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3 Choirs Festival unveils new youth choir

18 August 2010

A NEW youth choir formed with the aim of reducing the average age of singers taking part in the Three Choirs Festival made its debut in Tewkesbury Abbey last month. Singers aged between 16 and 25 from the area between Bristol and Birmingham were invited to audition for the choir, which involved attending two rehearsal weekends at John Masefield School, Ledbury, Herefordshire in April and July ahead of the performance on 13 August of Handel’s ‘Coronation’ anthems and J S Bach’s Magnificat, with the Corelli Orchestra and conducted by Adrian Partington, director of music at Gloucester Cathedral and artistic director of this year’s festival.

It is Partington’s first year in charge of the Three Choirs Festival, which takes place in rotation at Hereford, Gloucester and Worcester and has its origins in ‘music meetings’ founded almost 300 years ago. The introduction of a youth choir is one of his major innovations. Announcing his plans a year ago, Partington admitted that he had ‘a bee in my bonnet’ about getting younger people involved in choral singing. ‘Because of the decline in parish church choirs and changes to music in schools the vast majority of children don’t get the opportunity to sing “real” music,’ he said, adding that even those who do have experience of traditional choral repertoire are reluctant to join adult choirs because of the commitment involved. So this new venture was based on a couple of short, sharp bursts of activity aimed at giving them a taste of the Three Choirs experience, in the hope that they would get hooked.

The project was supported by a number of individuals, trusts and foundations and was awarded an ‘Inspire’ mark by the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (signifying the project’s good management, lack of commercialism, and inspirational qualities). The choir was drawn predominantly from the Gloucester area and included a large number of singers from the cathedral’s existing youth choir, and many former choristers from the Three Choirs cathedrals. Their skill and confidence was evident from the quality of the performance, but Partington insisted afterwards that there were others in the choir who had very little experience of singing this kind of repertoire. ‘As usually happens in this sort of situation, they were pulled along by the people around them and learned very fast.’

Jessie Pywell, 22 and a music student at Leeds University, told MT that she was bitten by the choral singing bug as a schoolgirl when she joined the Gloucester Cathedral Youth Choir ‘and now it has taken over my life’. She was keen enough to take part in the last Gloucester Three Choirs Festival in 2007 as a member of the adult chorus, and says she enjoyed singing with older people who know the repertoire very well. ‘They were very friendly, and it’s just phenomenal to sing something like The Dream of Gerontius or Mahler 8 with a huge choir. As a young singer you normally don’t get that opportunity.’ But she admits that not every teenager or 20-something wants to put themselves in that position, and having a substantial cohort of younger singers at this year’s festival was ‘really nice’.

It is hoped that more singers from Herefordshire and Worcestershire will join the youth choir for next year’s festival, in Worcester. Partington will continue to direct the youth choir in order to consolidate the progress made this year. ‘Rather controversially, we are going one step further and taking on an evening concert, performing Beethoven’s Mass in C with the Philharmonia orchestra. We had 40 singers this year but we’ll need around 90 for that. It’s a very exciting but rather daunting prospect, but I think we’ll do it – this lot will be very loyal. In fact at our last rehearsal I made them promise that they will come back next year!’



Call for players: Orchestra in a Weekend at Water City Fest, 1-3 October

6 August 2010

Amateur musicians in East London are being called to form an ‘Orchestra in a Weekend’ on 1-3 October. Organisers are looking for participants of at least 15 years old and Grade 5 standard to become founder members of the Water City Orchestra.

The new orchestra’s first programme will feature Vaughan Williams’s ‘The Lark Ascending’, Borodin’s Symphony No.2 and a medley of Bollywood film music, conducted by Rupert Bond and led by the highly experienced, prizewinning violinist Michael Bochmann.

The orchestra will meet at Trinity Buoy Wharf in London's Docklands for a period of rehearsal before an informal concert at the end of the weekend. It is being formed as part of the Water City Festival, which aims to 'create an international festival in East London with a reputation and longevity comparable to the Edinburgh Festival as part of the long-term legacy of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad.'

Application forms are available from Richard Mallett Arts Management, Studio A05A, Newnham Terrace, SE1 7DR, or email richard.mallett@btconnect.com

Ticket discount of 25% available for London Music Show, 8-10 October

5 August 2010

Tickets are still available for the London Music Show 2010, to be held at the ExCel centre in Docklands on 8-10 October, with a 25% discount for advance booking.

The show is focused on rock and technology and will be divided into four areas: Guitar Zone; Technology and Sound Recording Zone; Rhythm Live; and the Unplugged Zone, dedicated to acoustic instruments.

It will also feature a dedicated education day for the first time, in conjunction with Music fo Youth, on 8 October, and there will be a special emphasis on visitors trying out the equipment on offer, with each area featuring a number of demonstrations, masterclasses and tutorials throughout the weekend.

