Guildhall School awards joint Gold Medal in centenary year
19 May 2015
© C Totman
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama has chosen joint winners for its 2015 Gold Medal.
Soprano Jennifer Witton and mezzo-soprano Marta Fontanals-Simmons have both been awarded the annual prize for outstanding soloists, which celebrates its centenary this year.
The final took place before a panel of judges including soprano Sally Matthews, baritone Alan Opie and David Syrus, head of music at the Royal Opera House.
Witton studied at Bishop Luffa School and Chichester College before completing undergraduate and postgraduate courses at the Guildhall School.
Fontanals-Simmons is from Castle Cary, Somerset and attended St Antony’s Leweston School in Sherborne, Dorset.
She said: ‘I am over the moon to have won such a prestigious award amongst family, friends and colleagues, especially in this the centenary year.’
The Gold Medal award was founded and endowed by H Dixon Kimber in 1915, when it was also awarded to two winners. Since 1950 it has been open to singers and instrumentalists in alternate years.
Previous winners include William Primrose (1922), Jacqueline du Pré (1960), Patricia Rozario (1979), Tasmin Little (1986) and Bryn Terfel (1989).
Big Noise orchestras praised by researchers
19 May 2015, Katy Wright
Big Noise Raploch celebrates 6 yearsMarc Marnie
The initial findings of an 18-month study show that Sistema Scotland’s Big Noise orchestras are having a positive effect on the local community.
Researchers from the Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH) concluded that the projects had the potential to ‘significantly enhance participants’ lives, prospects, health and wellbeing’ and strongly endorsed the Big Noise projects.
The researchers have been examining the economic, education and community impacts of the Big Noise schemes since September 2013. They found that children taking part in the scheme had higher school attendance, improved handwriting and greater confidence.
The orchestras, based in Stirling’s Raploch and Glasgow’s Govanhill, were established in 2008 and 2013 respectively. Both schemes have attracted widespread acclaim, with Stirling’s programme praised for ‘exceptional achievement’ by government inspectors earlier this year.
Sistema Scotland chairman Richard Holloway said yesterday: ‘Today's findings by independent experts show very conclusively that these orchestras can make a better Scotland - a fairer and happier country with the potential of its children fully realised. The heroes in all of this, though, are the children in Raploch and Govanhill who are showing us all the way.’
GCPH director Carol Tannahill said: ‘This evaluation strongly endorses Sistema Scotland’s approaches to delivery: the short and medium-term impacts of the programme evidenced at this stage of the evaluation are very encouraging. What is also certain is that Sistema Scotland’s Big Noise programme has the potential to significantly enhance participants’ lives, prospects, health and wellbeing through a variety of identified pathways in the long-term.’
Based on Venezuela’s El Sistema, Sistema Scotland draws children from disadvantaged backgrounds and immerses them in music. Approximately 1,300 Scottish children currently participate in the intensive orchestral programmes, which involve regular coaching, performances and trips to concerts.
The study will continue in order to observe the long-term effects of the Big Noise projects.
St John's Smith Square names latest crop of Young Artists
18 May 2015
Tabea Debus © Maximilian Motel
St John’s Smith Square has welcomed four new members to its Young Artists’ Scheme.
Recorder player Tabea Debus, violinist Joo Yeon Sir, the Ligeti Quartet and vocal ensemble The Gesualdo Six will all receive performance opportunities, marketing and development assistance and career support during the 2015/16 concert season.
St John’s Smith Square launched its Young Artists’ Scheme last year to provide assistance for exceptional young artists on the brink of their professional careers.
The first group of artists selected were the Aurea Quartet, Anna Hashimoto (clarinet), Laura Snowden (guitar) and the Zelkova Quartet.
The Young Artists are each awarded three performance dates ranging from lunchtime concerts to full evening recitals and Sunday afternoon chamber music concerts.
Alongside this, they will also undertake activities in marketing, commissioning and outreach.
Richard Heason, director of St Johns Smith Square, said: ‘As a concert hall it is crucial that we don’t just give voice to established artists but that we also invest in future talent.
‘Through our Young Artists’ Scheme we are able to select musicians who have shown themselves to have enormous talent and energy and help them as they shape their careers.
‘The support we give off the concert platform, for marketing, development and outreach work, is just as important as the concert opportunities.’
Tabea Debus is a student at the Royal Academy of Music, while Joo Yeon Sir studies at the Royal College of Music.
The Ligeti Quartet is a group of recent graduates dedicated to performing modern and contemporary music, and The Gesualdo Six is a vocal sextet specialising in the performance of renaissance music, directed by Owain Park.
Songs of Praise school choir of the year winners named
18 May 2015, Katy Wright
Junior category winners Ysgol Iau Llangennech
Llanelli's Ysgol Iau Llangennech and Hereford Cathedral School's Cantabile Girls’ Choir have been announced as the winners of the 2015 BBC Songs of Praise school choir of the year competition.
