When the country went into lockdown in March, and most children were unable to go to school, our Preludes team continued to work with some schools that remained open for vulnerable children and the children of key workers. Now that all children have returned to school for the new term, Preludes is ready to continue providing regular music education to over 2,000 children across ten Bristol schools.
We have been working closely with the schools to understand their new Covid-secure arrangements, and to agree how we can work with them safely and effectively within their “bubbles”. The schools each have slightly different approaches, and our tutors, who are used to working across several schools, are having to work in new ways. But we relish a challenge!
This week we have started to return to some schools, and more will follow over the next few weeks.
We have had to change a few things, but have designed a programme of activities which is still of great quality but also keeps the tutors and children safe. We can still do some singing and playing of instruments, but will also be doing more of the quieter activities, such as composing, telling stories with music, and learning about composers. We are delighted to have recently been given some money by the National Mark Masons to record more videos, which we have been using to support and supplement face-to-face teaching in some schools.
The last few months have been stressful and disruptive for many children, and it is great – for them and us – to be able to start getting back to some normality. Preludes has proven time and again that its benefits go way beyond simply learning music. This quote, from one of the teachers at a school where we provided video tuition during lockdown, is one of many…
“During Lockdown, the support Preludes gave our children with high quality, well thought about and planned music lesson weekly videos, were invaluable to our children and families – not only providing them with fun, happy, immersive lessons to join in at home with, but making a positive impact on the continuity of their education, within this very disruptive time for them.”
Bristol Ensemble players have recorded Barber’s iconic Adagio in lockdown, with the separate recordings assembled through the wonders of technology into a beautiful ensemble performance. Watch the video on YouTube
On Wednesday 15th December 1920, 99 years ago, you could have paid four pence to go along to Shirehampton Public Hall for a concert of the Avonmouth and Shirehampton Choral Society. Also among the performers that night, alongside the young singer (and later actress) Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies, and teenage local cellist Helen Just (who would go on to have a distinguished teaching career at the Royal College of Music) was violinist Marie Hall, already a well-known star.
Marie Hall was a protegée of Philip Napier Miles, squire of nearby Kings Weston and himself a talented amateur musician. Napier Miles was a good friend of Ralph Vaughan Williams, who had come along to the concert for the first ever performance of his new work The Lark Ascending, in a version for piano and violin, which he had dedicated to Marie Hall.
Also on the programme that evening were Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on Christmas Carols, a selection of songs (including a newly written one by Napier Miles himself), Bach’s concerto for two violins, and some choral works by Hubert Parry.
We don’t know how the concert went – there are no accounts or reviews. No doubt the audience of 200 were appreciative, but perhaps didn’t realise the significance of the event until the orchestral premiere took place the following year and The Lark Ascending became an instant success. It remains one of Britain’s most popular and best loved pieces of music.
We have booked Shirehampton Public Hall for 15th December 2020, to celebrate the centenary of this concert. The plans are not quite finalised, but there will certainly be a performance of The Lark Ascending by a star violinist, and we certainly won’t have kept the original ticket price! Watch this space for further details over the coming months.
A few pictures from our half term jazz project which took place from 28 to 31 October, led by our Preludes team Dylan, Dan, Penny and Charlie, with talented young musicians from Lawrence Weston in Bristol, in association with Ronnie Scott’s Charitable Foundation.
The Bristol Ensemble unveils its new baroque specialist ensemble for the first time, under the directorship of Adrian Chandler, in a concert at St George’s Bristol on 13th November.
Adrian is one of the leading interpreters of Italian baroque music and founded the renowned ensemble La Serenissima. He takes over the leadership of Bristol Ensemble Baroque in what will be a vibrant, energetic and thoroughly engaging performance exploring some well-known and less familiar composers of the Baroque period.
Of course, Bristol Ensemble has always featured baroque works in its programmes, but this concert will be performed on period instruments by baroque specialists, creating a more authentically 18th-century sound which reveals these works in a new light. Baroque instruments are generally quieter than their modern counterparts, and there are subtle differences in the design and materials. Baroque violins, for example, use gut strings rather than metal, which give a more mellow sound. Baroque wind instruments have fewer (if any) keys, with fingers used to cover the holes. Baroque pitch is about a semitone lower than modern pitch, and techniques such as vibrato, commonly used by modern singers and string players, rarely appear in authentic baroque music.
The launch of Bristol Ensemble Baroque is partly due to the fact that there are now so many fine baroque players in the Bristol area. Hopefully it will become a regular part of our concert schedule in future.
