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Big Big Sing launches in Glasgow

13 January 2014

Glasgow is working to put singing centre stage as part of the Commonwealth Games celebrations. Big Big Sing is an initiative of the Glasgow UNESCO City of Music, set to promote singing in the run up to the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. Events planned so far include Big Big Sing Days, the launch of the Big Big Commonwealth Songbook, and a Schools’ Songwriting Competition.


Events kick off with Big Big Sing Days in Scottish cities, starting with Dundee Caird Hall on 1 February. Further Big Big Sing Days will also take place in Glasgow on 9 February, Edinburgh on 16 February and Aberdeen on 8 March. These events welcome singers of all ages and abilities for a large variety of concerts and workshops. It is hoped that similar events will take place across the whole of the UK between February and June, though nothing was confirmed at time of going to press.   

The musical backbone of the programme is the Big Big Commonwealth Songbook, a series of online resources featuring music from around the Commonwealth. Two songs are on the website already - Corrina Hewat’s newly commissioned One Song and a traditional Samoan song, L’au Lupe. A further nine songs from will be added to the Songbook over the coming months. Songs come with sound files, lyrics and scores, all of which can be downloaded for free.    Big Big Sing is working to promote the songs to choirs throughout the Commonwealth, and they will be heard at singing events including the Big Big BIG Sing in Glasgow on 27 July. This event will bring together thousands of singers and special guests at a location in Glasgow for a mass singing performance.     

Schools have also been invited to participate in the Schools’ Songwriting Competition. Pupils may enter either individually or as a class, and the prize includes having a video of the song made and the chance to perform the song as part of the Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme.  One winning entry will be picked from each of the two categories (Primary School and Secondary School).     

Director of Big Big Sing, Svend Brown said: ‘We firmly believe two things: one is that anyone can sing and the other is that the world is divided into those people who sing and those who do not… yet! Britain is truly blessed in having many amazing organisations and individuals that are passionate and committed about singing – and we want to take the opportunity of the Commonwealth Games year to work with them to champion and boost their work. Everything we do over the coming months we do with the hope that after 2014 many more people will sing regularly than did before, and we want to make it as attractive and easy a thing to do as possible.’            



Music For Youth announces launch of new resource

13 January 2014

Music For Youth (MFY) has launched a new composition resource aimed at supporting KS1-3 music teachers.


Developed by MFY, with sponsorship led by the National Union of Teachers and the Musicians’ Union, Infinity begins with ‘I’ is a new music composition project offering free resources for teachers of 6-12 year olds. The resource incorporates six weeks of creative work aimed at unearthing grass roots talent, and providing a platform for selected groups to perform at the MFY National Festival in Birmingham in July.


The teacher resource pack, written by Madeleine Casson, is available online. Video tutorials will be made available shortly. Teachers can also obtain advice and guidance by submitting work to MFY for review.


All participating schools are invited to bring pupils to the MFY National Festival for an 'Infinity' project day, involving workshop activity and involvement in the rest of the festival. Selected groups will perform their composition.


 Infinity begins with ‘I’ can also be adapted to be used more flexibly for workshops or ongoing creative projects in more informal settings.

Kevin Courtney, Deputy General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers
, said: “The NUT believes music education is a vital part of children’s learning and is too often marginalised in the curriculum. Infinity begins with ‘I’ is a high-quality resource which will support teachers to encourage children to participate in music successfully.”


In Harmony Secures Funding for 2015-18

12 January 2014

Arts Council England has confirmed another three years of funding for In Harmony, the UK-based project inspired by El Sistema.

Although exact figures are still subject to negotiations with the government, ACE made a strong commitment to funding In Harmony during the period 2015-18.

ACE’s continuing confidence in the In Harmony programmes stems in part from the positive impact it has had on pupils’ academic attainment, behaviour and general wellbeing. An evaluation conducted by the National Foundation for Educational Research, commissioned by ACE, concluded that In Harmony is ‘enhancing children’s social and emotional wellbeing and improving their attitudes to learning.’ Another independent evaluation, focused on the In Harmony Liverpool programme, highlighted ‘excellent musical progress, improved academic achievement in English and Maths, improved school attendance, and increased confidence, aspirations, teamwork, cooperation, resilience and enjoyment of school.’

Julian Lloyd Webber, chairman of Sistema England, said: ‘Sistema England is delighted that the council recognises the very positive impact the In Harmony programmes are having on its children and their communities. We believe that additional funding from 2015 should allow further expansion across England.’

