Articles tagged with: Weekend Courses

2016 – A Year in Review

2016 – A Year in Review

2016 – what a year it was. We say it every year, but this one really was the busiest we’ve ever known in Great Elm. We welcomed 400 participants on our weekend courses, a third of whom were new to Jackdaws; we delivered award-winning projects across Somerset and appointed our first ever Artists in Residence – the VIDA Guitar Quartet.

Our Projects

Credit Music Teacher Awards 2016

L to R: Margherita Taylor (Classic FM Presenter), René Bloice-Sanders (Company Member), Audrey Hyland (Music Director), Saffron van Zwanenberg (Director) and Sam Taylor (Classic FM Managing Editor). Credit: Music Teacher Awards 2016

The first success of the year was in February, when we attended the Gala Dinner of the Music Teacher Awards for Excellence, as our large-scale project OperaPLUS had been nominated for the Best Classical Music Education Initiative of 2015. We were absolutely delighted to hear OperaPLUS announced as the winners by Margherita Taylor, presenter on ClassicFM, who sponsored the prize. The 2016 OperaPLUS project was then a huge success in April; Artistic Director Saffron van Zwanenberg directed five fun-filled performances of Donizetti’s The Love Potion with 18 schools across Somerset packed with acting, singing and segways!

On Tuesday 22 March, the Gelachter Wind Trio performed alongside over 100 children from 12 schools across Somerset in the Grand Finale concert of the Year of the Reed project at the Cheese & Grain Frome. They performed arrangements of music by composers from Duke Ellington to Tchaikovsky interspersed with performances from the Gelachter Trio in the hour long concert.

Song Story 2016 was an exciting and fresh look at Vivaldi’s famous Four Seasons concertos. Composer William Carslake, together with Violinist Flora Curzon and Jackdaws Artistic Director Saffron van Zwanenberg investigated this work with four SEN Somerset schools – Elmwood, Avalon, Critchill and Selworthy. Each school focused on one season, working with the team and using the sonnets which inspired Vivaldi’s original composition, to create their own music and play and sing along with Vivaldi’s original score. There was a spectacular final performance of “Saving Earth” on Wednesday 29 June at Elmwood & Robert Blake Science College, Bridgwater. The students updated the story to tell of the fight against global warming and how we are saving earth from mankind’s thoughtlessness; a modern retelling which was really effective. It was a truly joyful experience for all involved.

Since September, Jack’s Music Club has been enjoying a new term of varied experiences and sound worlds. We have a whole new intake of keen young musicians attending each week, who gave two fantastic performances at the Jackdaws Christmas Concert, celebrating Ludwig van Beethoven (the concert happened to take place on 16 December, the maestro’s birthday). Jackdaws is now also an Arts Award centre and Jack’s members have the opportunity to earn a qualification during their usual weekly session.

We have continued to develop our work with the Music Hub for Somerset, taking a very active part in the Singing Strategy for Somerset schools, offering a mixed-programme of teacher training and in-school sessions, and the first Somerset Schools Singing Festival, which took place in the Summer term.

Caecilia AndriessenSaying ‘Vaarwel’

In May, we said a very sad farewell to Caecilia Andriessen, who retired. Caecilia was one of the very first tutors at Jackdaws and has been leading her unique “Pianos for All” ensemble course for the last 21 years, making the trip over from The Hague with several faithful students every year since 1995. The Pianos for All weekend involved groups of pianists playing music arranged for two, three and four pianos! We will miss this very special and joyful part of our annual calendar.

Saying ‘Hello’ to our Artists in Residence

In the Summer, the VIDA Guitar Quartet became the first Jackdaws Artists in Residence. It is the first time that such an appointment has been made by Jackdaws, and we are looking forward to unveiling future plans and discovering how the new relationship will bear fruit.

