Music students in unique Orchestral project

During the last week of half term in May, we were lucky to work with musicians from the nationally acclaimed Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE), the amazing animatuer, James Redwood, as well as music students from the University of York on a 3-day music project which utilised and developed performance and composition skills. The aim of the project was to sing authentic Handel songs from the opera ‘Acis and Galatea’ and combine these with a song composed by our students (in a pop style), two instrumental pieces, a drama piece and a movement piece. These elements worked alongside performances by OAE and students from the University of York, in a performance at St Mary’s Church, as part of Beverley’s annual Early Music Festival.

Beverley Early Music Festival 2015 - Performance of I Rage, I Melt, I Burn at St Marys Church.
Beverley Early Music Festival 2015 – Performance of I Rage, I Melt, I Burn at St Mary’s Church.

The first workshop day started with 53 musicians from years 7 to 9 playing drama games and rhythm games to build up their skills of working as an ensemble. The students then moved on to writing their own song based around the relationship of Acis and Galatea, or ‘Mates vs. Dates’ as the boys soon named the song! Groups of around a dozen students worked together to write a verse each, before these were all put together and then orchestrated. This was the birth of another BGS masterpiece! The afternoon provided variation, with the students hearing OAE performers play baroque music on instruments from the 1700s (including traditional gut strings), learning three authentic Handel songs, devising a drama piece, and creating a polyrhythmic drumming piece.

The second day of the project added a new element – 50 girls from Beverley High School joining. Again, we had an action-packed day, as we sang our amazing song, listened to the song that the girls had composed, created a movement piece, composed and rehearsed a 110-strong instrumental piece. It was a noisy (but enjoyable) day! These parts were then weaved together and polished on the final day of rehearsals which was split between the High School and St Mary’s Church.

Beverley Early Music Festival 2015 - Performance of I Rage, I Melt, I Burn at St Marys Church.
Beverley Early Music Festival 2015 – Performance of I Rage, I Melt, I Burn at St Mary’s Church.

The evening performance in St Mary’s Church was incredible, with the pews shaking during the huge instrumental piece; the echoes of angelic voices in the authentic Handel works; gasps of amazement in the movement piece (boys can dance!) and huge admiration when the boys sang their own song, accompanied by the Orchestra players. Many proud and happy faces were seen in the 300-strong audience.

You can tell how much the students enjoyed the project and performance from their feedback, some of which can be seen below. We are incredibly grateful to the hugely talented animateur James Redwood, the musicians of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (Cherry, Hetty, Cecelia and Rob), and the York University students for their energy and enthusiasm in the project.

Student comments about the project:

– We spent lots of time rehearsing and composing songs, so seeing them work well in the performance makes me feel proud of our achievement.
– I felt proud of our achievement because we came together to make this music, and that it was much enjoyed by the audience.
– I loved the project because we all worked as a team and created the performance instead of just being given rules to follow.
– During the workshop days, I really enjoyed the movement pieces.
– I’m proud of the fact that everyone worked together to create something amazing!
– The best part about the concert was having James (the legend) teach and conduct us.
– The project was legendary!
– I enjoyed the project because we created an amazing piece of music and instrumental piece about a classical myth.
– I really enjoyed the fun and interesting warm ups and I liked how the days were separated into different parts.
– I felt proud because we sang music that we made. The orchestra piece that we made was the best because you felt like you ‘belonged’ when we performed it.

Mrs Hughes