Partnership Project Case Study: Camden’s A New Created World

Camden Music | Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment | Royal Academy of Music

September 2019 – March 2020

A New Created World, one of our 2019-20 Partnership projects, was a collaboration between Camden Music Service, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE) and the Royal Academy of Music (RAM). It was an ambitious and imaginative project led by an incredibly talented team, which took place over two terms and culminated in a joyous performance. The project was a great success and we are looking forward to following its legacy over the coming years.

Autumn Term 2019 – Creating A New Created World

The project started in the autumn term of 2019 with workshops in two Camden primary schools and two special schools. These sessions were facilitated by James Redwood, composer and experienced music leader, and supported by two players from the OAE and two RAM students. During these initial workshops, 52 children from the four schools generated the musical ideas that would become the heart of the piece.

Matthew Glenn (Music Education Consultant for the London Music Fund) attended a session at Swiss Cottage special school in November. He participated in the workshop and then caught up with Sheena Masson (Camden Music) and Cherry Forbes (OAE Education) on how the project was coming together. Afterwards, Matthew wrote:

“This was a very moving session to be part of – and demonstrated in such an incredible way that the funding which LMF provides, when a project is so carefully planned and delivered, can have such a profound impact on the music making that can be experienced and achieved by young people. The key factor is that project leaders have planned for success in a realistic and achievable way, with room for the creative process to fly.”

A longer extract from Matthew’s report can be found on page 5.

 

Collaboration and understanding

All four schools come together in December, again with James and the musicians from the OAE and RAM, for a day of workshops at Cecil Sharp House. The first day of collaboration between the four schools incorporated a sign-language workshop, to enable the children from the mainstream schools to communicate with their fellow musicians from the two schools for deaf children. James learnt the signs along with the children, and then incorporated them in his conducting and rehearsing of the piece, with the help of two professional BSL interpreters.

The project’s leaders felt it was a crucial for A New Created World to enable participants to develop a deeper understanding of how different people create, learn and play. For most of the young people involved, this was their first experience of a mixed instrument ensemble with players from a wide range of backgrounds and with such different abilities. The project was consciously designed to encourage and facilitate reciprocal learning; pupils from different schools were buddied up for mutual support, and James’s activities during warm-ups and rehearsal breaks developed empathy, understanding and a sense of community.

“Our aim for this project was to develop a model of inclusive practice that creates and hones ways of supporting all participants in a mixed-ability ensemble to achieve their personal best, whatever their starting point as musicians.” – Peter West, Head of Camden Music Service

Georgina (LMF’s Programmes Manager) went along to one of the Cecil Sharp House workshops in December. She thoroughly enjoyed the session, and was impressed both by the management of the workshop and by the standard of composition and playing from the young people. Here is an extract from Georgina’s report:

“The children from all schools were clearly enjoying themselves and I was surprised to hear that this was the first time they had played together, given how well everyone worked together as a large ensemble. I was particularly impressed with the brass section’s performance at the end of the session. They played a piece composed by a young student from Rhyl School. The piece of music composed by this student was very well written with a strong, majestic feel and sounded like it was written by someone much older.

The project seems to be providing suitably challenging material for both mainstream and special school children as they were all engaged throughout the afternoon. The management of this project is excellent, Sheena Masson is actively involved in all sessions as well as the administrative coordination which is really good to see. The partnership between OAE and Camden Music Service (exemplified by this session) is strong and there is clear coordination between the two in running the sessions.”

Spring Term 2020 – Performance Preparations

Using the musical ideas developed by the pupils in the autumn term, keeping their creative input very much at the heart, James composed the piece for a massed ensemble with a multitude of instruments, ages and abilities. A New Created World was now a multi-movement, ten-minute work. With the score complete, the spring term involved further rehearsals in each of the four schools, before the final collaborative workshops at Cecil Sharp House. Meanwhile, all over the borough of Camden, youth ensembles, school choirs and beginner instrumentalists were learning their own parts of A New Created World.

Dorothy (LMF’s Programmes Assistant) went along to a morning session at Gospel Oak Primary School, one of the two mainstream schools that had been involved from the start. At this session, which took place about a month before the final performance, Gospel Oak’s 15 members of the New Created World band were rehearsing their parts with James, two OAE players and two RAM students. Dorothy said:

“This was an impressive and uplifting morning, and it was clearly an exciting point in the process where things were really starting to come together. These young musicians aged 7-11 were incredibly focused throughout the session and all had something to contribute – a credit to James’s leadership as well as themselves. They clearly loved working with James and were inspired by the adult players who were guiding and playing with them. The atmosphere was one of hard work but also immense enjoyment, both of the piece itself and of the process.

The highlight for me was the expression on a young cellist’s face when she was reminded by James that the rhythmic pattern the brass players were practising at that moment was one she had composed the previous term, and that it would be performed by hundreds of musicians at the Albert Hall next month.”

After the schools’ individual rehearsals, the New Created World band came together at Cecil Sharp House, this time with a larger group of adult players from the OAE and RAM, to prepare the final performance. It wasn’t until the day of the concert itself that they would be joined by the Wider Opps bands, Camden’s youth ensembles and massed school choir!

“All the young people have progressed as musicians and developed their instrumental skills. Some have learned new notes, some have learned new techniques, all have developed in terms of general musicianship. Involvement in the project has given them a focus and a reason to improve. Students clearly have a real ownership of the piece and feel empowered through their participation in the composition process. This empowerment allows children at the very beginning of their musical journey to work alongside world class musicians as equals.” – Sheena Masson, Primary Music Co-ordinator, Camden Music Service

The Performance

A New Created World was performed as part of the Camden Music Festival, on 10 March 2020 at the Royal Albert Hall. The performance brought together the borough’s young musicians of all ages and standards: Camden Youth Orchestra, Concert Band and Jazz Band; four Wider Opportunities bands of beginner ukuleles, French horns, trumpets and recorders; a massed choir of primary and secondary singers from across the borough; and at its physical and musical centre, the New Created World band of pupils who had come up with the initial thematic material. They were joined by professional musicians from the OAE and RAM, and led by James Redwood and the BSL interpreters.

The LMF team (Chrissy, Georgina and Dorothy) were delighted to be able to attend the performance along with LMF Founder Trustee, Veronica. We were very proud to have funded such an ambitious, inspiring project.

Extract from the Camden Music Festival programme