Performance of a lifetime for our County’s young musicians at the Royal Albert Hall

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Music For Youth Proms 2016

At 9:00 on Monday 14th November 2016 over 200 young singers and instrumentalists from around Gloucestershire were eagerly boarding their coaches to take them to the iconic Royal Albert Hall in London for their performance at the Music For Youth Proms 2016.

Music For Youth is a national music charity providing access to performance and audience opportunities for young musicians across the UK through its annual season of festivals and concerts. With over 40,000 young musicians taking part each year it is the world’s largest youth music festival. Gloucestershire Music hosts one of the 50 Regional Festivals at Cheltenham Town Hall each year and welcomes performances from schools, community groups, music services etc. through to groups run by young people who demonstrate amazing compositional and ensemble creations in their own right.

This year we were delighted to have three of our Gloucestershire Music County Music Groups get through to the National Festival.  Read more about this in Steve Legge’s previous blog ‘Now that’s what I call a weekend!’   We then were delighted to hear the exciting news that GYJO had been invited to perform at the final platform at the Music For Youth Proms in London. This was a great honour to be invited to perform alongside 3,000 other performers who would get the chance to perform on one of the three days.

The amazing bonus this year was that Gloucestershire Music was successful in submitting a bid to MFY to provide the Massed Ensemble item for one of the three nights at the MFY Proms. We submitted a joint proposal for 500 young musicians to come together from our county and two local Music Hubs: South Gloucestershire Music Hub and Bath & North East Somerset Music Hub. The proposal was to commission a work from the wonderfully talented Philip Harper (Composer, Conductor and Musical Director of the Cory Band – No.1 Brass Band in the World!) to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. Through GM’s links with the National Concert Band Festival we proposed the Wind Orchestras from all three areas collaborated. The massed singing force was a combination of the county choirs from the three areas and pupils from Secondary Schools. I was so proud to see that 34 of our County’s Secondary Schools nominated pupils, which made for a wonderfully inclusive choir.

The wonderful piece entitled ‘A Shakespearean Triptych’ was ready at the start of September 2016 and all the wind orchestras set to work learning their parts. The massed choir had a two-day course during the October half term and had a fabulous time learning the atmospheric work.

On the 6th November we all travelled down to Bath Pavilion to rehearse for the first time as a massed ensemble and with Philip Harper at the helm conducting the day! It was so exciting to finally hear the piece come together with all the singers and instrumentalists. The young musicians really rose to Philip’s direction, which brought the important nuances out of the scoring to create a wonderfully theatrical performance.

When the big day came we were all very excited, as were the five coaches of supporters who joined us for the day! Anyone who has been to the Royal Albert Hall will know what an incredibly impressive and special performance venue it is, but to be seated on the stage itself or in the choir seats alongside the awesome central organ is one of life’s most memorable moments! The young musicians were in awe of the venue and were fascinated to watch the rehearsals for some of the other groups performing. Then it was time for our rehearsal and a sea of red t-shirts rose out of their seats and stormed the stage, with our fanfare musicians flanking the sides of the stage on the steps – it was a magical sight!

After a successful rehearsal the massed ensemble had some time to take in the sights of the Science Museum and have some food before we returned to the RAH to give our world premiere performance! The instrumentalists prepared for their entrance from their dressing room (even that is a fascinating part of the RAH that not many people get to see! We refrained from having too many demanding rider requests!) and when they weren’t performing they got to watch the performers up close from the Arena. The choir members had a great view from the choir seats and were having a wonderful time throughout the performance making their torches dance to the music, creating a twinkling star effect in the darkness, which was magical!

Then our time came – just before the interval – to perform. Ten minutes of pure musical joy ensued and every single young musician focused, sang and played their hearts out to wonderful effect. I’m sure there were many a teary eye from the parents and supporters from the audience at that point! Everyone was so proud of the result – the piece resonated around that famous hall with the drama intended and the atmosphere was spine tingling!

What was also incredibly inspiring for all involved was seeing such a diverse range of young musicians coming together in all the other performances that night. From orchestras to smaller instrumental ensembles; neon faced drumming groups to dancing jazz bands; heavy metal bands to choirs the standard of musicianship was at it’s highest standard and there was something for everyone.

For some of our musicians and singers in particular this was a world away from any musical experiences they had been exposed to before and for many this was a truly life changing evening. At Gloucestershire Music we aim to provide these inspiring opportunities for young people by working with our National Partnership Organisations such as MFY and we are so pleased to hear that for the next three years at least the government will continue to fund these sorts of national initiatives through the Arts Council commissioning – long may it continue to be a priority for young people to have access to the wonders of music in all it’s different genres, as it is one of the greatest pleasures of being a human being and the souls of those involved in this project have certainly been enriched because of it.

