Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Shaldon Festival Outreach 2010

Project for Dawlish Children: A tale of two bridges
Directed by Jason Thornton

Jason Thornton photo
Jason Thornton

As well as conducting Bath Philharmonia, Jason Thornton is also a renowned animateur who has considerable expertise in working on musical projects combining children with special needs with mainstream children. During the 2010 Festival week, Jason directed an exciting and innovative schools music project entitled A Tale of Two Bridges working with pupils from two local Special Needs schools – Oaklands Park School and Ratcliffe School – and Dawlish Community College. The Festival had worked in partnership with the Helen Foundation and Bath Philharmonia to successfully bid for additional funding from the Big Lottery Fund.

A Tale of Two Bridges produced a unique musical work inspired by the local Shaldon and Teign estuary environment, taking its inspiration from the fascinating links between the Shaldon Bridge and the quarrying of granite from nearby Dartmoor and the building of London Bridge, which was bought by an American and ended up in Havasu, Arizona where it is now positioned between a residential retirement home and a theme park!

A Tale of Two Bridges is a work in five movements. The instruments used include: electric and acoustic guitars, keyboard, percussion, violins, woodwind and “Sound Beam” equipment and the human voice. Students from the three schools composed this piece in 5 days in conjunction with Jason Thornton, two representatives from Bath Phil – Charlie Groves and Julie Payne – and music staff from the three schools. The Dawlish students composed the basic music score on an all day workshop on Sunday 13th June and then built on this throughout the week with Jason and his team adding the work from Ratcliffe and Oaklands School.

Movement 1 introduces the work combining sounds from the local environment with electric and acoustic guitars, keyboard, percussion and Sound Beam equipment
Movement 2 is a lament as Shaldon Bridge expresses its sense of loss that its London sibling is leaving for America
Movement 3 traces the journey of London Bridge over the sea to America
Movement 4 follows London Bridge as it arrives in the USA and travels across to Arizona
Movement 5 is a celebration of London Bridge’s new home and how at last it ‘sings’ like its sister.

The completed work was performed in a lunch time concert in St Peter’s Church on Friday 18th June. The concert began with two songs from Shaldon School Choir followed by, A Tale of Two Bridges, which lasted approximately 25 minutes. The work was executed with great power and verve. Typical American themes and sounds – like the hooting of a steam train – punctuated the piece and it drew widely on musical traditions like folk music, the big band sound, jazz and rock. The students clearly believed in the value of what they were doing and produced a compelling performance that enthralled the audience and had those fortunate to have heard it talking long afterwards.


Roger Kirk

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