VIDA Concert at Jackdaws in December 2016VIDA celebrated this announcement with a fundraising concert on Saturday 3 December; their last before heading off on tour to the United States at the beginning of 2017. The concert raised important funds for Jackdaws and was a great treat for the local community.

The VIDA Quartet have a strong association with Jackdaws through the longstanding relationship between two members, Mark Eden and Christopher Stell (who also perform as the Eden Stell Guitar Duo). The Duo have been teaching at Jackdaws for more than 20 years and, as Artists in Residence, the Quartet will be ambassadors for Jackdaws in the UK and around the world.

Maureen Lehane Vocal Awards

Winners of the Maureen Lehane Vocal Awards 216

L to R: Saffron van Zwanenberg, Leo Nicholson (Accomp Prize), Holly Marie Bingham (2nd Prize), Nardus Williams (1st & Audience Prizes), Rosemary Joshua, Sam Carl (3rd Prize), Joan Rodgers, Julian Jacobson

The 2016 Vocal Awards continued with the same high standards set in previous years. This year it was Nardus Williams, a young soprano currently studying at the Guildhall with Yvonne Kenny, who took First Place as well as the Audience Prize. The Judges – Rosemary Joshua, Joan Rodgers, Julian Jacobson, chaired by Saffron van Zwanenberg – were very impressed with her performance.

We are all looking forward to the Vocal Awards 2017, which will be the 25th year of the competition. Keep your eyes peeled for details of how we are going to celebrate this significant milestone, which kickstarts the celebrations for Jackdaws 25th anniversary in 2018.

Two Great Losses

Sadly, we lost two great friends in 2016. The first was very early in the year when we heard of loss of tutor Kenneth van Barthold on 16 February. He was 88 years old and had been giving courses at Jackdaws for many years. An exceptional man, his obituary in the Telegraph shows just how respected he was.

sarah-wheeler-at-maureen-memorial-concertThen, in April, we received news that a long-time supporter of Jackdaws, Sarah Wheeler, had also passed away. She was a supporter of Jackdaws from the beginning, and a long time friend of Maureen. Sarah led the fundraising campaign that allowed us to buy our building, and when Maureen passed away in 2010, it was she who helped to organise the concert in her memory. She was a great lover of art and music and was a passionate believer in the healing power of both. As a result, she founded the Mental Fight Club and later the Dragon Cafe to share the benefit of both with others. She will be very sadly missed in Great Elm.

New Technology

We ended the year by releasing a video about our weekend courses. Produced by Tambrisk pictures, the four-minute video showcases our facilities and surroundings whilst answering questions a new-comer might have about their first visit to a Jackdaws music course. Watch the video here…

The Staff and Trustsees at Jackdaws want to thank all friends, supporters, colleagues and organisations who have helped us this year including;
Angus Allnatt Charitable Foundation, Rosemary Bugden Trust, the Mercers’ Trust, the Mackintosh Foundation, Frome Voices, Cooper Hall Foundation.

Grants were also received from a number of local councils and funding bodies;
Arts Council England, Sound Foundation Somerset, Frome Town Council, South Somerset District Council.

We are also extremely grateful to the number of individuals who have made donations both large and small, and to Friends of Jackdaws, whose regular contributions ensure that Jackdaws can continue to facilitate the joy of music participation for everyone.

If you would like to make a donation to Jackdaws, you can do so by becoming a Friend, or making a one-off donation. For more information read Supporting Jackdaws.

Welcome to Jackdaws

Welcome to Jackdaws

We’ve just launched our new video – Welcome to Jackdaws.

What is it like in Great Elm? And what happens on a weekend course? If you’re considering a music course find yourself asking these questions, give us 4 minutes to introduce ourselves.

A full list of Jackdaws Courses is available on our website.

Or take a look at our Vimeo channel.