Music education in New Year's Honours

3 January 2014, Alex Stevens

Music for Everyone: MBE for founder Angela Kay
Music for Everyone: MBE for founder Angela Kay

Several music education figures have been recognised in this year’s New Year’s Honours list.

The founder and director of Nottingham-based charity Music For Everyone, Angela Kay, was awarded the MBE for services to music in Nottinghamshire. Founded in 1983 as the Nottingham Choral Trust, Music For Everyone now offers music opportunities for more than 1,800 people each year through a small staff and hundreds of volunteers.

Tony Douglas, brass teacher and ensemble leader at Morley College, London, was awarded the MBE for services to further education. Douglas has led the Morley Big Band for more than 20 years and founded the less advanced Morley Swing Band more than 10 years ago. More recently he founded the Morley Big Starter Band and the Starting in Big Band course.

Carol Pemberton, founder and musical director of Black Voices, was awarded the MBE for services to music. She told the BBC she was ‘doing something that I love to do and to be recognised for it is totally humbling’. The group was founded in 1987 with the preservation of black oral music traditions at the heart of its mission.

Joyce Ellis, founder and musical director, Kinder Children's Choirs of the High Peak, was awarded the MBE for services to music and young people in Derbyshire. The organisation celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2011.

John Ruddick, musical director of Midland Youth Jazz Orchestra, was awarded the MBE for services to jazz. Over more than 20 years Ruddick has led the group in several competition wins and UK and foreign tours. The MYJO has received awards from the International Association of Jazz Education for outstanding services to jazz education.

The departing master of the Queen’s music, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, was named a Companion of Honour. He said: ‘I am delighted to be joining such distinguished company in receiving the Order of the Companions of Honour. It is vital that society acknowledges the importance of the arts and related fields, and, for me, this honour is recognition for the art of composition and classical music in general. Anything that raises the profile of our art form is both wonderful and most welcome.’

The British Empire Medal was awarded to: Valetta Cranmer, Sandbach Ladies Choir, East Cheshire; June Davenhill, musical director, Pelsall Ladies Choir; Colin Edgar, musical director, Suffolk Constabulary Male Choir; Judith Land, musical director, Alcester Male Voice Choir; Gordon Speers, musical director, Portadown Male Voice Choir; and Donald Keith Coleman, director, Rivenhall Church Choir.

Other musicians honoured include Sir Simon Rattle, named a member of the prestigious Order of Merit; pianist Stephen Hough and opera director John Copley, awarded the CBE; crossover singer Katherine Jenkins, ENO chief executive Loretta Tomassi, opera librettist Paul Griffiths, Musicians Benevolent Fund chief executive David Sulkin, and Gillian Humphreys, founder and artistic director of the Concordia Foundation, all awarded the OBE.

BBC Young Musician 2014 countdown begins

27 December 2013

Category finalists have been announced for the BBC Young Musician competition, the grand final of which takes place on 18 May 2014 at Usher Hall in Edinburgh. Five finalists were selected for each instrumental section, from more than 450 entries. All performers are aged between 8 and 18.

The Category Finals will take place from 3 to 7 March this year in the Dora Stoutzker Hall, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Cardiff. The semi-final follows on 9 March. BBC Young Musician will be broadcast extensively on BBC FOUR and BBC Radio 3.

For the first time, BBC Young Musician incorporates a jazz award. Running alongside the established classical music format, the first ever BBC Young Musician Jazz Award will comprise two audition stages followed by a final on 8 March, to be held at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. The Jazz Award finalists will be announced in early February.

The 2014 Category Finalists are as follows:

StringsWilliam Dutton (18) – violin; Anna Im (16) – violin; Elizaveta Tyun (18) – violin; Roberto Ruisi (17) – violin; Juliana Myslov (17) - harp

KeyboardMartin Bartlett (17) - piano; Ning Hui See (17) – piano; Hayley Parkes (18) - piano; Julian Trevelyan (15)  - piano; Isata Kanneh-Mason (17) - piano

WoodwindHannah Foster (17) - flute; Daniel Shao (18) - flute; Jessika Gillam (15) - saxophone; Nick Seymour (17) - saxophone; Sophie Westbrooke (15) - recorder

BrassEllena Newton (14) - trombone; Isobel Daws (14) - trombone; Matilda Lloyd (18) - trumpet; Lewis Bettles (18) - trombone; William Thomas (13) – trumpet

PercussionMatthew Farthing (17); Elliott Gaston-Ross (15); Jess Wood (16); Tom Highnam (17); Stefan Beckett (18)

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