Well, what a year 2015 was. Our Education work expanded our reach across to the far side of Somerset with OperaPLUS and in Year of Percussion with percussionist Joby Burgess, and our Piano courses we were voted second place in the Best Piano Courses in the UK in a survey by piano blog the Cross Eyed Pianist.
The first major project of 2015 was April’s OperaPLUS production of ‘The Stylist of Somerset’ (also known as Rossini’s Barber of Seville). OperaPLUS brings together groups of aspiring young opera singers and primary school children who then work together under the guidance of Artistic Director, Saffron van Zwanenberg and Audrey Hyland (Royal Academy) to produce five performances at venues across Somerset. This year, the OperaPLUS project expanded to include over 100 children participating in each performance.
We are delighted that OperaPLUS has been nominated as ‘Best Classical Music Education Initiative’ in the Music Teacher Awards for Excellence, sponsored by ClassicFM. Please vote for us! (And hurry – voting closes on Friday 22nd January!)
Year of Percussion
June saw the final performance of another of our large scale projects – Year of Percussion – which gave the opportunity to students from a dozen schools to take part in workshops under the leadership of internationally acclaimed percussionist, Joby Burgess. Their work culminated in a concert held at the Cheese & Grain in Frome, in which the children performed en mass together with Joby who introduced the sold out audience to an unusual array of percussion instruments during the show. This was the fourth year this project has run and which has now involved over 6000 children; we are looking forward to 2016, which continues our journey around the orchestra with ‘Year of the Reed’.
Our attempts to involve as many young people as possible in a wide spectrum of music based activities continued in July with the ‘Summer Production’. Children between the ages of 10 and 17 spent a week working with Saffron, Will Carslake (music director) and designer Sarah Lawton in which the children chose to perform Macbeth in combination with music by and based on Mozart with design inspied by the work of contemporary American artist Kiki Smith. This is a largely participant driven event and the performance demonstrated the children’s creative skills in acting, music and the various elements of stage design. The final show took place at Frome’s unique Silk Mill on the Friday.
Maureen Lehane Vocal Awards
Every November our focus moves from the schools of Somerset into London’s Wigmore Hall for the annual Maureen Lehane Vocal Awards, the highlight of our Young Artist’s calendar. Following preliminary auditions, the final seven singers each sang an aria by Handel, a song by Peter Wishart and a piece of their own choosing for the Wigmore audience. Sadley, Oliver Johnston was forced to withdraw through ill-health on the day before the finals, so his place was taken by the first reserve singer, baritone Julien Mellaerts. Astonishingly, with such a short warning, Julien was able to produce the winning performance and walked away with the £2,000 first prize.
Roll on 2016!