Sunday, 30 June 2013

Nucleo - young music erupts on the South Bank.

In Harmony Lambeth's Holst Orchestra performing at the South Bank Centre under Gerry Sterling (Photo Reynaldo Trombetta / IHSE)
In Harmony Lambeth's Holst Orchestra performing
at the South Bank Centre under Gerry Sterling
(Photo Reynaldo Trombetta / IHSE)
Saturday (29 June 2013) I went to the Royal Festival Hall to catch some of the weekend's events surrounding the Nucleo, turning the South Bank Centre into a community centre for music. The whole Royal Festival Hall building was heaving with people, with workshops, rehearsals, coaching, discussions and performances crammed into every nook and cranny. I saw young people having guitar coaching in one of the bars and trombone tuition in one of the rooms overlooking the Thames. The whole place had an exciting buzz and I discovered one or two events by accident.

I was there to hear a performance by the Holst Orchestra from In Harmony Lambeth (the El Sistema inspired organisation based in Stockwell), but a number of other In Harmony groups were there as well. I also caught a performance by the Ethnic Contemporary Orchestra and dropped in on a rehearsal by the National Orchestra for All.

All around the South Bank Centre there was information about the proposed redevelopment and the new Festival Wing, which will be used for events just such as this. There was also a petition to Lambeth council, and of course plenty of information about the proposed moving of the skateboard park. Though events such as the Nucleo show how badly the extra space is needed.

I caught the end of a performance by the Ethnic Contemporary Classical Orchestra. Founded in 2009 the group aims to be diverse and inclusive. The ensemble playing was from ECCO Kensal  Rise, a mixed group of singers and instrumentalists performing some lively South American songs with great enthusiasm and much charm. I wished I'd arrived earlier to catch more.

I then eavesdropped on a rehearsal by the National Orchestra for All. A group founded two years ago by Marianne Hay which aims to perform music without boundaries. The players are all in the 11 to 18 age range, and of mixed abilities. The players are nominated and priority is given to those from challenged backgrounds, with emphasis on the child's commitment. The young players have a variety of personal challenges from isolation to real physical difficulties.

The group runs a summer course, this year it is at Warwick Arts Centre with a concert on 31 July. They recently moved from being a pilot programme to being a registered charity. The players at the South Bank came from a variety of areas, including the West Midlands, Sheffield and London. Whilst I was there they were rehearsing a special arrangement of Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite for performance later in the afternoon.

Of the various In Harmony Sistema England groups, the one in Leeds based at Opera North, could not come to London because the previous day they had had a concert in Leeds Town Hall. Rather impressively the event was filmed, edited over night and we were treated to 15 minutes of highlights on film. (You can see a video on the BBC news website)

The children at In Harmony Leeds have had four months experience; their instrumentalists and singers joined the chorus and orchestra of Opera North to perform music from Bizet's Carmen and a specially composed piece. Judging by the excerpts on the film, the results were impressive with some lively singing complete with actions from the children's chorus.

Then at 1pm in the main bar area, Gerry Sterling conducted In Harmony Lambeth's Holst Orchestra in a 30 minute programme. There were around 40 children from primary schools in Lambeth, playing strings, wind and brass. They were joined by their tutors and the results were lively and committed with some fine rhythmic playing and some very intent faces. They attracted a good and varied audience, both those who were just visiting like myself and family members.

The South Bank Centre has announced closer links with Lambeth Council to run In Harmony Lambeth, the London-based Sistema England programme. Staff from Lambeth Council have joined South Bank Centre to run the initiative on site.

I left, but events continued throughout the afternoon. In the evening, members of In Harmony Lambeth joined with the Centre for Young Musicians, Bromley Youth Music Trust, Junior Royal Academy Music, community choruses from Lambeth and Southward, the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the BBC SIngers to perform excerpts from Holst's The Planets and Tippett's A Child of Our Time.

Update: Sistema Norwich will be doing a live internet link-up concert with groups from Liverpool and Lambeth on Friday 5 July, see my preview.

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