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Six singers named as 2009 Chilcott Scholars

16 December 2009

Six young singers have been awarded Susan Chilcott Scholarships totalling more than £22,000 to enable them to complete their studies at four London conservatoires.

They include two National Opera Studio students, baritone Gerard Collett, 27, who receives funds towards private tuition throughout his studies at the National Opera Studio, and 26-year-old tenor John Pierce. The youngest of this year’s scholars, 22-year-old soprano Natalya Romaniw, receives support to assist with her studies for an Opera Masters at the Guildhall School. Baritone Gary Griffiths joins her at the Guildhall on the college’s two-year opera course. Royal College of Music Opera School student Martha Jones, mezzo soprano, has been awarded a scholarship to help with the completion of her second year on the RCM course, with soprano Rebecca Goulden receiving support towards the second year of her studies at the Royal Academy of Music.

Iain Burnside has taken over from Jonathan Dimbleby as Chairman of the Trustees of the Chilcott Awards, and Dimbleby becomes their President. Both men were close friends of the soprano Susan Chilcott, who died of breast cancer aged 40 in 2003. The awards were set up in her memory to help talented singers of limited means to fulfil their potential.

Trojan Horse opera captivates KS2 pupils

16 December 2009

English Touring Opera (ETO) has given more than 20 performances around the country of Rachel Leach’s new opera for KS2 pupils In the Belly of the Horse. The opera explores the story that leads the Greeks to build the famous wooden horse of Troy.

‘It has worked incredibly well for us,’ said Lisa Rudd, expressive arts co-ordinator at Arbury Primary School in Cambridge. ‘The Ancient Greeks are part of the Year 4 curriculum and that’s what initially attracted me to the idea. But the performance has explored many other areas of study too – maths, geography, and, of course, the music and singing. We’ll be following it up with writing projects and probably a play of our own.’

ETO says the opera supports ‘literacy, history, maths and science, art and design as well as drama and music’. The fast-moving hour-long performance has lots of humour and audience participation, and is suitable for pupils aged seven and up. Support materials, including teachers’ packs, CDs and sheet music and cartoons, are sent out well before the date of the performance.

Nine-year-old Jasmine Thompson, a pupil at Arbury, found the session ‘absolutely fantastic. ‘I loved the story of the Trojan horse and the words were easy to learn. I thought the whole thing was really good.’

‘Today’s pupils really knew the words and interacted fantastically with us’ said ETO pianist Chris Clarke. ‘But we have been to schools where there’s not been so much time for preparation yet we’ve still managed to make it work well by putting extra energy in our performances and encouraging the pupils to be gripped by the story and really feel part of what’s going on.’

Singer Abigail Kelly said the ETO education project, which is linked to its Handelfest tour, was very important.

‘This isn’t just about music. Many children just wouldn’t go to an opera if we didn’t bring it to them in school. This is a chance for them to see something different – to think about directing or stage managing as well as the music – and for them to see creativity at work.’

Tech Music Schools open new keyboard lab

16 December 2009

Keyboardtech, part of Tech Music Schools (TMS), has officially opened its new building, including a state-of-the-art Hammond Keyboard Lab. The west-London-based schools have added a fourth building to their premises after extensive on-site alterations over the summer. The new building will primarily serve Keyboardtech and houses various teaching rooms including the Hammond Lab, which boasts six XK1 drawbar keyboards, one XK3c drawbar keyboard, one XK pro system two-manual organ and a Leslie 2101 speaker system. Hammond player James Taylor officially cut the ribbon as part of a day of events that included live performances of rock, jazz and funk from Taylor and several TMS tutors. There were also talks covering both the history of the Hammond organ and life at TMS, with students on hand to explain the details of the various courses available.

According to TMS Founder and Director Francis Seriau the Hammond Lab is part of Tech Music School’s commitment to fully integrating the keyboard into the band line-up. ‘The Hammond Organ has been making history in different styles of music for decades now,’ he said. ‘Keyboard players had for a while become more interested in tweaking knobs than playing – now there is a real revival, and the Hammond is a big part of that.’ All full-time TMS students take keyboard as a second study instrument, which, said Seriau, is part of the schools’ policy to teach ‘not just good instrumentalists, but musicians who work well with other musicians. For example, drummers often struggle because they don’t understand music from other instrumentalists’ perspectives. We want to change that.’

