In the last six months three projects supported by 2023 BBT Communities grants have resulted in vibrant performances which undoubtedly demonstrate their strong belief in the power of ‘Inclusion’.
The Multi-Story Orchestra is based in Peckham in South London and their performances bring together choirs and instrumentalists to give incredibly moving musical experiences that celebrate the local community. They believe everyone has the chance to be involved in music and be creative, which they achieve by going into schools to form ensembles that involve everyone.
In June 2023 (as part of our BBT20 celebrations) they performed a work called Verified created by BBT Artist Kate Whitley and the Young Multi-Story Creatives, many of whom have experienced social deprivation, exclusion and racism. The piece is written for choir, orchestra and four soloists and explores the complexities of addiction to social media.
It was a hot, sultry night at Bold Tendencies, which is on the top floor of a decommissioned multi-story car park and we were grateful for the breeze coming through the open sides. The young people in the choirs sang their hearts out and the orchestra members were totally committed, as were the soloists (three of whom are BBT Artists). The performance received an ecstatic ovation resulting in a review by The Arts Desk where it was described as ‘brilliant’ and ‘brought tears to the eyes’.
They have several additional performances planned for 2024 but in the meantime click on this link to watch that memorable night.
In September, in was the turn of the Chineke! Junior Orchestra which gave a concert at Fairfield Halls, Croydon also in South London, which was the culmination of a week’s residential course at Benenden School in Kent.
Chineke! was founded to provide career opportunities for Black and ethnically diverse classical musicians and the week away allowed the junior orchestra members, 91 in all aged between 11 and 22, to get to know each other, learn key orchestral skills and to immerse themselves in repertoire previously unknown to them.
They went on to give stunning performances of works by Margaret Bonds, Samuel Coleridge Taylor (who lived and died in Croydon) and a world premiere of a new work by British composer Tristen J T Watts who is only 19. I have to report that some of the younger players were so small we could barely see them over the tops of their music stands!
It was a wonderful evening which the participants’ Mums, Dads and siblings (who knows they might be playing in the Chineke! Junior Orchestra themselves one day) enjoyed enormously. There was a terrific community spirit about the whole event which was a delight to have witnessed.
Chineke! Junior Orchestra already has two future courses planned for 2023/24 with an expectation that it will become an annual project.
Finally in November I headed off to Bournemouth in South West England on a particularly grim, wet day to join the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra for their Symphony from Scratch weekend which combined many different groups of music-makers to rehearse and perform movements from Borodin’s Symphony No 2.
A huge orchestra of 95 musicians, conducted by BSO CEO Dougie Scarfe, was formed when 37 professional musicians and assistants drawn from the BSO itself, its disabled-led ensemble BSO Resound and the local freelance community, were joined by 45 keen amateur musicians of all ages from BSO’s ‘Dorset Rusties’ group (the Orchestra’s most long-standing community orchestra) and nine young disabled musicians from the National Open Youth Orchestra (NOYO) centres in Bournemouth, London and Cardiff as well as an additional three visually impaired students.
To accommodate some young learners and non-standard instruments (Clarion and LinnStrument, saxophone and tenor horn) four parts were adapted, four brand-new parts were written and two braille scores were created. The BSO team also provided extra learning resources to help the young musicians prepare and feel confident.
I talked with Connor (cello), Torin (tenor horn) from NOYO and Helen (a Rusty) and their sense of joy and achievement in having taken part in this project was totally infectious. Hats off to them and all the different teams that came together to make this possible. This was a pilot weekend which has opened up a new world of musical possibilities which BSO plans to share with other organisations.
I would also like to give my special thanks to all the parents involved in supporting their children to enable them to take part in Multi-Story, Chineke! and the BSO’s project. They are often unsung heroes whose input is invaluable.
While ‘Diversity’ is quite rightly high on everybody’s agenda at the moment, all three of these projects alerted me to something just as important: Inclusion. Surely we all want to feel part of our communities and music has to be one of the most fulfilling and productive ways of achieving this.