Ysgol Iau Llangennech won the junior school category, while Cantabile Girls’ Choir took the senior school title. The final, which took place at Nottingham’s Albert Hall, was broadcast on BBC One on 17 May.
Lewis Richards, conductor of Ysgol Iau Llangennech said: ‘The children give so much time and energy during rehearsals. I’m over the moon that they have something to show for their efforts and perseverance. The children were determined to perform their socks off in the final, and that’s exactly what they did!’
Cantabile had appeared in the finals of the competition before, and have also won the international Eisteddfod on two occasions. Music director Jo Williamson said: ‘Words cannot express how happy I am for the girls – I’m so proud of them and I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart. They have worked so hard for this moment and gave everything they had – heart and soul!’
Dave Stanford, executive producer of Songs of Praise, said: ‘The judges faced a difficult decision for both categories because the standard of entries was so high. Cantabile Girls’ Choir achieved success after an outstanding performance and Ysgol Iau Llangennech were faultless. Many congratulations to both the schools. The Songs of Praise School Choir of the Year competition has been running since 2003 and we are always knocked out by the quality and enthusiasm of the school choirs which enter.’
A new judging panel for the 2015 competition included: JB Gill, from boy band JLS; vocal coach and opera singer Yvie Burnett from The Voice; and Tim Rhys-Evans, the founder of Welsh male voice choirs Only Men Aloud and Only Boys Aloud.
The other finalists were Queen’s Young Voices (Chester) and Lindley Junior School Choir (Huddersfield) for the junior category, and Twyford Church of England High School Choir (London) and Strathearn School Chamber Choir (Belfast) for the senior category.
The competition launched in 2003 and attracts hundreds of entries annually. Over 45,000 young singers have entered to date.
Exam boards publish draft proposals for music GCSE
15 May 2015, Katy Wright
is part of the second wave of GCSEs to be reformed in a process being led by
the Department for Education, with the new qualifications to be taught from
September 2016. AQA, Pearson/Edexcel,
OCR and WJEC/Eduqas have now all published and submitted their draft GCSEs to
Below is a summary of
these initial proposals (although changes may be made over the next few months).
Under the reformed system, GCSEs will be awarded according to a new 1-9
grading scale, and will be assessed only at the end of the two-year period of
study. Performance, composition, and written examination will make up 30%, 30%
and 40% of the overall mark for each course.
Across the boards, performances should contain a minimum of two pieces,
one performed as part of an ensemble and one solo. A portfolio of two
compositions should be submitted, one in response to a brief set by the exam
board, and the other free choice.
AQA will require its students to study works by Haydn, Copland, Santana and
The Beatles. For the listening section of the exam (68 marks), candidates will
answer eight questions based on unheard works and covering all areas of study;
for the contextual understanding (28 marks), there will be four sets of
questions on the study pieces.
Performances are expected to last seven minutes, and will be examined on
accuracy, expression, interpretation and level of demand. AQA will award marks
for awareness of the composing process, as shown through a composing log.
Pearson/Edexcel specifies eight works, ranging from Purcell’s Music for a While to
Queen’s Killer Queen. The first section of the exam (worth 68 marks) will
contain six questions relating to set works, one melody/rhythm completion
exercise, and one multi-part question on an unfamiliar piece. The second part
will be an extended response comparison between a set work and unfamiliar piece
Performances will be examined on technical control, accuracy and
fluency, and expression and interpretation. Students will be required to work
on their compositions under controlled conditions.
OCR does not suggest set works, but suggests repertoire for students to
learn within five broad categories (including ‘My instrument’ and ‘Rhythms of
the World’). The board does not specify the breakdown of the exam, but says that
it will contain questions based around musical elements, contexts and language.
For the performance component, marks will be awarded for difficulty,
technical control and fluency, and expression and interpretation. Composition
briefs will be linked to areas of study, using a stimulus (whether an image, a
short story or a rhythmic pattern). The free choice composition will be for the
WJEC is also moving away from set works (with the exception of Rainbow’s
Since You’ve Been Gone and the third movement of Mozart’s Eine Kleine
Nachtmusik), and will suggest repertoire within ‘ensemble’ and ‘film music’
categories. The exam will be made up of eight questions, six on unprepared
musical extracts and two on prepared extracts.
The performance should last a maximum of six minutes, with one piece
linking to an area of study. Marks will be awarded for: technical control,
expression and interpretation, accuracy of rhythm and pitch, appropriate pace
and fluency; effective dynamics; stylistic awareness; and ‘empathy’ (in
ensemble playing). Candidates will be required to submit a composition log.
The ISM and Dr Alison Daubney have produced a comparison chart of the four GCSE courses on offer, available here.
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