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Young Norwich musicians face funding axe

PUBLISHED: 07:47 01 June 2011 | UPDATED: 12:46 01 June 2011

Youngsters from  Larkman primary school have been taking part in a special music workshop with music group In Harmony.; (left to right) Thomas Hall, Shannon Woodcock Brandon Gook (centre) Narcine McWilambwe, Joseph Cole and Bethany Plane.

Youngsters from Larkman primary school have been taking part in a special music workshop with music group In Harmony.; (left to right) Thomas Hall, Shannon Woodcock Brandon Gook (centre) Narcine McWilambwe, Joseph Cole and Bethany Plane.

Archant © 2011

A music project dedicated to helping hundreds of Norwich children needs thousands of pounds to prevent it from closing.

The In Harmony project is calling for help to plug a £15,000 shortfall after its Department of Education grant was halved.

Currently, organisers need to find the money by the middle of next month so they can run a summer school and keep the programme running until the next round of funding in September.

The project works with more than 500 four to 11-year-olds in primary schools at Larkman, Catton Grove and Mile Cross. It also runs a youth orchestra for 165 children.

Director of Norwich and Norfolk Community Arts Marcus Patterson, whose organisation was selected to deliver the musical project, said: “In less than two years In Harmony has had an enormous impact on children. We have seen children’s attitudes and expectations change.

“We have started gathering evidence for how this is impacting on education achievement and other aspects of their lives, and we have discovered some very talented musicians.

“But we must find ways of investing in, re engaging, and inspiring children for the future of our city and county.

“In Harmony has the power to start this process with the innovative approach that Norwich has been at the forefront of developing. We should be expanding this, not be under threat.”

Youngsters spend up to four days a week in the music programme, which teaches violin, viola, cello, double bass, percussion and Sol-fa; a centuries old method of teaching musical notation founded in Norwich.

The headteacher of Larkman Primary School, Alison Clarke, said In Harmony provided a fantastic opportunity and was a brilliant addition to the curriculum.

“At the school, people have been amazed by what is on offer thanks to the In Harmony project,” she added.

“When Marcus [Patterson] first contacted me about their work I jumped at the chance to bring it to our school.

“It is not just about learning how to play and read music; it is their whole ethos of encouraging children with low aspirations to have the want to achieve.

“Through the project, the children have played in Norwich at the Open youth venue and with world-renowned cellist, Julian Lloyd Webber. They even went down to London to perform at the Royal Festival Hall.

“Most of our children have never left Norwich, let alone go to the capital, so the fact that they were able to play with national players through In Harmony is fantastic.”

In Harmony was launched in Norwich in March 2009 alongside projects in Liverpool and London.

Each city was given a share of £3m from the Department of Education in order to set up projects, which use music to help impoverished children and communities.

The inspiration for the scheme came from the educational music programme, El Sistema, founded in Venezuela 35 years ago.

The publicly-funded South American project was launched to help street children rise out of poverty whilst producing a fine crop of talented musicians.

Its success has seen the discovery of internationally-acclaimed musicians, such as the double bass player for the Berlin Philharmonic, Edicson Ruiz, and the principal conductor for the LA Philharmonic, Gustavo Dudamel.

But its real achievement is found in its world-class youth ensemble, the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra, and the 125 youth orchestras it looks after in the country.

Meanwhile, In Harmony Norwich has also made steps towards putting youngsters in the classical music spotlight.

Pupils have gone from performing at the Open venue, to delivering classical pieces at the Royal Festival Hall in London alongside In Harmony chair, Julian Lloyd Webber.

Steve Copley is the musical director for In Harmony who has developed some of the children to a concert hall level.

One technique he uses is called Sol-fa, which was founded by Norwich woman, Sarah Glover, in 1828.

The system simplifies musical notation so children can understand music scale and pitch without having to read music.

He said: “We work with the children four times a week and every after-school club and session involves Sol-fa.

“It give pupils the chance to learn about singing and pitch without having to study it with a pen and paper.”

Sarah Glover invented the Norwich Sol-fa system whilst she was living in Pottergate, Norwich.

Her system sought to simplify musical notation from the traditional method to help improve singing in the upper and lower classes of society.

Since then, Norwich Sol-fa has been widely adapted and been used all over the globe to help teach people how to sing in tune.

In 1841, Reverand John Curwen advanced the system to create the Tonic Sol-fa system where hand gestures were used to express notes in a scale.

Elsewhere in Europe, Hungarian Zoltán Kodály made it his purpose to reform music education in schools in the late 1930s. He used Curwen’s Tonic Sol-fa method of hand signs to provide a visual aid to his music teaching.

A spokesman from the Department for Education said: “The Government also urges individuals and organisations to pledge financial support to ensure the future of In Harmony.”

Donations can be made directly to In Harmony at NORCA, Martineau Memorial Hall, 21 Colegate, Norwich NR3 1BN, or through the website http://
uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charities/norcaarts

Are you fighting to save an organisation? Call reporter Ben Woods on 01603 772439 or email ben.woods@archant.co.uk

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