Lullaby Concerts

Orchestras Live’s pioneering exploration of orchestral activity for Early Years learning and play in Suffolk and Essex with City of London Sinfonia, which has reached more than 20,000 people over 10 years.

What we wanted to achieve

Evolving from a series of pilots in 2003, the Lullaby Concerts have always focused on the needs of largely rural and coastal communities with little or no orchestral provision.

Our aim was to develop inspiring, interactive and relevant ways to engage very young children in first-time experiences of live orchestral music. This included a long-term approach to artistic exploration with our creative partners, and responding to the needs and priorities of the communities where the work was based.

What a fantastic way to introduce young children to music, the instruments and vocabulary – amazing!

~ Audience feedback

What we did

Each year the concert series, performed by City of London Sinfonia and led by presenter Claire Henry, engaged children through vivid worlds such as animals, forests and science; telling musical stories through everyday themes. After each concert, inspired by professional players, children had a chance to try orchestral instruments, and we know that some of these moments encouraged children to go on to their own music tuition. Other, older young people had the opportunity to perform alongside the professional orchestra.

Over the years the programme has involved 727 Early Years practitioners in a CPD strand linked to the Lullaby Concerts; these specialists being trained by the Lullaby team to take musical skills back to their nursery settings. Tied into the national Early Years curriculum strategy, highlights have included the 2010 series where the concerts were focused on the Every Child A Talker national speech development initiative, and in 2013 when the team worked with Barnardo's to connect with families at children’s centres.

A presenter in front of the orchestra, with a green furry box emitting smoke behind.

Presenter Claire Henry in The Musical Puzzle: Lullaby Concerts 2018 with City of London Sinfonia

Credit: Paul Coghlin

I came in with great trepidation – I went out with the confidence to share my new learned skills with others.

~ Feedback from Early Years CPD day

A leader in best practice, the Lullaby Concerts were included in the Arts Mark Award in 2015, won Best Family Event 2017 in the Family Arts Campaign Fantastic for Families awards, and in 2018 Lullaby Concerts were finalists in the Music Teacher Awards for Excellence in Early Years.

As part of Orchestras Live's increasingly inclusive programme of work, from 2017 all performances were BSL interpreted, and Deaf flautist and Clore Fellow, Ruth Montgomery appointed as assistant music leader.

Over ten years:

  • 474 workshops and 105 concerts were attended by 9,631 children and 6,899 adults
  • 50 young instrumentalists performed alongside City of London Sinfonia
A young girl playing a violin

Trying the instruments after Mission to Launch: Lullaby Concerts 2017 with City of London Sinfonia

Credit: Paul Coghlin

The project is a fantastic example of drawing together many priorities and strands of work… all while maintaining extremely high artistic and educational values for the young children and families taking part.

~ Fran Matthews, Arts Council England

Outcomes and learning

  • A long-term approach to generating family audiences, especially in culturally under-served areas, was important in producing a gradual increase in audiences and repeat attendances over several years.
  • Concerts and workshops were increasingly inclusive through involvement of BSL interpreter and Deaf co-presenter as a role model, reaching new audiences.
  • Orchestral players developed an increasingly prominent role in the development and presentation of the narrative, paving the way for more player-led work by City of London Sinfonia.
  • Integral skill-sharing through CPD sessions for Early Years practitioners, and involvement of young musicians/artists/promoters to gain music industry skills and experience.
  • Sustained commitment of partners through a strong consortium approach, bringing together local authorities, Music Education Hubs and artistic organisations to take a collective ownership of the project and a genuine stake in its strategic development.

Read our ten year report of the Lullaby Concerts:


City of London Sinfonia, Essex County Council, Essex Music Education Hub, Suffolk County Council, Suffolk Music Education Hub, Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils and Forest Heath District Council. Ten years of Lullaby were made possible by the support of many additional partners and funders.