Friday, May 24, 2024

Shaldon Festival Outreach 2014

Music of The Birds: lunchtime informal concert

What an event. What an occasion. The Shaldon Festival was instrumental in bringing together young people from Shaldon, Teignmouth and Dawlish schools in what turned out to be a very special performance of known and highly original music.

The opening evening concert of this the 25th Festival included the extremely popular ‘The Lark Ascending’ by Vaughan Williams. That being so the theme of birds provided lift off for the voices and sounds of a variety of captivating musical performances at a lunch-time informal concert.

Children performing as an orchestra
Children’s Orchestra

The programme began with ExMastra, the children’s orchestra of Teignmouth Local Learning Community conducted by Kip Pratt. Displaying a high level of concentration and dedication the pupils gave their all beginning with Spring from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. This was followed by a Handel minuet and a Russian folk melody. The freshness of the playing provided an excellent concert opening.

Shaldon School Choir
Shaldon School Choir

Shaldon School Choir followed with three bird songs. This choir of some forty voices, conducted by Lisa Price, are becoming well known in the community and they captured the mood and different sound qualities of each of their songs.

Jason Thornton and Tasmin with performers on stage
Bird Concerto

Next we were treated to the very first performance of Music of The Birds. This was an amazing project involving workshops held over four days with Dawlish Community College, Oaklands Park School and Ratcliffe School. Led by Jason Thornton, Music Director of Bath Philharmonia, it resulted in some incredibably evocative music and sounds of three very different bird environments. The first part was English pastoral, the second captured the cold of the Arctic and finally we were whisked to the dazzling sounds of a Brazilian Rain Forest. Again the total concentration and abilities of the players was mesmerising to watch. Percussion, voices, strings and brass created very clearly these very different habitats. At times it felt like the background score to an epic film which didn’t need much imagination to fill out the movement of the very different birds and animals. Fronting this unique composition was the international violinist Tasmin Waley-Cohen. She had played an active role in the preparation with the children, and it was not difficult to see how both orchestra and soloist had built up a genuine musical respect for each other.

Overall this was a concert to remember and I am sure both audience and performers will take away a very vivid memory of sheer musical delight.
Review by Leon Winston


The children were extremely positive about the whole experience. Here follows a summary of their comments:
Those working on and composing the Bird Concerto loved having an active role and working with professional musicians. All enjoyed working with children from other schools, meeting them and hearing their musical work. They enjoyed seeing all the different instruments. They loved playing to a large audience, although it was a little nerve-wracking.
Many said they loved learning how to be part of a much bigger ensemble, and interacting with other musicians. They loved the different instruments involved in their pieces, and then seeing and hearing a professional orchestra.
This was very intensive work and a great deal was achieved in a short time. The students said that it was sometimes difficult to maintain their concentration and commitment. Some said it was hard performing and having to stay still all the time. Being on stage and in long rehearsals was challenging.
The students said they would remember being treated as part of an orchestra, and being part of the final performance. They felt inspired by the professional musicians and want to be able to play well when older. They will remember being part of that concert, performing something that they had made up together.
Many of the children I spoke to just responded with single words when I asked how they had found the whole experience – ‘wow’ ‘amazing’ ‘magical’ and ‘inspirational’ are just a few.

The audience feedback was just as positive. Many said how moving the ‘Bird Concerto’ had been. They also loved seeing and hearing the orchestra and choir performing, and were encouraged to see so many young people making music together in such a memorable way.

Kate Hill-Art July 2014

We would like to thank the following trusts and organisations for generously supporting the children’s workshop:
Music of the Birds: Creating a Concerto

  • Dawlish Town Council
  • Devon County Council Councillor’s Fund
  • The Elmgrant Trust
  • The Helen Foundation
  • Teignbridge District Council Councillor’s Fund
  • Veronica Awdry Charitable Trust

Photos courtesy of Ian Birdsey

Return to Shaldon Festival Outreach Archive