Many thanks must go to:

  • The MFY team for their ongoing support and wonderful organization of such a mammoth festival
  • Make Music Gloucestershire/Arts Council for part funding this experience, South Glos and B&NES for their wonderfully collaborative teams – it was a pleasure to work with you and your young musicians
  • Philip Harper for your wonderful new work and for leading our massed ensemble with such flair and grace
  • Steven Legge (Extended Learning and Provisions Manager at GM) for all the amazing organization of our involvement in MFY this year – awesome!
  • All the GM staff and GYC Tutors who prepared the young musicians so brilliantly and looked after them so well during each event
  • All the Colwell team who support everything we do so wonderfully.
  • All the parents, schools and friends who supported their children to be part of such a wonderful experience – they couldn’t do it without your support and enthusiasm which is not to be underestimated – THANK YOU!

Watch this space…

There’s more!!! Come back to read our next blog about the next day when Gloucestershire Music took 21 young jazz musicians from GYJO to give their amazing debut performance at the Royal Albert Hall. As one of only a few County’s to have more than one group represented at the MFY Proms nationally it was such a treat to be able to go for a second day to celebrate the amazing talent we have in this county. All I can say is ‘WOW!’ but I’ll leave you to read all about it in the next blog.

The Lithuanian Brass Band movement, 20 years in the making

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With a population of around 150,000, Panevezys is a typical, Lithuanian industrial city.  A central hub with many outlying villages that form part of a municipality.  Over the last 20 years, the Municipality of Panevysis has supported a unique programme establishing UK style brass bands in towns and villages.

In 1996, Remigius Vilys (cultural minister for Paneveysis) witnessed brass bands for the first time at a European festival.  He saw how young people were engaged in positive music making and how communities and town bands were key to developing young players of the future.  So when Remi was charged with the responsibility of providing new ways to engage young people through music he looked to the British Brass Band system for inspiration.

Remi started to research how community brass bands in the UK used local community musicians to teach young people in their areas.  Many of these musicians are not qualified teachers in the formal sense but this does not hinder students as we can see through the many fine youth bands around the country.   Remi mirrored this approach in his own area by utilising local musicians to teach local children.

This infectious programme has since spread the length and breadth of the country.  The bands meet regularly to perform and compete throughout the year with five graded sections.  A National Youth Brass Band has represented Lithuania at the European Youth Brass Band Championships on two occasions and EBBA has agreed to hold the 2019 European Brass Band Championships in Palanga, a coastal town on the East coast.  The Lithuanian Brass Band Association  (www.lbba.lt) oversees the bands, foreign trips, fundraising, instrument purchase and festival organisation.  As part of their work they have also taken ownership over the Trefor Evans Trust* and brought other partners on board to support the development of young players.

Remi understands that the issues for young people in Lithuania are different to many in the UK however music, no matter where, can be used as a vehicle for helping to raise the aspirations and confidence of young people.  Remi used this philosophy as a way to gain funding from his local government to help issues of social mobility.

The local government of Panevezys originally provided funding for music with the simple aim of keeping young people occupied.  They can now see how music can have a profound effect on peoples lives and raise their confidence and aspirations.

This trip was my 16th to Lithuania and ten years since my first visit in 2006.  The occasion is a special one, to mark the 10th anniversary of the Tefor Evans Trust.  In March 2006, Lydbook Brass Band visited Panyvesis to give performances to a brass band movement that had only been in existence since 1995.  During their tour, Trefor had commented on how it would be possible for the band and Gloucestershire Music to help the young people by sending instruments and resources over from the UK.   Many members of Lydbook Band were shocked to see how few instruments were available for students (in one band 20 pupils were sharing 5 instruments).  In one village they discovered that the band had to stop the pupils taking the instruments home to practice as family members often sold them for money.  Trefor’s passing a day after the band returned led to his then partner Jo Millin to establish the Trefor Evans Trust.  Initially the trust was set up to raise money and collect instruments to send to Panevysis.  The Trust raised £3000 and amassed over 120 instruments that were delivered to Lithuania later that year.  This great response was the catalyst to providing local villages with the opportunity to establish bands for their young people.

It was particularly poignant to be joined on this trip by four members of the Lydbrook Band (past and present):  Robert Morgan, Philip Storer, Paul Mclaughlin and Jo Millin.  A commemorative concert was held on Saturday 1st October with representatives from many of the bands and music organisations of Lithuania.  Philip, Paul and I were then asked to lead master classes and rehearsals with the Austyn UP Youth Band on the Sunday.  These are among some of the finest youth brass band percussion players and always keen to learn more about the British banding scene and to explore new ideas.

