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MU calls for a reversal of £61,000 cut to West Dunbartonshire Music Service

25 May 2012

The Musicians’ Union (MU) has called on West Dunbartonshire Council to reverse the decision to cut £61,000 from its music service budget this financial year.

The reduction in funding was announced in December 2011 and will mean a 15% cut in instrumental music staff. The MU has expressed a concern that this will increasingly lead to a situation where only those who can afford private tuition are able to learn an instrument.

Sheena Macdonald, MU Organiser for Scotland said: 'The music service is already trying to cover a large area and number of schools with minimal staff. We have been informed by instructors that they already cannot meet the demand of pupils who would like to learn to sing or play an instrument.'

Graeme Clark of the band Wet Wet Wet added: 'I grew up in West Dunbartonshire and I believe that music should be inclusive, not exclusive - so I can't agree that music education should be cut back to the point where only the privileged and wealthy can afford it.

'Music has the power to break down barriers, and everyone can play a part – no matter where they come from. I cannot stress enough how important it was for me to find a way of expressing myself in my school days. Music enabled me to do that.'

Over 500 local people have signed a petition supporting the MU’s position, which can be found at:

Young composers triumph at NCEM Composers Awards

25 May 2012

Winners of the NCEM Composers Award 2012: Alex Woolf (left) and Benjamin Rowarth (right)
Winners of the NCEM Composers Award 2012: Alex Woolf (left) and Benjamin Rowarth (right)NCEM/Eddie Rolmanis

The two young winners of this year’s National Centre for Early Music Composers Awards have been praised for the imagination shown in their entries. Delma Tomlin, director of the National Centre for Early Music, said the judges had been 'absolutely thrilled, with not only the standard of entries, but the range and diversity of ideas around the given theme.'

The awards, presented in partnership with BBC Radio 3 and The Tallis Scholars, were won by Alex Woolf (16) in the under-18 category and by Benjamin Rowarth (20) in the 19-to-25 category.

Entrants were invited to compose an a cappella piece for soprano, alto, tenor and bass which 'utilises the majestic ambiance of Durham Cathedral and the remarkable singing skills of The Tallis Scholars'. As a starting point, they were asked to listen to the Benedictus from Taverner’s Missa Gloria Tibi Trinitas, and in particular the In Nomine, which was to be used as a creative springboard for their work.

Woolf’s Lux Aeterna and Rowarth’s Where is Thy God? were premiered by The Tallis Scholars in Durham Cathedral as part of its Diamond Jubilee Celebrations. The performance will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Show on 1 July. Woolf lives in Cambridge and is a composer with the National Youth Orchestra, and Rowarth, 20, is a student at Durham.

Peter Phillips, director of The Tallis Scholars, said, 'With The Tallis Scholars, I have created an instrument which has a very distinctive sound. I can’t think of anything more useful than to put this highly trained instrument at the disposal of these inspiring young composers and am hugely appreciative that they have written so well for us. I find it thrilling to perform works by a 16-year-old and a 20-year-old and really hope this award will encourage them to develop their styles and write for many different kinds of ensembles.'

All seven finalists heard their entries performed in workshops, with the Ebor Singers and Christopher Fox, composer and professor of music, Brunel University, London, before a public concert, which included judges Chris Wines, from BBC Radio 3, Peter Phillips and Delma Tomlin.

The finalists’ compositions were recorded by music technology students from the Department of Electronics at the University of York and will be soon available to hear on the NCEM website.


BBC Young Musician: the winner

14 May 2012

BBC Young Musician: Laura van der Heijden
BBC Young Musician: Laura van der Heijden

The winner of BBC Young Musician 2012, the final of which was held at the Sage, Gateshead on 13 May and broadcast on Radio 3 and BBC2, is 15-year-old cellist Laura van der Heijden.

Van der Heijden played the Walton cello concerto. The other finalists were recorder player Charlotte Barbour-Condini, 16 and the first-ever recorder player to reach the competition final, and pianist Yuanfan Yang, 15.

‘I just had a wonderful time and I’m so, so lucky,’ van der Heijden told presenter Clemency Burton-Hill, after being presented with the award by Charlotte Bray, one of the judges.

Born in England to a Dutch father and a Swiss mother, van der Heijden started her musical education with the recorder at the age of four before progressing to the piano and then the cello at the age of six.

The Walter Todds Bursary, a sum of £1,000 presented at the discretion of the BBC to the performer or performers who did not reach the Final but who showed great promise in memory of the late Walter Todds, co-founder of the BBC Young Musician competition, was given to percussionist Hyun-gi Lee and violinist Juliette Roos.

The final is available to watch on BBC iPlayer here until 20 May.