  • The Guitar Zone will feature a central demonstration area, where up to 30 guitarists can plug in their leads and try out guitars through headphones.
  • Rhythm Live will feature a set of 20 electronic drum kits, where aspiring players can take part in classes at beginner and intermediate levels.
  • The Technology and Sound Recording Zone will focus on a purpose-built theatre, showcasing presentations, demonstrations and tutorials, with seminar topics including mixing, effects, mastering, digital DJ-ing and 'making it in the industry'.
  • The Unplugged Zone, will feature performances and demonstrations of anything else, ‘from saxophones to bongos’.
  • Music for Youth will run a whole day of live music-making activities on the education day. Two 45-minute concerts will showcase some of the best young musical talent from the London area, including young rock musicians, an urban vocal choir and world music. Vocal and percussion workshops will aim to inspire creativity and imagination in their participants.
A number of well-known musicians will also be playing, including blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa, Jim Davies (formerly of the Prodigy), and acoustic guitarist Newton Faulkner, who will deliver masterclasses on his percussive playing technique. Session drummers Karl Brazil and Ash Soan will give masterclasses on 9 October, as will Kasabian drummer Ian Matthews, on 10 October, in addition to two rhythm section pairings will be offering advice: Darren Ashford and Dave Marks on 8 October, and Ian Thomas and Laurence Cottle on 9 October. Meanwhile, songwriter and producer Tommy D and Grammy award-winner Steve Levine will give masterclasses on songwriting and studio production.


Sound and Music summer school for young composers

30 July 2010

The Sound and Music Summer School will run from 15 to 21 August at the Purcell School, Hertfordshire, to give young people aged 14 to 18 'the chance to create music, broaden their musical horizons and find their own musical voice and style'.

After a successful inaugural year in 2009, 70 young composers have been selected by new music charity Sound and Music and tutors from the Purcell School to take part in this year's activities. They will work individually and in groups on a wide range of styles including classical, jazz, world music and music for the moving image.

Participants will work towards end-of-week concerts at the Purcell school: a jazz concert on Friday 20 August and four concerts showcasing the other compositions spread through the day on Saturday 21 August. Admission for these concerts is free but tickets are limited.

This year's tutors include the experimental vocalist and composer Kerry Andrew; jazz composer, conductor and soxophonist Issie Barratt; composer Alison Cox, who specialises in cross-cultural collaborations; tabla player, composer Bhangra specialist Kuljit Bhamra; specialist composer for the moving image - and the Purcell School's Head of Music Technology - Aidan Goetzee; and composer, pianist,  and past winner of the BBC Young Musician of the Year David Horne.

The course fee is £250, with a bursaries fund available for those who may not be able to afford the whole fee.



Tech Music Schools bought by BIMM Group from founder Francis Seriau

29 July 2010

The London-based popular music academy Tech Music Schools (TMS) has been bought by Brighton and Bristol Institute of Modern Music (BIMM Group), which runs similar privately-owned ‘rock school’ academies in the two cities. BIMM Group made the purchase from TMS founder Francis Seriau, who started the schools in 1983, through investment by the private equity firm Sovereign Capital.

Programmes at TMS and BIMM are similar, offering tuition in instruments across the range of popular music. TMS is explicitly split into five separate schools in Drumtech, Vocaltech, Guitar, Bass Guitar and Keyboardtech. The range of courses offered is also similar, from summer school programmes to three-month diplomas, one-year higher diplomas, and two- and three-year BMus qualifications.

Kevin Nixon, president of BIMM Group, said that the purchase came about as a ‘happy coincidence’ and that the move ‘seemed like a natural fit, as the quality of teaching has always been exceptionally high at both schools – so there was parity in terms of quality.’ Nixon plans to ‘implement a few new systems’ at TMS but insists that, other than the loss of Seriau who does not remain involved, there will be hardly any staff changes. Asked by MT what changes might apply at TMS, Nixon replied that ‘investment in the buildings is a top priority and we’re looking at that very closely… Staff will essentially remain the same’, he said, including TMS director David Howell.

Asked if the purchase of a major rival in the South East of England could lead to a lack of competition in the marketplace, Nixon pointed to the independent Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford and the Institute for Contemporary Music Performance in London as existing rivals in the region. He also revealed that BIMM Group is looking next to Dublin for further expansion, as well as conducting research in America and across the world. ‘There’s almost nowhere we haven’t looked at’ he said.

Nixon rebuffed claims that his schools prepared young people for a career whose industry was in poor shape and lacking in serious opportunities. ‘When people were being pessimistic about the industry I think they were pessimistic about the old business model,’ he said. ‘There are fewer and fewer people not paying for music now than there were a few years ago, and the phenomenal success of iTunes I think proves that the public is coming around to the idea that when you take music without paying you actually take away some of its value. I am in good touch with the four major record labels and they are very healthy.’


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