On Monday 3rd October we packed our bags for our afternoon flight back to the UK.  Remi however had one last visit for us.  We made a brief detour to a primary school close to the City called Panevezio Pajonas.  Philip Storer, a passionate teacher and experienced whole class tutor, led two stunning sessions that gripped the children as they experienced their first session of playing a brass instrument.  It is always a pleasure to witness great teaching and learning and, as the Director of the School commented, ‘Philip is the perfect teacher’.

So ends my 16th trip and what a difference since that first tour in 2006.  Hundreds of young musicians now play each week in over 20 bands.  Many have gone on to study music both in Lithuania and abroad and the reputation of Lithuania bands is spreading.  Who knows what will be possible by the time they host the European Championships in 2019?  Watch this space.

Steve Legge, Extended Learning and Provisions Manager, Gloucestershire Music.

PAUL MCLAUGHLIN (Bass player with Lydbrook Band) said:  ‘I wasn’t sure what to expect for my first trip to Lithuania but having heard so much about it from my Lydbrook colleagues, I was intrigued.  I found the people incredibly welcoming, the children talented and grateful for any assistance we could offer, and the surroundings beautiful.  The final session in the primary school with two groups of 16 or so kids  was interesting to observe and participate in. Working with very experienced educators like Steve and Phil was insightful and the children obviously enjoyed it’

 

Steve Legge’s footnotes…!

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It’s been another busy year for GM with many successes, changes and developments.  Once again we have been well represented at a national level with success at both Music for Youth and the National Concert Band Festival.  In addition we were delighted to hear that the Jazz Centre won a ‘Diploma for Services to Jazz’ as part of the Music Education Awards in London.

Much of this success is attributed to the dedication of our young musicians and support of their families but we must also recognise and celebrate the hard work of our dedicated team of tutors. Our team of music tutors, teachers and group leaders commit themselves at weekends and evenings to support the development of our young musicians.  There have however been some changes to our staff this year and we were sad to lose some of our key members at the end of the academic year.

New Director for FVMC

Tim Cambray has retired as the Director of Five Valleys Music Centre after many years at the helm.  Tim has led the Centre not only as the Director, but also as the conductor of the Centre’s senior youth wind band.  We wish Tim all the very best for his retirement.  Katrina Wyndow will be taking on the role of Centre Director from September.  Katrina is a member of the music staff at Stroud High School and has been associated with Five Valleys Music Centre as a past student and current  woodwind tutor.  Katrina has a wealth of experience and we look forward to a new and exciting future for FVMC.

Fond farewell to Mr Cowley

Philip Cowley has been with GM for well over 30 years as a music tutor, music centre director, group leader and area manager.  In July this year, GM held their end of year staff ‘do’ and wished Phil a final goodbye as he retired.  The Vine Tree Inn in Randwick was packed as an all star jazz band entertained the crowds who came to wish Phil a happy retirement.  It was lovely to see past group members, pupils and staff members there in support of Phil’s commitment to GM over such a long time.  I am sure we will continue to see much of Phil as he is such a valued member of our adult groups.  Thank you from all at GM for the many years of dedicated service.

Steve Legge, Extended Learning and Provisions Manager, Gloucestershire Music.

Photographs: Steve Green Photography

Now that’s what I call a weekend…

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Photographs: Steve Green Photography

4 days
5 concerts
2 International Soloists
2 new commissions by young composers
3 national performances and nominations
250 miles travelled
150 young performers

What a weekend for Gloucestershire Music.  It started last Thursday, 7th July 2016, when our Trombone and Percussion Group (Flash Mob Ninjas) was invited to perform at the Cheltenham Festival.  A gig at the Cheltenham Town Hall has been come a regular experience for many of our county musicians however this event was special.  Not only did the FMNs get to perform to a packed bar at the interval but they also witnessed a performance by two of the world’s leading soloists.  Christian Lindberg (Trombone) and Evelyn Glennie (Percussion) wowed the audience with their solo and undoubtedly inspired the next generation of young musicians. For the young players to then meet Christian in person was the icing on the cake for a truly memorable evening.

Less than 12 hours later, we were back in our offices preparing for our annual trip to the Music for Youth National Festival.  Both the Gloucestershire Youth Wind Orchestra and Youth Jazz Orchestra had been invited to perform at this prestigious event.  With 65 young musicians and supporters we made our first trip of the week to Birmingham.  The wind band provided an entertaining concert that climaxed with a sensational rendition of Monti’s Czardas for clarinet duet.  This work is no mean feat for a violinist so to be performed (from memory) by two youth players was impressive stuff. After their performance at Birmingham Symphony Hall, we made our way to the Birmingham Town Hall to support the Gloucestershire Youth Jazz Orchestra.  I have one word – sensational.  It is not often we hear a youth group really nail a performance but this was one of those occasions, it even bought the music mentors to their feet in admiration.  Special congratulations must go to Roella Oloro for her composition Cruisin’ written especially for GYJO.  Another late night ensued as we headed back to Colwell.  Another day and another gig was not far away.