Sing in Russian

Sing in Russian

“Truly there would be reason to go mad, were it not for music.”
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Mihaly Zichy - Performance at the Bolshoi Theatre

Mihaly Zichy – Performance at the Bolshoi Theatre (1856)

Classical Music, and vocal music in particular, began in Russia during the 19th century with the introduction of Western composers to the Imperial courts. It was in the 1860s with the Mighty Handful and the formation of Conservatoires in Saint Petersburg and Moscow by the Rubinstein brothers, Anton and Nikolai respectively, when a generation of composers emerged telling Russian tales with Russian music.

From the beginning, Russia invested heavily in staging grand performances of large scale artworks. The Bolshoi Theatre (right), which has housed performances of ballet and opera in Moscow since 1825, takes its name from the Russian word большой (Bol-shoi), meaning big, grand or great, and referring to the grand performances of Opera and Ballet in this type of theatre. Thus, other Bolshoi theatres include the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg. Plays take place in smaller Maly theatres.

The new Russian composers were influenced by Oktavist singers of the Orthodox church who sang deep and resonant basso profundo notes and the Bell ringing in the church towers as well as Jewish and folk melodies. This wave of nationalist Composers set texts by fellow compatriots Pushkin, Tolstoy and Dolmatovsky as well as Shakespeare and Goethe in translation. ‘The Mighty Handful’, a group of five composers headed by Mily Balakirev, including Cesar Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Borodin, strived to create a unique style of Russian Classical music, such as was being developed in other countries by their own composers.

Almost every Russian composer, from Mikhail Glinka and Alexander Dargomyzhsky, through the Mighty Handful and Tchaikovsky to Rachmaninov, Shostakovich and Prokofiev to contemporaries such as Sofia Gubaidulina, Alfred Schnittke and Leonid Desyatnikov, produced a huge amount of vocal music. Tchaikovsky wrote over 100 songs and 10 operas (including three of the biggest in the Russian repertoire Yevgeny Onegin, Iolanta and The Queen of Spades), Rachmaninov composed over 80 songs, and operas by Prokofiev and Shostakovich are still performed regularly.

Singing in Russian

Jackdaws Tutor Alexandre Naoumenko

Alexandre Naoumenko

To us, Russian vocal music can seem daunting because the text is written in the Cyrillic script, but it is easily rendered into sound with a little help. Melodies based on folk tunes are often simple, diatonic and repetitive yet driven by interesting rhythms and flavoured with unique harmony; it can be a challenge to marry these contrasting elements effectively.

Jackdaws works with Russian tenor Alexandre Naoumenko, who trained at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatoire and performed Mussorgsky at the Bolshoi theatre before becoming Russian language coach to the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, to bring this Russian music vocal course to you each year. Together with exceptional repetiteur Richard Shaw, Alexandre introduces the language, style and culture with simple techniques to help you can create an authentic Russian performance.

We invite singers of all voices and ability to this unique weekend course in our Somerset studio, where we provide your meals and arrange your B&B accommodation with clean, local providers exclusive to Jackdaws.

I really liked the work on a new shared song, which helped to make more sense of how this unfamiliar language works.” – 2015 Singing in Russian participant

Singing in Russian
Alexandre Naoumenko
Accompanist: Richard Shaw
Friday 23 – Sunday 25 September 2016
Level: All singers and abilities
Fee: £210
B&B: Rooms Available
Book Now

Summer at the Keys

Summer at the Keys

Summer is a wonderful time for music. What better time to enjoy a classical music retreat at Jackdaws, where you can focus entirely on your music.

 

Jackdaws Tutor Elena RiuThe Pianist Within
with Elena Riu

“Its lovely to have a weekend away, share music, make new friends and have lovely meals cooked..bliss.”

Elena Riu’s weekends in Great Elm are something a little different to your average piano course. Elena, who trained in El Sistema, the revolutionary music education system in Venezuela which also produced Gustavo Dudamel and the Simon Bólivar Symphony Orchestra, begins with a revised timetable and introduces simple stretches and relaxation exercises to help you calm those pre-performance nerves.

