In the second entry of this mini blog series, Music Leader Sarah Freestone, traces the progress of our Create Yarmouth project with the London Mozart Players, and the return to in-person workshops following the disruption to workshop delivery during the pandemic.
Almost a year ago I wrote my first blog about the Create Yarmouth project, giving an update on the postponed performance and our subsequent online workshops. At that time the performance had been rescheduled to May 2021, nearly a year later than planned.
Well, 2021 was more complicated than we had anticipated! With the country going into another major lockdown early in the year, the decision was taken to move the performance date again to October - 20 months after our initial workshops in the schools of Great Yarmouth.
That this project has been on pause for much of its life has been challenging. Not only logistically, with the amazing tenacity and support from all the partners involved in reorganising participants (in the case of the primary schools, the young participants had moved on to their senior schools), and co-ordinating calendars between the London Mozart Players, Norfolk Music Hub, four schools and Great Yarmouth Minster; but a challenge also to keep the drive and creative energy of this fantastic project motoring along.
Compositionally this has been a fairly complicated task to manage - to keep track of three different musical incarnations of the piece as the material generated at each subsequent workshop becomes part of the orchestral texture, and to maintain the reflection of all the young people’s voices in their music. But an exciting challenge to have!
So, in the middle of September I was at last able go into the schools in person for the final workshops, our first face-to-face workshops since March 2020. It is a strange twist that, despite this project having such a long life-span dictated by events out of our control, these young people were to have just one session in which to create and shape their own musical moments for the performance with the orchestra… it was a big ask but (yet again) I was humbled by their creativity and left with a mountain of material! These workshops were some of the most productive in the whole process; we’ve all been a bit starved of working with others in this way and the ideas just came pouring out…
The opening of the piece will feature the Lynn Grove Academy students on their fantastic Gamelan (instruments from Bali and Java) emulating the Carillon music of the Hugenot refugees who came to Norfolk in the 16th century. This idea of the sound of ‘home’ is reflected throughout the piece.
The pattern of notes used in the opening (and recurring throughout the piece as the ‘home’ motif) was devised by the students at Woodlands primary school who created their own version using glockenspiels, guitar and voices. Within the group there are Kurdish, Portuguese and Lithuanian speakers so we chose to use these languages as well as English to sing the words that the young people thought represented what home means to them.
The young musicians of Caister School created a soundscape depicting a storm at sea - one of our references to Britten’s St Nicholas as mentioned in the previous blog and all that it symbolises; patron saint of children and sailors, terrifying journeys across open waters to reach a new home - and the students at Wroughton Primary Academy wrote some fantastic words reflecting on home, which will form the basis for the community singing at the end of the piece. It brings us back home using the opening notes of the piece as the melody - it’s maybe in a different place, but it’s still home…
As well as the new piece created by the young people of Great Yarmouth, the string players of two schools will be playing alongside the London Mozart Players in a performance of Bartok’s Romanian Dances. The programme will include music by composers from Portugal, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary and England, including Vaughan Williams’ masterful The Lark Ascending with internationally renowned violinist Simon Blendis as the soloist.
The concert is going to be a celebration of creativity, diversity and - most importantly I think - the coming together to make music; something that’s been sorely missed.
Create Yarmouth performance at The Minster, Church Plain, Great Yarmouth at 7pm on Thursday 14 October. Tickets from St Georges Theatre.