Can kids Handel Beethoven? BBC initiative to ‘open up world of classical music’ to Tameside children

Primary school pupils in Tameside are taking part in a star-studded BBC arts initiative which aims to open up the world of classical music for children.

Singers Cerys Matthews and Laura Mvula are just two of the high profile ambassadors of Ten Pieces, a music, digital and dance project, run by a partnership including Tameside Borough Council.

Blue Peter’s Barney Harwood will also be involved along with dozens of local Ten Pieces Champions including music services, music education hubs and specialist music, dance and arts organisations.

The world famous violinist Nicola Benedetti has also agreed to take part.

“As music lessons in schools are being marginalised, music becomes a kind of luxury only afforded to the few,” Cerys said.

“This project can help toward ensuring equal access to one of the most giving of all arts.”

Tameside Council’s Head of Culture Emma Varnam said: “It is a wonderful opportunity for children, a dynamic project which will fire their imaginations.

“It will open up another experience for them.”

Bradley Green Primary school in Hyde was one of 17 schools across the country which took an active role in the pilot scheme.

The project in Tameside will kick off on October 7, when around 500 pupils from 15 of the borough’s primary schools will attend Cineworld, Ashton, to watch a film introducing ten pieces of classical music featuring the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

The film will showcase a range of music from baroque to contemporary.

Children will be encouraged to develop their own individual creative responses through music, dance or digital art.

After the film screening there will be a week of special events for schools nationwide followed by a celebratory finale in 2015.

The finale will showcase children’s work across the country as well as the original ten pieces.

The Royal Northern College of Music’s artistic director Michelle Castelletti told MM: “The BBC’s Ten Pieces is a fantastic initiative which many organisations should support.

“The fact that this project will allow children to respond in any creative way they choose adds to the value of it all and to developing the Arts in general.

“The RNCM looks forward to supporting this great initiative which will surely strengthen education and give children the multi-dimensional experience that is sometimes difficult to achieve in the classroom.’

Victoria Joyce, a soprano and former RNCM student originally from Heald Green who has sung principal roles at Europe’s major opera houses, thinks the new initiative opens up classical music to those who may not normally be exposed to it.

She told MM: “Too often classical music and instrumental tuition are the bastion of the middle classes and upwards because instruments are expensive and lessons around £150-£200 a term and for many of the UK’s families this sadly becomes a luxury that they cannot afford.

“I’m certain that not only do so many talented children slip through the net, but a number never even realise that they have a desire, talent or interest, simply through lack of exposure to the genre.”

She added: “The fact that the project requires them to engage with their emotional response, whether positive or negative, to what they hear and that they may then translate this response into a media that resounds with them is the vital and innovative difference.

“It makes music accessible and an outlet for the creativity that lies within them, rather than being just about learning an instrument.”

Ms Varnam says children would be able to respond in a variety of different ways – through digital work, dance or a piece of artwork, and that the project was absolutely not designed exclusively for children who were musically talented.

She also said that it was important to expose children to classical music and that it could benefit children’s health and wellbeing.

Katy Jones, Executive Producer of BBC Learning, based at Salford Quays, said: “Music has the power to transform lives, and we are hoping that this project will be a catalyst for all kinds of creativity in primary schools across the country, as well as providing an inspirational way in to classical music.”

Five BBC orchestras and the BBC Singers will be involved, and there will be supporting coverage on television and radio.

Working towards Arts Award Explore, the children will be encouraged by a partnership involving Tameside Cultural Services, the BBC, a forum of the borough’s music teachers and Stone Soup, a Tameside Creative Industries organisation.

Ms Varnam said: “Now classical compositions are being played in the gaming world as well as in films and on television it is giving children the opportunity to hear this kind of music more.”

“Thirteen of our children recently had the experience of getting to play with the Halle Orchestra which is a memory that will never leave them.”

“For those who do not have musicians in their families, they would never get the chance to do this. We need to find that little piece of fire in them.”

There will be coverage on television and radio of the children’s performances next summer, as well as clips online.

For more information click here.

Image courtesy of NicolaBenedettiVEVO, with thanks.

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