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BBC Proms releases Family Events brochure

14 June 2010

The BBC Proms has published a mini-brochure which lists all the festival's family events from 16 July to 11 September.

Highlights include the return of the popular Doctor Who Prom, with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales joined by real-life Doctor Matt Smith and his companion Karen Gillan for a programme including Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries, Holst's Mars from The Planets and a selection of music from the show itself.

Also look out for two family concerts on the August Bank Holiday (30 August): the Children's Prom in the morning features young performers from the National Children's Chamber Orchestra, National Youth Chamber Orchestra and professional Aurora Orchestra performing pieces by Brahms, Prokofiev, Rimsky-Korsakov and Satie; while the evening concert will feature a sing-along medley of famous cinema themes as well as the BBC Proms Family Orchestra and Chorus (made up of families from Cornwall and London) giving the premiere of PK, a new work by Graham Fitkin.

Meanwhile there will be seven 'Family Music Intros' as part of the Proms Plus series - accessible introductions to the music at that evening's concert given by presenters and members of the performing orchestra - and a series of workshops held by the Proms in collaboration with the Royal College of Music's Sparks project: Summer Music Workshops for ages 6-12 (27 July; 3, 10, 18, 26 August); Summer Springboard weekends for ages 13-15 and 16-18 (28-30 July and 4-6 August respectively); and the Fantastic Journeys Workshop with the National Youth Orchestra (7 August).


Charles Wood Summer School, Armagh, 22-29 August

14 June 2010

The 17th annual Charles Wood Summer School for choral directors, singers and organists will take place in Armagh, Northern Ireland, on August 22-29. David Hill will direct the Charles Wood Singers, the choir which forms annually for the festival, and will be assisted by Daniel Hyde; the festival's Boys' Choir will be directed by Nigel McClintock and assisted by Ian Keatley; and specialist vocal coach Paul Farrington will also attend.

The festival includes a number of teaching or workshop sessions, starting with a day's choral conducting seminar (23 August) in four parts: 'Choir training', a discussion between participants, David Hill and Daniel Hyde with assistance from summer school singers; 'How does the voice work best?' with Paul Farrington; an open rehearsal with David Hill, Daniel Hyde and the Charles Wood Singers; and a 'Come and sing' performance of Mozart's Requiem. There will be another open rehearsal, with David Hill, Paul Farrington and the Charles Wood Singers, on 24 August, and an organ workshop with Daniel Hyde on the same day. Paul Farrington will give two vocal workshops on 25 and 26 August, while both he and Daniel Hyde will be available to give individual lessons during the week.

There will also be a number of concerts and recitals during the week, with the new addition of three lunchtime recitals. Highlights include the opening organ recital by David Hill and Stephen Hamill (22 August), a candlelit concert of Victoria and Franck (25 August), the fesitval's gala concert (27 August), and the closing festal evensong (29 August).

Events are priced individually, with details available in a published brochure or through the festival's website. The Royal College of Organists has joined the festival to offer a scholarship for one person to include attendance fees, accommodation and travel expenses. See the website for details.


Workshop for users of Yamaha's Motif XS synthesizer, 16-17 July

11 June 2010

A previous Motif XS workshop
A previous Motif XS workshop

Yamaha will be running a two-day workshop for owners of its Motif XS synthesizer at the company's Milton Keynes headquarters on 16-17 July.

Topics to be covered include voice editing, sampling, performance modes, understanding XS effects, and integration with Cubase.

The workshop promises to be an 'invaluable event' for players of all levels.  Yamaha's product specialists and demonstrators will be present, as well as professional artists who have chosen to use the synthesizer within their studio and live set-ups.

Tickets are priced at £150 for the two days, including a Motif XS 'swag bag'. To book, telephone: 01908 369293.


ABO report highlights impact of orchestras’ education work

10 June 2010

The Association of British Orchestras (ABO) has published a report summarising the range of education and outreach activities carried out by its member orchestras and highlighting the impact of their work on children’s learning and development. Unlocking Potential: Education and the Orchestra describes how children have become more alert and engaged at school through involvement in music workshops; how teachers have seen music enhance children’s creativity; and how exposure to orchestral music when young can lead to a musical career at the highest level.

Speaking at the launch of the report, ABO chairman Timothy Walker, chief executive of the London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO), cited the example from the report of Rachel Meerloo, who attended an LPO concert with her primary school in south east London more than ten years ago, was inspired to take up the double bass, and is now trialling for a place in the orchestra alongside the very player whom she met at that schools concert.