National Youth Choir of Scotland scoops Ensemble prize at Royal Philharmonic Society Music Awards

11 May 2012

The National Youth Choir of Scotland (NYCoS) has become the first youth arts organisation ever to win a Royal Philharmonic Society Music Award in the Ensemble category, joining an illustrious list of previous winners including The Hallé Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia, the London Sinfonietta and I Fagiolini.

The award was given in celebration of outstanding achievement in 2011, a year which saw the flagship NYCoS choir celebrate its 15th anniversary with performances at the Edinburgh International Festival with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and a Gala Concert performance of Walton Belshazzar's Feast with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

Christopher Bell, founder and artistic director of NYCoS, said the organisation was honoured by the prestigious accolade: 'I'm accepting the award on behalf of all our singers, staff, parents and supporters, and we look forward to the exciting things we have planned for the future.' NYCoS now has four national choirs, 15 area choirs, an extensive publications catalogue and a comprehensive education and early years programme.

The evening's only double winner was Spitalfields Music, which was honoured for its pioneering community opera, We Are Shadows, and for its ‘route one’ ticket scheme, which encourages ticket buyers at its two annual festivals to buy a second ticket for a first-time attender from Tower Hamlets, its home borough. This scheme won the award for Audiences and Engagement.

A full list of winners of the RPS Music Awards 2012 is available online at www.rpsmusicawards.com

Arts Council England announces details of 122 new music hubs

4 May 2012

Following an open bidding process, Arts Council England has announced the organisations that will run the government's new music education hubs, which will 'take forward' the work of local authority music services from September 2012.

Before today it was not clear how many hubs there would be. The Arts Council has now revealed that figure to be 122. It also said that 'some applications were stronger than others', and it has asked a number of hubs to 'develop their plans further in the coming months'.

The new hubs will see organisations including schools, professional music organisations, higher and further education institutions and other Arts Council-funded organisations coming together to create 'joined-up music education provision' for children and young people.

However, there is concern in the sector that reduced central-government funding combined with local authority cuts will make it difficult to achieve these goals, however visionary they might be.

Alan Davey, chief executive of Arts Council England, said: 'After a robust application process we look forward to working with music education hubs to enhance and develop music education provision across the country.

In the face of criticisms over the Arts Council's ability to monitor and support the new hubs, he said: 'We are ideally positioned to monitor and support a national network of hubs through our regional structure, local knowledge and art form and cultural education expertise.'

Culture minister Ed Vaizey said: 'The hubs will help ensure that all young people have the chance to become involved in an activity that is both challenging and highly rewarding.'

According to the Arts Council, many hub applicants clearly illustrated how they have realised the vision of National Plan for Music Education, with plans including new approaches to partnership working and innovative thinking about business models.

One application singled out by the Arts Council for its quality was from nine Greater Manchester authorities - with the exception of Manchester itself - which have established a formal partnership together with the Halle Orchestra, the BBC Philharmonic, the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester Camerata and Chetham's School of Music.

Lindsay Thomas, head of music for One Education Manchester, an education trust that was involved with the bid, said: 'We feel wonderful. A lot of effort went into the bid and it was time consuming but it made us realise how we could strengthen links with other organisation. I think the work we did for the bid will have a really beneficial impact on how the system works.'

Hertfordshire Music Service, which will work with Orchestras Live and the BBC Singers to deliver the core music service and plans to create a centre for urban music, was also praised for the quality of its bid. 'This is a very significant development for us, as it gives us a three-year framework in which to build, develop and transform the way we deliver music to our schools and communities,' said the music service's James Dickinson.

Arts Council England will be holding meetings with all of the music education hub leaders in the next few weeks to build the network of hubs as the hubs develop their plans. The criteria for the hub bidding process can be found on the Arts Council's website. The full list of 122 hubs can be found here, by clicking on the pink '122 new hubs' link.

The Incorporated Society of Musicians welcomed the announcement of the funding for the hubs. ISM chief executive Deborah Annetts said: 'This announcement is the culmination of a great deal of work by music leaders across England. The next three years will be crucial for the development of music education and there is real opportunity for music hubs, their leaders and their managers to offer visionary approaches to the delivery of high quality education in their area.

‘The ISM, as the professional body for musicians, will continue to do everything we can to support, inform and encourage hub leaders and Arts Council England, offer professional development and training for music educators, and support the entire sector during the next three years and beyond.’

The Association of British Choral Directors also welcomed the announcement, stating: ‘We are delighted to see the acknowledgement of the necessity to ensure music’s place within the education of all children and young people. To see a continuation of the investment of the Sing Up programme through the inclusion of a singing strategy was also crucial.

‘We fear there will still be a great deal of variety within the provision of these services however; the opportunities and willingness for some hubs to partner efficiently with professional music organisations will vary hugely geographically, as may the charges they set for their services.’

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