The Wish is the latest in a series of innovative orchestral projects involving young people in Luton at different levels of their musical development.
Commissioned by Orchestras Live and The Mix (Luton Music Hub), The Wish was conceived as a brand new Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, with the aim of inspiring young children to engage with music and take up an instrument whilst supporting learning at Key Stage 1.
Designed to introduce orchestral instruments in a vivid way, with lots of audience participation especially singing, the piece was developed by composer John K Miles and specialist music leader Claire Henry, bringing together their different experience and skills from orchestral projects they had achieved over many years with Orchestras Live and City of London Sinfonia.
“The children thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience of learning the songs at school and then hearing good quality live music from an array of instruments. When they heard the familiar music start, all of the children joined in quietly singing, it was lovely to hear it. One child thanked me for taking her to the concert! She thought it was the best thing she had ever heard. Another child loved the sound of the harp and the sweetness of the violins. Another child decided she wanted to learn the flute.” (Teacher, Sacred Heart Primary School)
The Wish premiere, 2017
The Wish was premiered on 14 July 2017 by City of London Sinfonia, with two performances at the UK Centre for Carnival Arts, attended by 450 children and staff from Primary schools in Luton.
In an additional strand of skill-sharing, two young flautists from Luton Sixth Form College were able to rehearse and perform the new piece within City of London Sinfonia, mentored by an advanced musician from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London.
“At first, it was quite daunting to have the experience to perform with such an incredible orchestra as the ‘City of London Sinfonia’. However, everyone in the orchestra….were lovely to talk to and approachable. All the flautists ended up having tea together while having a chat about music and our future plans – we even got biscuits!” (Annabel, flautist, Luton Sixth Form College)
In the weeks leading up to the performances, Claire and John held a series of workshops at 8 Primary schools where young children had the opportunity to help create material for the new piece and subsequently learn the song and the ‘musical keys’ for the interactive elements of the concerts.
“One TA already has asked her husband to take her to see an orchestra perform as this was her first time and she enjoyed it so much.” (Headteacher, Warden Hill Infant School)
Following the success of the premiere performances in 2017, the neighbouring music education hubs for Bedford Borough and Central Bedfordshire were keen to offer the same kind of inspiration to young children in their areas, so Orchestras Live has produced a touring project for 2018, involving workshops in numerous primary schools and orchestral performances of The Wish at Dunstable, Bedford and Luton.
Watch the video of The Big Wish performances in Bedford:
The Wish 2019
The Wish returned in 2019, touring to four areas (Luton, Bedford, Central Bedfordshire and, for the first time, Milton Keynes) with presenter Claire Henry and conductor/composer John K Miles joined by Sinfonia Verdi. An animated trailer was commissioned from JAC Design to help promote the performances in the venues.
The composer’s greatest wish is to hear his song ‘If you have a dream’ played by the orchestra. Unfortunately, the orchestral ‘machine’ keeps breaking. The ‘fixer’ (presenter) checks through the sections one by one to find out what’s wrong. It turns out that the brass have forgotten their melody (pitch), the strings are too sad and can only play in a minor key (tonality), the wind keep ‘flying off’ and need to calm down so that they can play slowly as well as fast (tempo), and the percussion have completely ‘lost’ the beat (pulse). The presenter has a musical key (motif sung by the audience) to fix each of these problems. As each section is fixed the lights on the machine’s control panel turn from red to green. Eventually all the sections are fixed and the machine is tested by slowly turning up the volume (dynamics). The orchestra plays a reprise of all the music used to fix the orchestra and the concert ends with ‘If you have a dream’ sung by the audience.