There’s something heart-warming about 80-plus children as young as six giving a public performance on the platform of one of Britain’s major concert halls.
Add the fact some had, weeks previously, never picked up an instrument, then their confidence is all the more special.
But this is no ordinary orchestra. The West Everton Children’s Orchestra is part of a pioneering nationwide project backed by the Department for Children, Schools and Families. In Harmony is being piloted in Lambeth,Norwich and Liverpool and is a serious attempt to put school music back atcentre stage after being sidelined for years by governments of both political hues.
It’s based on the inspirational Venezuelan music project El Sistema which has run for more than 30 years, transforming the life for more than half a million young Venezuelans.
When the project began, 92 free instruments were delivered to Faith Primary School in West Everton,
a deprived area on the fringes of Liverpool city centre, adjacent to the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra’s rehearsal facility.
Every day the children, along with 11 members of staff including teachers, teaching assistants, the school head, school secretary and dinner ladies participate in activities, including playing instruments and singing.
At its public debut, the orchestra played alongside RLPO members and In Harmony chairman Julian Lloyd Webber, who referred to the experience as‘moving’.
“We often refer to performances as moving but to see what has been achieved is astonishing. Just imagine what they can achieve in future,” he said. “These children have brought their parents along and some parents have real problems in their lives but today they were smiling as they know this project has given the community a lift. Some say it has changed the school for the better. Others say it has brought about a huge change in the community.”
The concert, performed by the 82-piece orchestra, was the culmination of the first full year of the Phil’s In Harmony programme.
“Progress has been amazing,” said Michael Eakin, Philharmonic Chief Executive. “There’s a real confidence about their playing and a real sense of community in the orchestra.”
By Glyn Môn Hughes, Journalism Lecturer
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The West Everton's Children's Orchestra gives kids the chance to learn an instrument (pics Leila Romaya)