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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.’

Mike Brewer, director of National Youth Choir, charged with rape

27 April 2012

Mike Brewer, director of the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain, has been charged with rape by Greater Manchester Police. The allegations relate to his time at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester, where Brewer was director of music for 20 years from the mid-1970s.

A statement by Greater Manchester Police said that Brewer has been charged with rape and six counts of indecent assault. His former wife, Hilary Brewer, has also been charged with rape and indecent assault. The charges come ‘following a historic abuse investigation carried out by Greater Manchester Police’.

‘The charges relate to the alleged abuse and rape of a girl at school in Manchester and an address in Chorlton when she was aged between 13 and 18.’

The pair are due before Manchester City Magistrates' Court on 7 May 2012.

A statement issued on behalf of the National Youth Choir of Great Britain’s chairman of trustees, Professor Chris Higgins, said: ‘The NYCGB became aware today (Thursday) that Manchester police had issued serious charges against its artistic director, Mike Brewer OBE, which he is contesting.

‘As a consequence, Mike has been suspended from all duties with immediate effect and will have no part in any NYCGB activities until these allegations have been resolved. These allegations relate to events over 30 years ago, before the choir was founded, and have nothing to do with the NYCGB nor Mike's time as artistic director.

‘A search for a new director to replace Mike Brewer as he nears his planned retirement is already under way and the trustees expect to have identified a successor in August. All planned choral courses and concerts for the summer, including the BBC Promenade Concerts, and our programme remains uninterrupted, albeit the senior choir will no longer be conducted by Mike Brewer.’

National Youth Choir of Scotland appoints new chief exec

25 April 2012

Morag Campbell has been appointed as the new chief executive of the National Youth Choir of Scotland. She comes to the job from Stevenson College, Edinburgh where she is currently associate principal and leads the Faculty of Creative Industries. Under her stewardship there, the music department grew from a single preparatory course to become the first area of the college to confer an honours degree.

Campbell takes up the job in early June and says she is 'thrilled to be appointed as chief executive of what is surely a flagship organisation for young people in Scotland.'

Christopher Bell, founder and artistic director of NYCoS, said: 'With the National Youth Arts strategy to be published soon, and a wealth of exciting plans in NYCoS’ future, we are pleased to have found someone with Morag’s breadth of administrative and artistic experience.'


Two former Royal Academy of Music employees charged with fraud

23 April 2012

Two former senior members of staff at the Royal Academy of Music (RAM) are to appear before magistrates in London next month, after being charged in relation to frauds, involving more than £600,000.

Janet Whitehouse, the former director of finance, faces three charges under the Fraud Act, all arising from alleged abuse of her position for personal financial gain. Between 1 March 2007 and 24 March 2011, she is alleged to have defrauded the RAM of sums in excess of £200,000.

Steven Newell, the former head of information, also faces three charges under the Fraud Act 2006. Two counts concern allegations that he provided two false documents in order to obtain his position at the RAM. A third count concerns payment of fraudulent invoices together valued at £437,408.11. The allegations date between 1 October 2008 and 31 August 2010.

The defendants will both appear before Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 2 May 2012 in separate hearings. A spokesperson from the RAM said: 'The Academy is aware of an ongoing police investigation and that two individuals have been charged. We have no further comments.'

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