As Professor of Piano at Trinity Laban Conservatoire, her credentials are in no doubt, and her continued success as a specialist performer of South American and Spanish music gives an exciting twist to this unique weekend. In 2016, a significant anniversary for two of Spain’s most renowned composers – Manuel da Falla and Enrique Granados, there is no better time to explore this wonderful music and try a new approach to the piano.

The Pianist Within
Friday 17 – 19 June 2016
Deposit: £50
B&B: Available
Book Now

 

Jackdaws Tutor Julian JacobsonSharpen Up Your Chopin
with Julian Jacobson

“There is something fundamentally personal and at the same time so very masterly in his playing that he may be called a really perfect virtuoso.” – Felix Mendelssohn on Chopin

Julian Jacobson, whose own playing “reveals the known repertoire of sonatas by Haydn and Chopin in a clearer, penetrating and often revelatory light” (The Oxford Times), leads another composer focused weekend at Jackdaws. Previous weekends, highlighting composers such as Beethoven and Liszt, have been received enthusiastically by pianists wanting to explore the music of these composers who are so dominating in the central repertoire.

More than 260 years on, Chopin’s music still glitters, shining a light directly onto the deepest of human emotions with unrivaled power and delicacy. To understand Chopin’s music is to understand expression at the piano.

Sharpen Up Your Chopin
Friday 1 – Sunday 3 July 2016
Depost: £50
B&B: Available
Book now

Dutch Piano Pedagogue Caecilia Andriessen returns to the UK for the final time

Dutch Piano Pedagogue Caecilia Andriessen returns to the UK for the final time

Caecilia AndriessenIn 1995, Dutch pianist Caecilia Andriessen came to Jackdaws in Somerset with a new idea for a music course. A piano ensemble course. Maureen Lehane, Jackdaws founder and then Artistic Director, was intrigued to find out exactly what she meant.

Caecilia Andriessen is known in her native Netherlands for her unusual brand of piano ensembles – that is, multiple people at multiple pianos playing together in the same way that string or wind players might. She didn’t invent the genre – with composers such as Liszt also writing for groups of pianists – but Caecilia Andriessen is known worldwide for being one of the largest advocates of this type of pianism. Her arrangements and publications, not to mention performances, are praised for their style, charm and individual ambition; one book of arrangements Spelen met Liszt “Playing with Liszt” is for 5 pianos played by 15 pianists (or multiples thereof)!

Back in 1995, Caecilia Andriessen arrived at Jackdaws, bringing a few Dutch friends and pupils with her, with the remainder of the course places taken by musicians from the local area. They played music by Bach, Mendelssohn and others… all with the little twist that she had arranged all the music herself for multiple pianos playing simultaneously.

Piano Ensembles at Jackdaws with Caecilia AndriessenThe course sees pianists playing in ensembles just like string or wind players might. This does not mean four players at one piano, it means four players at four pianos – each pianist with their own full part. They play music from the 17th to the 21st centuries, either composed or arranged for piano ensemble by the tutor. The course in 1995 was a huge success and Maureen Lehane had invited the new tutor back the following year before she had even left.

Jackdaws has developed a great deal since 1995; it now approaches its 25th anniversary and is under the direction of Saffron van Zwanenberg, but the Piano Ensemble course still runs every year.

On Friday 27 May, Caecilia Andriessen will begin her Pianos for All weekend for the 21st and final time. Starting the course with her will be one particular participant, her student Paul Kocken, who has made the trip over from The Hague to Great Elm with her every year since 1995. He says,

Pianos for All weekend course with Caecilia Andriessen at Jackdaws“Caecilia is a wonderful teacher with a lot of experience teaching groups of twelve people playing four pianos together. You can imagine that this asks a lot of her teaching skills to have four pianists playing one piece. She arranges existing music for pianos or even string quartets for a combination of two or three pianos. We practice mostly at home a modern piece and an older one that Caecilia has arranged that year. For example, a piece of Lutosławski and Bach. By doing so we can play difficult pieces.

