Hatfield House Chamber Music Festival: broadening our education and outreach
Posted on 31st October 2022 at 15:22
Hatfield House Chamber Music Festival (HHCMF) is held annually in October with internationally renowned musicians performing in the historic setting of Hatfield House under the expert artistic direction of professional cellist, Guy Johnston. It incorporates an Education and Outreach Programme aiming to musically engage, inspire and enable children and young people in Hertfordshire through concerts, workshops and other opportunities. From Dowland, who was in residence at Hatfield House during Elizabeth I’s reign, to folk-inspired improvisation, familiar favourites, new commissions and artists collaborating from around the world, there was definitely something for everyone at this year’s Festival of ‘A World of Music’.
Jill Knight, the Education and Outreach Manager at the Festival describes some of the events that took place.
Building on past experience, we have extended our Education and Outreach Programme to offer even more opportunities for children and young people to become involved, including live and recorded concerts, masterclasses, workshops and performance opportunities. We continue to work in partnership with Hertfordshire Music Service and The Purcell School for Young Musicians to facilitate inclusivity and diversity across our education and outreach work. Through this, we enable young musicians across Hertfordshire to engage in live music-making with our Young Musicians’ Platform and in ‘curtain-raiser’ and ‘side-by-side’ opportunities.
Guy Johnston, Artistic Director of the HHCMF says: “Education and outreach work have always been an integral and vital part of the Festival, with an annual collaboration with young musicians and presentation of a free schools’ concert. But from early on it was always one of my ambitions to increase the scope of this work, to reach more children and work with the local community to provide more musical inspiration and opportunities for engagement.”
Over 500 primary-age children from 10 local schools in the Welwyn Hatfield and Hertford area attended these two live concerts, which featured the book Once Upon a Tune by author and illustrator, James Mayhew. The music, arranged especially for chamber orchestra by George Morton, was performed by students from The Purcell School for Young Musicians directed by Paul Hoskins and illustrated during the concert by the author.
The children heard dramatic stories of trolls, sea monsters and magic spells which, in turn, inspired some wonderful pieces of music: The Sorcerer's Apprentice by Dukas, In the Hall of the Mountain King by Grieg, Scheherazade-The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship by Rimsky-Korsakov and The Overture to William Tell by Rossini.
This year, post-lockdown, we were also able to return to providing subsidised pre-concert workshops in schools and the Education Manager delivered 10 of these, involving listening, composing and performing activities based around Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King.
The concert was also filmed and sent out to all Hertfordshire primary schools with a package of support materials including a concert programme with notes about each piece and an extended listening, composing and performing project. You can watch the film below or at the HHCMF website:
This exciting concert also featured students from The Purcell School for Young Musicians but performing ‘side-by-side’ with wind quintet Ensemble Renard and professional musicians from United Strings of Europe.
It included 5 musical stories from Once Upon a Tune, as well as a new student composition based on traditional Chinese melodies – Mo Li Hua by Purcell School student, Edward Tait – and a stunning ‘curtain-raiser’ performance from Aaron Stewart on the harp.
The audience were treated to some wonderful musical performances, exciting storytelling and, at times, some very fast painting!
Workshop and Festival Finale Concert – ‘side-by-side’ and ‘curtain- raiser’ opportunities for Hertfordshire Youth Choirs
As part of this concert, young singers from Hertfordshire County Youth Choir and Cantate Youth Choir sang ‘side-by-side’ with the professional vocal ensemble ORA Singers, directed by Suzi Digby, performing Morten Lauridsen’s Requiem, Lux Aeterna. This was accompanied by our resident professional chamber orchestra including players from Ensemble Renard.
It also featured an impressive double-choir ‘curtain-raiser’ from the Youth Choirs: Stanford’s Coelos Ascendit Hodie directed by James Slimings.
Earlier in the day, the youth choirs joined ORA for a vocal workshop and were invited to attend their special concert in the Marble Hall, celebrating the lives of our two Queen Elizabeths.
Young Musicians Platform in partnership with Hertfordshire Music Service
Over 70 young musicians took part in these two concerts featuring chamber ensembles from across Hertfordshire. The audience were treated to some wonderful performances ranging from movements from Holst’s St. Paul’s Suite and Boyce’s Symphony no. 1 to the Allegro from Beethoven’s Piano Trio no. 1 and the first movement of Borodin’s String Quartet no. 2.
Across the Festival – Workshops, Masterclass and Curtain Raisers
This year, we were delighted that one of our international artists, renowned classical guitarist, Morgan Szymanski, was able to work with some of Hertfordshire’s young, aspiring guitarists in a masterclass at Dame Alice Owen’s Secondary School. The guitar ensemble was then invited to play at Hatfield House for one of the ‘curtain-raiser’ opportunities during the Festival.
Morgan also visited a local primary school during the Festival week to deliver a ukulele-based workshop to 60 pupils at Oak View Primary School. This involved rhythm work, learning how to strum and pluck the ukulele and composing a song, which they then performed in a concert to the rest of the school.
During 2022, as part of our education and outreach work, we invited Hertfordshire's talented young chamber musicians to record and submit their own performance of a piece of chamber music for our Young Musicians’ Platform. From those video performances we selected 3 ensembles to perform as ‘curtain-raisers’ during the pre-concert talks in the stunning Long Gallery of Hatfield House and to attend the Festival concert which followed in the Marble Hall.
These included a Clarinet Quartet from Richard Hale School, a String Quartet from Dame Alice Owen’s School and the Senior Guitar Ensemble from Dame Alice Owen’s School, who had been coached by Morgan Szymanski in a masterclass during the week.
We were also delighted to welcome the young wind quintet Ensemble Renard to the Festival this year: holders of a Chamber Music Fellowship for 2021-22 at the Royal Academy of Music and Britten Pears Young Artists 2022-23. They gave us a stunning performance of Knussen’s Alleluya Nativitas as a ‘curtain-raiser’ in our Saturday evening concert in the Marble Hall.
As part of our ‘World of Music’ theme, we also invited the Steel Pan Ensemble from Richard Hale School to perform during the concert interval on Saturday evening in the Armoury and they entertained us with some colourful performances of a range of Calypso and Caribbean melodies.
Throughout this year’s Festival over 1,000 children and young people in Hertfordshire were directly involved in hearing or performing live music through our Education and Outreach Programme. This year saw even more integration between the main Festival and the education and outreach work, resulting in a much wider and deeper impact on the lives of young people and the local community than ever before.
Next year’s Festival runs from Thursday 28th September to Sunday 1st October. For more information about how to get involved or to support our work visit our website: www.hatfieldhousemusicfestival.org.uk
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