Fabian, 10, usually listens to pop and rock music at his home in Great Yarmouth, but watching the BBC Concert Orchestra live on stage, the soothing notes of the violin were his favourite.
Like many of the 200 students in the audience, this was his first experience of live orchestral music, and he was delighted. From Vivaldi’s Four Seasons to Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture – with many added interactive elements – grade five students listened intently to over an hour of music.
“I’ve never seen an orchestra in real life before,” said Fabian, a student at Edward Worldledge Ormiston Academy. “It’s exciting to see how much stronger it is and to see how they all play.”
The show at St George’s Theater was part of the BBC Concert Orchestra’s three-year residency in Great Yarmouth, announced earlier this year, to inspire young people and improve well-being in the seaside town of Norfolk, which has one of the highest deprivation rates in England.
Musicians have held workshops at every primary school in the city and are now reaching out to the wider community with a concert at Cirque de l’Hippodrome this summer.
“We want a whole new generation of people to get involved in orchestras and be creative, especially at a time when music in schools is under such threat,” said Stuart Bruce, senior creative producer at the musical charity Orchestras Live which manages the residence.
“Learning music is becoming more and more exclusive; it is rather the prerogative of parents who can afford private lessons. It’s frustrating, but we hope doing stuff like this at least helps spark creativity. We don’t expect everyone to adopt an instrument, but some might, or it might inspire them to write or perform in theatre.
Music lessons in schools have been particularly affected by Covid-19, with a 2020 report revealing that more than two-thirds (68%) of primary school teachers reported a reduction in music provision as a direct result.
But even before the pandemic, budget cuts and the loss of specialist teachers led to a “steady decline” in the provision of music in public schools, and research has shown that A-level music lessons could disappear over the course of the year. of the next decade.
“There’s not enough music in schools right now. I think back to when I was a kid in school, if you heard a piece of music or something presented to you, it meant so much,” said Ilyena Ruhemann, principal flute in the orchestra, who performed soundtracks for shows such as Blue Planet and performed regularly for BBC radio broadcasts.
“It’s just such a privilege and it’s such a joyful thing to be able to maybe be the first person they see playing the flute live, and they certainly don’t see an orchestra every day. It is a great honor for us.
As well as benefiting young people, the residency will contribute to the “cultural development of Great Yarmouth”, said Alison Bell of the Norfolk Music Hub, which provides support for families who cannot afford instruments or music lessons. music.
“What we’ve tended to do in the past is take the kids to London, Albert Hall or something, to go and experience something phenomenal, something outside of their zone. of comfort or whatever they might experience locally,” she said.
“But it’s of the same quality and it’s right in the heart of their own community. So I think that will help build audiences for the future here and elevate people’s aspirations.
The residency will also include a mentorship program for young local producers to help them develop industry skills such as advertising, set design and event management.
“I hope that next year all the events that the concert orchestra organizes here will be managed, to some extent, by young locals working alongside the professionals,” said Bruce.
“A lot of people who get into the professional arts leave their locality, they go to London or a big city center – maybe we can do something to try to create more opportunities for people where they live.”