The Able Orchestra is an evolving project based on the principle of enabling people to create and perform music on equal terms, regardless of their physical dexterity or musical experience.
From the starting point of an iPad orchestra with profoundly disabled students at a college in north Nottinghamshire came the vision to create a totally inclusive ensemble of able and disabled musicians. It would embrace young musicians and emerging music leaders with world class professional artists from different music and digital genres, forming a unique eclectic creative group that could become a beacon for artistic inclusion and diversity.
Produced by Inspire Youth Arts and Orchestras Live, the Able Orchestra gave its first public performance at the Palace Theatre, Mansfield in 2015. Young musicians using technology joined young acoustic instrumentalists, professional sound and digital artists, and orchestral players to create new work that could complement and be performed alongside orchestral repertoire. Since the pilot project involving the BBC Concert Orchestra, Able Orchestra has developed in partnership with the Hallé and has included performances together with the BBC Philharmonic in the Ten Pieces Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in 2016.
A collaboration with Big Fish Little Fish (BFLF), whose rave parties for young children and families have become an international phenomenon, had been part of our artistic ambitions for a long time and were realised in October 2018 as Able Orchestra performed alongside champion beatboxer THePETEBOX at Hockley Hustle Music Festival. Their performance was reprised in March 2019 at new cross-media venue Metronome, featuring an interactive digital wall behind the stage, as part of Soundstage Festival promoted by Nottingham Royal Concert Hall. View pictures and video from the performances here.
Inspire at Nottingham Contemporary, 2018
In June 2018, Able Orchestra gave a performance of new work in collaboration with Next Door Dance at Nottingham Contemporary. This performance featured the unveiling of DIGIT: 1, groundbreaking new technology developed by music producer Si Tew, which transforms a wheelchair mobility controller into a musical instrument. Read more about the event here.
BBC Music Day, 2017
Able Orchestra took part in BBC Music Day in 2017, performing a new work created for the occasion. Watch the BBC East Midlands feature and a recording of the performance of the new work here.
BBC Proms performance, 2016
As part of the BBC Ten Pieces Prom II in 2016, Able Orchestra were invited to perform following on from their creative work based around the national scheme earlier in the year. Watch the performance here.
“Going up on the stage with over 5,500 people in the Royal Albert Hall of all places is just out of this world. Being up on the stage is just amazing and you get such a rush of excitement whilst you are up there. You don’t really realise what you have just done until you have already done and think back on it. This really is a once in a lifetime opportunity and it is such an honour to have played with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. Thanks so much for this awesome experience, I will never forget it.” Able Orchestra participant
Such an important platform for the Able Orchestra became a defining point for the future direction of the Able Orchestra. Going forwards, a key aim would be to seek high profile collaborations and performance platforms to evidence and celebrate the creativity of diverse people whilst raising national awareness of inclusion.
BBC Ten Pieces, 2016
Having revealed the need for this inclusive approach, a more long-term partnership was established with the Hallé Orchestra through its residency in Nottingham. A new project, taking inspiration from some of the BBC Ten Pieces, led to performances in Mansfield. Watch the BBC East Midlands feature on the project here. Read the evaluation report here.
Hypnotic Pulse, 2015
Able Orchestra collaborated with the BBC Concert Orchestra to devise a new work performed by the collective ensemble accompanied by visual images. Watch videos and read the evaluation report here.
The Able Orchestra project is produced by County Youth Arts and Orchestras Live in partnership with Nottinghamshire Music Hub, Inspire Trust, Nottingham University and Arts Council England.