Since last Autumn, my girls and I (now ages 2y and 3.5y) have attended a Mini Musicians class, run by the Redbridge Music Service. Each week, they sing, play instruments (simple percussion like drums or wood beaters, bells, and chimes), interact with classical, traditional, and modern music, and dance along. All the while, we learn to appreciate music, listen and follow along, and have some fun together.
And so I was delighted to attend the Redbridge Music Service’s 2014 Chorale Festival at The Royal Albert Hall on Tuesday March 18th. RMS Director Eric Forder and Festival Coordinator Caroline Morris (our Mini Musicians teacher who also spearheads the RMS’s Early Years programme), along with a very dedicated and able team of music educators and musicians, shepherded some 1900 of Redbridge’s primary and secondary school students on a very creative, months-long-in-the-making musical journey. Attended by many proud family members and supporting friends, the event also was a fundraiser for the Redbridge-based charity, Hopes and Dreams, which grants wishes to very ill children.
Primary and secondary school choirs were accompanied by the Redbridge Music School Symphony Orchestra, taking the audience through centuries and continents of music. Classical and traditional favourites included selections from Holst’s “Jupiter,” from The Planets; George Butterworth’s “The Banks of Green Willow,” part of the evening’s World War 1 commemoration; Johann Strauss’s “The Radestsky March,” which was cheerily arranged with a bright pom-pom dance; Glenn Miller’s Big Band hit “In the Mood.”
Music was spoken, sung and signed and many of the world cultures living in our very diverse borough (the 4th most diverse in the country!) were represented. We heard a composition of two Gujarati songs, which was presented with a traditional Hindu dance, two soloists on recorder and tabla (drum); the primary school choirs also played recorder in this arrangement. And the second interval began with a rousing African drumming and dance number featuring children from four of the borough’s primary schools.
Contemporary music also were included in the programme, with Ashford and Simpson’s soul smash, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” and Bob Chilcott’s popular children’s chorale composition, “Can you hear me?”
Notably, three original compositions, joyfully expressing the theme of ‘Hopes and Dreams’, were commissioned for the night’s performance. Written and conducted by Chris Wilcox (also a teacher, composer, conductor, performer), the pieces were entitled ‘What If’, ‘Be the Change’, and ‘My Dream’ and were inspired by the lives of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and ordinary children.
Artwork and words by children throughout the borough’s schools were presented on the screens as visual accompaniment to some of the pieces. The children were incredibly engaged in the performance, enjoying the spotlight and putting their hearts and voices into the effort.
It really is an immense accomplishment in this age of austerity, that the Redbridge Music Service and Redbridge Council is able to create such a night for our families. Redbridge’s Mayor, Felicity Banks, is very proud of her ability to support the music program, as she so warmly communicated in her personal remarks and in the Programme address:
Redbridge is the only Borough in the country that regularly fills this great hall with pupils from its schools and it is a wonderful demonstration of the musical tradition we have here in Redbridge.
I was fortunate to have been seated in a box with a family whose two children have been participating in the festival since primary school. Both now in secondary school, Lara plays the violin and James, the tuba. Their mum remembers how music was introduced to her children at Snaresbrook Primary school and how they chose their own instruments. They practice each Friday evening as the Redbridge Music School Symphony Orchestra at the John Savage Centre.These parents were simply beaming with pride at what has now become a lifelong commitment for their children.
It is absolutely evident that music unites families, fosters creativity and intellectual and emotional development in children, and can provide a basis for a strong community where diversity can be expressed and mutual values affirmed, a project that the London Borough of Redbridge is so obviously committed to doing.
There was so much happy and proud energy in the Hall; even Albert must have been smiling, surely. As our compère, Vivyan Ellacott, noted and thanked Albert for the loan of his beautiful hall, so do I, on behalf of all of the families in Redbridge.