As a school we are always looking for ways to broaden our children’s experiences and give them learning opportunities in exciting and innovative ways.
At the end of January we decided to take our older two classes, Maple and Willow, to listen to the Oxfordshire County Youth Orchestra at the Sheldonian Theatre. The concert gave the children access to a building which many of them had never been inside and provided a wonderful chorus of ‘wows’ and ‘oohs’ as they soaked up the atmosphere and grandeur of their surroundings.
Getting to the Sheldonian had proved problematical as a sink hole had appeared in Broad Street the day before. This meant that we, and ten other schools, had to walk the children from St Giles to the theatre including a child with a broken foot!
Once safely inside we settled down in anticipation to await the arrival of the the Oxfordshire County Youth Orchestra. The children were enthralled as the orchestra entered in their formal black carrying their instruments. The instrumentalists of the orchestra all attend Oxfordshire Secondary Schools, ranging in age from 13 to 17 years. The organisers of the concert, Oxfordshire County Music Service, had thoughtfully supplied a high quality programme which included pictures of the various instruments of the orchestra so the children could match them.
We clapped as first the leader of the orchestra come into the auditorium and then the conductor, Dr John Traill. The concert was just as much a chance for the orchestra to perform as it was a concert for the schools so every protocol was followed.
The orchestra began by playing Shostakovich’s Festive Overture with great gusto and precision. They then split the tune Frere Jacques into phrases so that each set of instruments could play and their sound could be identified. There followed pieces describing events – Copland’s Hoe Down from Rodeo and Delius’ Winter Night; pieces describing people – Elgar’s Enigma variations (Theme, 11 and 7) and Beauty and the Beast; and pieces describing activities – Tchaikovsky’s Russian Dance from the Nutcracker and Respighi’s Pines of Rome.
During Beauty and the Beast the children were treated to a dance between two members of the orchestra dressed as the main characters.
The standard of musicianship was high and the sound the youth orchestra made could easily rival many adult orchestras. They were excellent. The children applauded loudly and clapped along when asked to.
The feedback from children and staff alike was overwhelmingly positive – they had a great time and came back to school enriched by the experience.