Music First holds benefit recital

16 December 2009

Violinist Hideko Udagawa and soprano Meta Powell, accompanied by pianist Mary Hill, have given a recital in aid of the charity Music First, an organisation which uses classical music training as a vehicle for individual growth and social renewal for disadvantaged young people in Islington, north London.

Inspired by the El Sistema music and social transformation programme in Venezuela, Music First currently has more than 150 children involved in a music academy at Highbury Grove Secondary School and more than 120 children of primary age who have just started learning in a group string teaching programme at three schools within the same community.

There is also a weekly music programme involving 50 students from five local secondary schools, who perform in a choir, jazz orchestra, percussion and string groups.

Bob Pepper, MBE, who set up the project and last year visited Venezuela to research El Sistema’s work, said everyone was very excited about the progress already being made.

‘We are seeing daily changes in children’s progress and attitude,’ he said. ‘These are teenage students from really difficult and disadvantaged backgrounds for whom music making is becoming a lifeline away from drugs and gun culture.’

One teacher told him ‘Just the other day, the face of a boy who plays the oboe really lit up when he heard his teacher play to him and the child commented on the beauty of the sound.

‘It was the first really meaningful and positive communication we have had with him for a whole year,’ she added. Groups from the Music First @ Islington project will be performing at the Union Chapel, Upper Street, N1 on Thursday February 11. The performance will include string players and choirs from the primary schools, and choirs, orchestras and bands from the participating secondary schools.

Lord Mayor's Appeal to support LSO On Track

16 December 2009

The London Symphony Orchestra Discovery programme On Track will be a beneficiary of the new Lord Mayor of London Nick Anstee’s charity appeal for 2009/2010, Pitch Perfect, together with the Cricket Foundation’s StreetChance initiative. The two organisations have joined forces to bring music and sport activities to disadvantaged young people across communities in London.

During 2010, LSO On Track will feature coaching of young musicians in the ten East London boroughs, who will take part in workshops, performances in bands, chamber groups and in the LSO On Track Orchestra. StreetChance, also working across ten London boroughs, will use ‘Street 20’ tapeball cricket – a fast, accessible version of the game – to engage young people . By providing opportunities to play and perform in teams and groups, Pitch Perfect aims to support thousands of young Londoners to develop new skills and levels of aspiration, acquire confidence and self-esteem, and discover their full potential as well-rounded and productive individuals, leaders and team players.

A number of music and cricket-loving ambassadors are supporting Pitch Perfect. They include Sir Colin Davis, President of the London Symphony Orchestra, Valery Gergiev, Principal Conductor of the LSO, percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie, members of the LSO, England and Surrey cricketer Mark Ramprakash, former England and Middlesex captain Mike Gatting, World Cup-winning England women’s cricket captain Charlotte Edwards and lyricist Sir Tim Rice. Pitch Perfect aims to enable the following by 2015: 75,000 young people to participate in StreetChance and On Track activities across London, 60% of them from ethnic minority background; 950 schools to be actively involved in StreetChance and On Track projects in two-thirds of London boroughs; and 1,250 teachers to be trained, to enable continued activity beyond 2015.

Events planned for the Pitch Perfect year include: ‘Passion and Performance’ – an exclusive dinner at the Mansion House which will be an inspiring opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of women in all walks of life, with musical performances from the LSO and Evelyn Glennie; The London Marathon, when the Lord Mayor himself will be running for Pitch Perfect – the first time a Lord Mayor has run the Marathon; and an LSO St Luke’s Concert and Dinner in the Jerwood Hall, with players from the LSO and the Dutch violinist Janine Jansen.

The Grand Finale to the appeal will be a Gala Concert and Dinner in St George’s Hall at Windsor Castle.

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