This year, for the first time, we are delighted to be able to extend our project work in education to a local secondary school, the Joyce Frankland Academy in Newport, during June, as well as working with Thaxted Primary School in July.
We are very grateful for significant funding for this year’s work from the Essex Millennium Fund and Chairman’s Fund of Essex County Council, administered by the Essex Community Foundation, and to Orchestras Live for their support of Brandenburg Sinfonia’s work with us.
Young people’s musical development is a key element of Thaxted Festival’s philosophy, as indeed it was to Gustav Holst during his entire life and especially in the Whitsuntide Festivals he established here in Thaxted Church in 1916-18. Well over 1000 children have benefitted from our projects since 1997.
We see this work as even more important now, when budget cuts are causing musical education to disappear from the wider curriculum as well as at GCSE and A-level. The number of teenagers now participating in music in England is the lowest on record. (A recent letter to The Times headed ‘Musical Youth Falling Silent’ on this subject was signed by leading figures in the musical world including Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, Dame Evelyn Glennie, Alison Balsom, Joyce di Donato and many others.)
Joyce Frankland Academy
Some 30 pupils will work with members of the Brandenburg Sinfonia for three days, focussing on the Stravinsky, Bartok and Jenkins pieces in the 24 June Festival concert. They will develop skills in composing, performing, working in ensembles and listening, together with developing melodic, rhythmic and harmonic knowledge in line with the Key Stage 3 curriculum. Their resulting compositions will be performed to parents and pupils in the school at the end of the project. Pupils in the project will have free tickets to the Brandenburg concert on 24 June.
Thaxted Primary School
About the same number of younger pupils will develop similar skills at Key Stage 2, and will also create their own compositions, with a small team of Brandenburg professionals. This project will also conclude with a performance to pupils and parents. Participants will become familiar with much of the music in our final Gala concert on 15 July, including the two suites of music by Bernstein and Bizet as well as other items. These pupils will be offered free tickets to the 15 July concert by the Brandenburg Salon Orchestra.
We will be working closely with the teachers involved in both schools to evaluate the impact of the projects on pupils’ musical development, but we are also sure that their immediate involvement and creativity will be very clear during the course of this work. We know that so much talent at the top of our present musical culture has arisen out of our Essex schools in the past; we hope that involvement in these projects will help to ensure that this talent is encouraged in the current generation of our students.
Artistic Director, Thaxted Festival
Thaxted Festival Foundation directors Gareth Stainer (centre) and Peter Donovan (right) receiving the grant award to support our education projects from Essex County Council Chairman, Councillor John Aldridge, on Tuesday 17 May at an Essex Community Foundation event.