Blog of Julian West

A New Created World

Julian West - Posted on 26.11.2019

Open Academy have been working in partnership with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and Camden Music, bringing together up to fifty students from two mainstream and special schools to form an ensemble called A New Created World, led by composer and workshop leader James Redwood.

In this blog, Open Academy fellows Katie and Rebecca reflect on their experiences working with different groups this term.

Katherine Elizabeth Lodge, Open Academy Fellow writes:

‘Participating in the A New Created World project has so far been a really enjoyable experience and has served as a masterclass in leading children's composition workshops. We Open Academy fellows have joined with players from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE) and composer James Redwood, and are in the process of creating a large-scale piece to be performed in the Royal Albert Hall in March 2020. The mammoth ensemble will include groups from Camden-based primary schools, special schools and First Access groups joined by players from the Academy and the OAE, all of whom have contributed to the composition. As ambitious as it sounds, the piece is already taking great shape and is a real earworm! After the warm ups, introductions and reminders of what we have achieved in previous sessions, the workshops mostly consist of ensemble playing with the aim of recording new creative material played (often spontaneously) by the children. Wherever possible, this is then expertly fitted by James into the body of the overall piece. This project is amazingly special in bringing the focus towards composition through creative play rather than through rules, and in my opinion even more important, of everyone's diligence in acknowledging the creators of all musical material, large or small. I think it is a testament to the project's success that even with a month between rehearsals, the children remember a surprising amount of music, and it is always a pleasure to work with them because of the enjoyment they show whilst creating new music and lyrics. I think this enthusiasm, felt by both students and staff, is also largely due to James' musical influence in using strong rhythms and interesting harmonies. Despite using percussion, rap and repetition, this is no ordinary pop song: showing the OAE's ethos of always including the music they perform in their education work, Haydn's Creation is woven into a large-scale plea to work together to save the Earth from climate change. Performing in the Albert Hall is an amazing opportunity for everyone involved, and is also a wonderful affirmation by funding organisations of the importance of creative opportunities.’

Rebecca Jane McNaught, Open Academy Fellow writes:

‘A New Created World has been a fantastic and inspiring way to kick off my Open Academy Fellowship. So far, I have been working in Gospel Oak School and Frank Barnes School for Deaf Children. At Gospel Oak, it has been amazing to see how surprised the children were that they could create their own music, and improvise on the few notes they already knew on their instruments. With the encouragement of the project leaders, some key elements for the overall piece came alive. At Frank Barnes, it was so incredible to watch how Eloise, the music teacher, interacted with the pupils, helping them to form their own ideas and feel the vibrations. Working in a deaf school has challenged my expectations of how music can be learnt and expressed, and it has been interesting to learn to communicate with the children through a small amount of sign language and lots of musical interaction. I am so excited to see all the four schools participating come together to rehearse, and when we finally get to the Royal Albert Hall, it's going to be electric!’

The project will culminate with a shared performance at the Royal Albert Hall on Tuesday 10th March 2020. A New Created World ensemble will be together on stage with Camden Music senior ensembles (Camden Youth Jazz Band, Camden Concert Band and Camden Youth Orchestra), 120 beginner players in their wider opportunities bands (violin, brass, recorder, ukulele) and massed primary and secondary school choirs of 1800 voices.

We are looking forward to the performance!

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