Two years ago, ABO orchestras stated their ambition to give every schoolchild the opportunity to experience a love orchestral performance. The association is now half way towards achieving that goal. The recent mapping report Live the Experience showed that in England more than 350,000 children a year attend a concert during their time at school. More than three-quarters of orchestras offer pre-concert workshops to schoolchildren and nearly half currently offer teacher resources to supplement schools concerts.

‘None of this is possible without a huge range of partnerships and collaborations forged to make high-quality music education a reality,’ says Mark Pemberton, chief executive of the ABO, in his introduction to Unlocking Potential. ‘Orchestras work with local authorities, local businesses, other arts organisations and government bodies to deliver programmes that excite and have a lasting impact. It is the lasting relationships with schools and community groups that see the most inspiring results. Maintaining and extending these connections is crucial if we are to continue to deliver programmes and deliver the proven benefits that music education brings.’

An example of such a lasting relationship was demonstrated at the launch of the report, which took place at Tuke Special School in Peckham, south east London. LPO players took part in a music workshop with five young people who have multiple physical and learning disabilities, led by a singer and animateur and by class teacher Julia McCallum, who is herself a horn player and originally trained as a music therapist. The LPO sessions have been taking place in the school on a weekly basis since September as part of the orchestra’s special needs programme Adopt-a-Class. Matthew Todd, head of education at the LPO, explained how music is used to develop the students’ key skills and responses, and Julia McCallum emphasised how essential it is that projects are funded for the whole year because these students make such infinitesimally slow progress. ‘For example, a target for the year might be to get one student just to clap their hands. We can see that music really motivates them to achieve things more quickly, but they need time to adjust to what is going on and build relationships with the musicians. A short project of two or three sessions just would not work for them.’

The new minister for culture, communications and creative industries, Ed Vaizey, welcomed the Unlocking Potential report. ‘It is no surprise that seeing and hearing orchestras has such a positive effect on young people,’ he said. ‘We know that music can make a huge difference to educational success, with behaviour, well-being, confidence, team-working and concentration skills all proven to improve with good music provision.’


Emily Brontë’s piano is back in action

10 June 2010

Maya Irgalina playing the Brontes' piano
Maya Irgalina playing the Brontes' pianoClare Stevens

The rare cabinet upright piano owned by the Brontë family has been played in Haworth Parsonage for the first time in 160 years, having been completely reconstructed thanks to the generosity of an American donor. Made by John Green of Soho Square, London, probably in 1810-1815, the instrument is thought to have been acquired by the Brontës in the early 1830s. After the children’s deaths it was given away and eventually sold. It returned to the Parsonage Museum in 1916 but was regarded merely as a piece of furniture; there was no interest in it as a musical instrument and it had not been played in living memory until Brontë Society member Virginia Esson offered to pay for its restoration.

At this point one of the UK trustees of the Brontë Society, singer, teacher and community music leader Virginia Rushton, stepped in and enlisted the help of piano restorer Ken Forrest, who has spent almost three years dismantling and cleaning the instrument and putting it back together again. It was clogged with soot and dust and effectively derelict, with much of the internal mechanism missing or completely unusable. Cabinet upright pianos were never highly valued and very few have survived, so it was difficult to find similar models to copy or even to cannibalise for spare parts. Extensive research trips took Mr Forrest as far afield as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York before he was satisfied that he knew how to tackle the reconstruction.

The piano finally returned to the Haworth Parsonage on 1 June and was demonstrated to Ms Esson and Brontë Society members on 4 June in a short recital by Maya Irgalina, a keyboard student from the Royal Northern College of Music, and soprano Catherine McDonald, a Brontë enthusiast. The programme was drawn entirely from the Brontës’ music books which are now in the library at the parsonage. It included works by Beethoven, Clementi, Handel (known to have been a particular favourite of the family), Haydn and Burns (‘Ye banks and braes o’ bonnie Doon’, which features in Charlotte Brontë’s novel Shirley).

Some of the music in the collection is dated and marked with the Brontës’ names, and the Beethoven waltzes are marked in pencil with fingerings, possibly by the siblings’ piano teacher Mr A S Sunderland, organist of Keighley Parish Church. There are several references to music in their childhood diaries, while Emily was described as playing the piano ‘with precision and brilliancy’ and sought out the best available professor of music during her time as a student in Brussels. The youngest sister, Anne, preferred singing but often accompanied herself on the piano; Charlotte is known to have given up the piano in her teens because her poor eyesight meant she had difficulty reading the music.

Brontë fans and museum staff who attended the recital were thrilled with the results of the restoration. ‘Although the piano does not sound exactly as it would have done 180 years ago, this is the closest we can get, and you really feel when you listen to it that you are entering the soundworld of the family,’ said Virginia Rushton.


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