“She likes to tell little anecdotes and stories she has experienced in her musical life. All course members like the relaxed atmosphere of Jackdaws; the hospitality of the Great Elm community that gives the music students a warm welcome every year is heart warming.”

Over the 20 years, Caecilia Andriessen and Jackdaws have got the course just right. It has become an institution and the attendees have become friends outside the course as well.  In 2015, when regular participant Tanya had to break the sad news that Irene Hessel – another of the regulars who made the annual trip to Somerset from The Hague – had passed away from cancer at the age of 45, the news affected everyone. Tanya and Caecilia were at the funeral and said their farewell by playing four-hand piano music just as they had done with Irene.

On Pianos for All this year, we plan a celebration to mark over 20 years of joyous music making at Jackdaws. An occasion to reflect on the power of the music, and the friendships which have developed as a result.
Hard at work

Julian Jacobson sharpens up your Chopin

Julian Jacobson sharpens up your Chopin

The magic of Chopin’s music is still as potent as ever, even more than 260 years after his death. No notes feel so grateful under the pianist’s fingers yet require such great subtlety, delicacy, fire and virtuosity to make their full effect. Sharpen up your Chopin offers the opportunity for pianists to explore this unique composer through his music, under the expert guidance of Royal College of Music professor Julian Jacobson.

Frederic ChopinSimplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.

– Frederic Chopin

His is music has such immediacy, with the delicate interplay of melody and accompaniment so carefully arranged. The titles, descriptive rather than poetic, reveal nothing of the glorious music they contain. Jackdaws Artistic Director Saffron van Zwanenberg, said “Chopin’s music is so powerful and worthy of further exploration that a weekend devoted to it is long over due“.

Choosing Your Repertoire

Julian has led courses at Jackdaws for a most of its history. He suggests each participant bring two of their favourite pieces from Chopin’s huge ouvre. Of course, he is happy to assist with selection of repertoire at a suitable level of difficulty, and has written a one page guide giving approximate difficulties of Chopin’s most popular pieces.

Regarding what “stage” the pieces should be at, Julian says, ‘it’s nice if one of them represents what the participant feels is a fairly finished performance; maybe something they will have already played in public or performed for friends, and the other is more “work in progress” that the participant feels I can help with.’

We understand that each participant is different and if your two pieces are both further along the road that’s also fine; it’s best if the music is reasonably well prepared and this is more significant than the overall difficulty of the piece. Julian adds ‘The main thing is not to stress about how “good” the pieces will be, while hopefully doing one’s best to get them into reasonable shape for working on in the class!’

Finally, consider the size and length of the pieces. If you bring short pieces, Preludes for instance, we might find time to work on three or even four. Compare this with the complexity of a major work such as the 4th Ballade; this piece alone would be enough for an entire course. Assuming they will be short, but not too short pieces, two is perfect.

Julian was Head of Keyboard Studies at the Royal Welsh College of Music and is now a professor at the Royal College of Music and Birmingham Conservatoire, and a Guest Professor at Xiamen University China. He gives masterclasses internationally and is a Diploma Examiner for ABRSM.

Sharpen Up Your Chopin
with Julian Jacobson
Friday 1 – Sunday 3 July 2016
Level: Advanced
Fee: £200
B&B: Available
Book now

Christmas Ideas from Jackdaws

Christmas Ideas from Jackdaws

As musicians ourselves, we appreciate that it can be difficult at this time of the year, to find a unique and meaningful present for the musicians in your life (more meaningful than musical socks!)

To help you give something unique to the musician in your life, we have created Jackdaws Gift Vouchers to help you give the gift of music this year.

Jackdaws Gift Vouchers are

  • Available in any amount
  • Redeemable against any future course, either in the current brochure of in years to come
  • A useful gift for any musician
  • Have no expiry date!