On Saturday, it was the turn of the Gloucestershire Youth Orchestra to make their way to the Music for Youth National Festival. This time it was the turn of young composer (and conductor) Freya Ireland to present her piece ‘From Ancient Grudge to New Mutiny’

How great to see and hear young composers’ music being written and presented on such an impressive stage as Birmingham’s Symphony Hall.  One adjudicator wrote:  ‘’Play this piece everywhere you can……..truly inspirational’’.

Not only is it impressive that GYO got through to the National Festival for a fifth year in a row (something of a record) but they also received a special nomination for their performance and presentation of Freya’s piece.  We will hear more soon about what this will mean fro GYO so watch out for news in the near future.

So we come to Sunday 10th July.  Back in Gloucestershire and back to another day at The Cheltenham International festival of Music.  The Gloucestershire Youth Wind Orchestra made their second appearance of the weekend performing to over 200 onlookers in the Imperial Gardens.  The weather held and the crowd supported the band as they performed a full hour of music.  Lakeside Concert Band (one of our adult music groups) took to the stage under the direction of Nicola Shorland.  Many of these players have only been playing for little over a year so to perform so confidently was great to see and hear.  Lakeside Concert Band made a fitting tribute to the end of four days of music making for Gloucestershire Music.

My thanks to the staff, parents (taxi drivers) and of course the musicians for making this a memorable end to a busy and enjoyable year of music making.

Steve Legge.

For more information on our music groups and centres visit our website

Vocal workshop with one of my heroes – John Rutter!

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Our first blog is by Lisa Mayo, Head of Gloucestershire Music, who recently attended a vocal workshop with John Rutter at Stroud Subscription Rooms:

“Last Saturday, the sun was shining as we arrived at the Stroud Subscription Rooms to join eager singers from all around the county (and indeed country!) in a day of singing with the world famous composer John Rutter. Stroud Choral Society had organised the event and invited Mr Rutter to come and guide us through some of his choral pieces, including his ‘Requiem’, which the Stroud Choral Society are preparing to perform on Saturday 25th June at 7:30pm at the Stroud Subscription Rooms.

The venue was full of enthusiastic singers – there must have been several hundred people – and a pile of scores greeted each person on their chair. I didn’t think we would be getting through all of this material but indeed we did! The day was an exciting challenge of speedy sight-reading for those who maybe weren’t as familiar with the pieces but what a great experience it was for singers of all abilities. It doesn’t get better than having the privilege of being directed and conducted by the actual composer himself and hearing hints and tips about how he actually would like the pieces to be performed. We were accompanied beautifully on the piano all day by the talented Huw Williams who directs Stroud Choral Society but who also is the Director of Music of Her Majesty’s Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace, London. We also heard from Stroud Choral’s Junior Choir – the ‘Minpins’ – (lead by Zoë Hynes) who performed the two-part arrangement of ‘The Lord Bless You and Keep You’ just after lunch. They sang beautifully in front of such a large audience and of course Mr Rutter himself! Well done all!

Mr Rutter is not only an incredibly talented individual but he is also an extremely personable man who spent every break we had talking to people and signing copies of their music. He is also a great raconteur and amused us throughout the day with stories of the wonderful musicians / composers he had met during his lifetime such as Bob Chilcott, John Tavener and George Shearing.

As well as enjoying many of Rutter’s pieces (‘A Flower Remembered’ was a piece I hadn’t heard before of his but is now on my list of to-dos with a choir – gorgeous!) we also enjoyed singing choral works by other composers such as George Shearing ‘Who is Sylvia’ – a surprising choral piece by this composer, Bob Chilcott’s beautiful ‘Irish Blessing’ and evocative classics such as ‘Panis Angelicus’ (Franck), ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ (Handel) and ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring’ (J.S. Bach).

For me this was a fascinating and invigorating day spent with a man whose music has inspired me from a young age (thanks to my wonderful music education with two of the best teachers one could have wished for who exposed me to his music throughout my time at school and beyond). His melodic lines are also such a pleasure to sing and his harmonies are like a comfort blanket and so pleasing and satisfying to my ear. Rutter himself commented that some of his critics often seem to view his music as a little trite. I couldn’t disagree with them more. Rutter has a signature style I agree but that could be said for all artists – is that a problem? If ‘music feeds the soul’, as many people quote, then Rutter’s music is one of my soul’s favourite meals and long may he continue cooking for us all!”