Listen to Adrian Chandler playing Autumn from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with La Serenissima
Emma Johnson and John Lenehan performed The Pied Piper by Jonathan Dove at St George’s Bristol, ably assisted by recorder-playing rats from Oasis Long Cross School.
Long Cross is one of the schools participating in the Preludes project. The children were very excited and overwhelmed to be performing with such prestigious musicians.
The parents who came along were incredibly proud of their children, and were introduced to classical music concerts in a concert hall for the first time.
Ronnie Scott’s Charitable Foundation is helping children from disadvantaged areas to find their musical voices
Thanks to a grant received recently from the Ronnie Scott’s Charitable Foundation, the Preludes Project, which provides music training to primary school children living in disadvantaged communities in Bristol, will be able to provide a four day music intensive for 30 children living in the Lawrence Weston area.
Much of the work that Preludes carries out in Lawrence Weston has been in brass instrument teaching – the Project has also been running a successful after school Brass Club for the past 3 years at Long Cross Primary and the music leaders will give the children the opportunity to develop their musicianship further via a dynamic and intensive four-day jazz-based project culminating in a collaborative performance with a professional band. It will also include children from Y7 and Y8 at Oasis, Brightstowe the secondary school that many of the primary students move on to.
The aims of the project are:
The Project will create opportunities for enhanced community cohesion and provide many possibilities for the future – community jazz bands, collaboration with established musicians and inspiring other Preludes students along the way.
Penny Rawlings, Musical Director of the Preludes Project said, “We are absolutely thrilled that Ronnie Scott’s has enabled us to go ahead with this innovative jazz project. We can’t thank the Foundation enough for the opportunities that they are giving these very deserving children. They are very excited to make a start!”
The Project will take place over 4 days from the 28th – 31st October 2019
We are delighted that Preludes has been chosen as the charity for this year’s Treefest festival at St Mary Redcliffe church in Bristol.
Treefest is a spectacular festive display of Christmas trees held in the Gothic splendour of St Mary Redcliffe. Local charities, schools, businesses and other organisations can enter a Christmas tree and decorate it in a style of their choosing, giving them a great opportunity to tell local people about their services, causes or activities – and to raise money for good causes. There’s also a varied musical programme and a chance for visitors to vote for their favourite tree.
Treefest has become increasingly successful over the last five years, attracting thousands of visitors and helping to raise valuable funds for local charities. This year the event will support St Mary Redcliffe’s work in the community and Bristol Ensemble’s education project Preludes, which has been transforming music education in the city for the past ten years.
This year’s festival runs from 3rd-7th December. On Thursday 5th December, from about 5pm onwards, why not come along and join some of the Preludes team and children for “Come and Sing Carols” around the tree, plus a “Come and Try an Instrument” session.
We look forward to seeing you there!
A performance of power, intensity and great commitment” – thanks to John Quinn of Seen and Heard International for the enthusastic review of our performance given with the Choir of Merton college at the Three Choirs Festival
In 2009 Bristol Ensemble began an educational journey in two schools in South Bristol through the formation of the Preludes Project. It was conceived with an overarching vision: To transform the lives of children who live in disadvantaged communities, by putting classical music at the heart of their education. This inclusive project is unique in its provision of classical music training that is accessible for children of all abilities.
The project has gone from strength to strength over the years, working with many more schools and over 1,400 children. It recently celebrated its 10th anniversary with a concert in the glorious surroundings of St Mary Redcliffe Church. The theme was “BRISTOL SEA-PORT CITY – SONGS OF THE SEA”.
The schools involved were: Baddocks Woods E-ACT Academy; Bedminster Down; Cheddar Grove; Easton C of E; Greenfield E-ACT Academy; Ilminster Avenue E-ACT Academy; Knowle DGE; Oasis Bankleaze; Oasis Long Cross; Perry Court E-ACT Academy; and Redfield Educate Together
On the programme was a wide selection of music from Classical through to Sea Shanties, performed by voices and instruments including strings, brass, woodwind and percussion and delivered with wonderful professionalism, flair and sheer enjoyment.
One of the added benefits of the project has been the engagement of the children’s families and carers in their learning and performing journey. The church was filled with excited supporters, proud of the children’s extraordinary achievements and eager to hear the results of all their hard work. Also in attendance were long term funders of the project, and several local dignitaries.
The Preludes teaching team, led by Penny Rawlings, works tirelessly throughout the year and on the day provided their usual warm professional encouragement and support.
For more information on Preludes, see our Preludes page.