of the Big Noise projects.

Sistema Scotland


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