With a Jackdaws Gift Voucher you give the invaluable gifts of knowledge, enjoyment and an experience to be cherished for years. To buy a gift voucher for your loved one, call Jackdaws on 01373 812383

Jackdaws voted Second in UK Piano Course Rankings

Popular piano blogger Frances Wilson – the Cross-Eyed Pianist – asked her readers to rate their favourite Piano courses and Jackdaws came second place on the competitive list.

We were delighted to read this news as Jackdaws courses are a unique resource for musicians of abilities.

Philip Fowke at JackdawsThe survey also revealed the reasons people come on courses like ours. At the top of the list was the the opportunity to work with leading teachers, something Jackdaws offers at every weekend course, and to gain “useful, critical feedback”.

Survey answers concluded that people enjoyed the social element of meeting other pianists, as well as the opportunity to play in front of others in a non-competitive environment. A further bonus was the chance to focus on their piano playing “without having to deal with cooking or family matters”.

Jackdaws piano courses run on weekends throughout the year and are taught by leading pianists such as Mark Tanner, Philip Fowke, Graham Fitch, Margaret Fingerhut and Melanie Spanswick. Courses are limited to ten participants to ensure all musicians get a fair share of the tutor’s time, with all meals provided on site by our renowned cooks Alex and Loo.

Read the full article on The Cross-Eyed Pianist.

Jackdaws Tutor Julian Jacobson

Upcoming Vocal Courses

Jackdaws BirdsJackdaws Vocal Courses run throughout the year and cater for musicians of all abilities, from your first note ( Discover Your Voice ) to perfecting your high notes ( The Vocal Technician ). Our courses are based on our cores values – inspiration, access and inclusion.

Opera Workshop
Mary Plazas

Friday 19 – Sunday 21 February 2016

Performance vs Technique
Rosa Mannion

Friday 11 – Sunday 13 March 2016

they created a safe environment for experimenting with our singing

The Vocal Technician
Joy Mammen

Friday 13 – Sunday 15 May 2016

Discover Your Voice
Penny Jenkins

Friday 3 – Sunday 5 June 2016

Jackdaws Autumn 2015Staged Opera Scenes
Saffron van Zwanenberg and Audrey Hyland

Thursday 7 – Sunday 10 July 2016

Our residential weekend courses are the perfect retreat, where you can focus on your singing immersed in the calm of the Somerset countryside. You will work one to one with the best tutors in the country.

Singing Ensembles
Jessica Walker and David Knotts

Thursday 18 – Sunday 21 July 2016

Saffron and Audrey are an amazing team as well as experts in their field

Jump to all Jackdaws Voice courses

New Season Courses Announced!

New Season Courses Announced!

BrochureLOWAfter the long wait, we are excited to finally be able to present our new season of weekend music courses and the 2015-16 year brochure.

We should introduce a few of our new tutors, such as Melanie Spanswick and Timothy Barratt (both piano) whose biographies glitter as much as their playing. Ralf Dorrell presents our first ever weekend Jazz Course to go alongside his One Day Course, now in it’s third year. Esteemed Irish baritone, Russell Smythe brings vocal health to the fore in his first weekend course.

Regular Clarinet tutor David Campbell has joined forces with sax-traordinaire Andy Tweed and together they will host a single reed feast for Clarinets and Saxophones in March.

Anna Stegmann returns for the second Recorder Weekend in a row, as does Mary Plazas’ Opera Workshop. Sarah Leonard and Stephen Varcoe present, for the second time, their English Song course in February, whilst the first of Philip Fowke’s Piano Workshops this season has a revolutionary new focus.

We are extremely excited about what this new year will bring, the music we’ll hear and the friends we’ll make. We hope to see you in Great Elm soon.

Why not jump straight to the course pages?
Voice, Piano, Strings, Wind, Ensemble, One Day
or Read the new brochure online

Jackdaws Brochure 2015-16