Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.
Involve me and I’ll understand is the raison d’être for the English Chamber Orchestra’s education and outreach programme, ECO Close Encounters.
It was my great good fortune to enjoy the second visit in our Creative Connections programme, Close Encounters with St Edmund’s School, Canterbury last week. Our English Chamber Orchestra Co-prinicipal, John Mills, gave a brilliant masterclass to some extremely talented and promising young musicians from St Edmund’s itself, as well as from other schools in the area.
The young players overcame their nerves – responded with enthusiasm to John’s comments and suggestions - and played extremely well. After the masterclass, there was a Presentation to an audience, in which four of the pupils performed their pieces in full, followed by a stunning performance by John himself. The visit is recorded in more depth on St Edmund’s own website: www.stedmunds.org.uk
We are delighted with the partnership and look forward to our next visit as well as to visiting some of the local primary schools with a Creative Music and Storytelling workshop – all part of the Creative Connections.******
On 9th March the ECO embarked upon the start of its CREATIVE CONNECTION collaboration based at St Edmund's School, Canterbury, and involving 14 local state schools.
John Mills (violin), Bozidar Vukotik (cello) and John Thurgood (horn) coached the East Kent Children's Orchestra (EKCO) and then took part in a question-and-answer session (the children's questions to the ECO musicians ranging from "should we finish that piece on an up-bow?" to "how much do you get paid?").
The children's orchestra then performed three pieces for an audience made up of parents, teachers and a variety of visitors (including local people and ECO Charitable Trust members). The EKCO was made up of children from Barham Primary, Blean Primary, Graveney Primary, Herne Bay Junior, Hoath Primary, Petham Primary, St Anselm's Catholic School, St Christopher's, St Mary's Catholic School, St Peter's Methodist Primary, St Stephen's Junior, Stelling Minnis Primary, Wingham Primary, Simon Langton Boys' and Girls' , and St Edmund's itself.
The ECO Close Encounters outreach team will return to Canterbury on May 12 for a masterclass for young string players, given by ECO violinist John Mills. The team will also lead the first of a series of creative workshops with schools in the local community, some of whose pupils are members of the EKCO. In the Autumn the Creative Connections programme will run a coaching session for St Edmund's senior Symphony Orchestra.
Will Bersey, Director of Music at St Edmund's, said "we are delighted to welcome such esteemed musicians to our school and are hugely excited about what has been achieved today. It is truly moving to experience what has been achieved by this group of musicians since their inception just 18 months ago, and to reward them with the privilege of working with musicians from the English Chamber Orchestra is an opportunity that we are extremely thankful for."
Marilyn Groves, the ECO’s Education and Outreach Manager, who initiated the Creative Connection project, was able to observe all the workshop activities, both tutti and sectional, and said that the morning was ‘Inspiring - with the children showing wonderful enthusiasm and the ECO musicians thoroughly enjoying working with the young people.’ She added ‘We are all very much looking forward to the development of this Creative Connection and felt warmly welcomed at St Edmund’s School.’
Two years ago, a packed Royal Albert Hall witnessed a remarkable event - the premiere of Ocean World, a collaboration between the English Chamber Orchestra, schools from the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea, the Royal College of Music and the Royal Albert Hall. Jump forward to October 2009 and we were back for an event that was even bigger, with even more children singing to an even more packed RAH. This was the premiere of One Sun One World, in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund, featuring once again the ECO and players from The Royal College of Music, a 1500-strong Children's Choir, and a new multi-media presentation. It was the culmination of many months work by countless people throughout the borough, exploring the themes of the piece in music, art and drama as well as learning the whole score.
The strong environmental message of One Sun One World is something that this generation of children feels passionately about (as a father of two lads under 15 I can vouch for that!). What staggered all of us on stage was the sheer amount of music they had memorised - 2 hours non-stop, and all sung with so much energy and commitment. A huge amount of credit must also go to the fantastic music-loving staff who coached the children throughout the project. The thing I found most inspiring was that the main problem during the day was containing the children's incredible levels of excitement at just being at the Royal Albert Hall, something we musicians really do take for granted sometimes. Just looking round from my orchestra chair was an awesome sight! (For some more info on the event, why not visit www.wwf.org.uk and click on What We Do, then Working With Schools). The WWF currently has plans to take this project on a UK Tour for their 50th Anniversary, so watch this space...