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ISM Conference celebrates Sistema-inspired work in England


With a performance by children from Liverpool, Telford and Stoke, an interview with In Harmony founder Julian Lloyd Webber and a panel discussion about the Sistema model, the annual conference of the Incorporated Society of Musicians will celebrate the inspiring and life-changing work of In Harmony and other Sistema-inspired programmes in England.

The ISM Conference, to be held on Wednesday 16 and Thursday 17 of April at the Birmingham Conservatoire, explores the place and role of music in the 21st century, “examining it from all angles – performance, composition, education, society, technology and more.”

On Wednesday, at 13:30h, children from In Harmony Liverpool and In Harmony Telford & Stoke-on-Trent will perform at the Adrian Boult Hall, in the Birmingham Conservatoire. The programme is as follows:

Summer (Antonio Vivaldi) Performed by West Everton Super Strings, In Harmony Liverpool Conductor: Alexandra Dunn

Conversations (Improvisation) Performed by In Harmony Telford & Stoke Chamber Orchestra Conductor: Jeremy Clay

A Bright Sound (Kirsty Devaney) Premiere of ISM-commissioned composition performed by West Everton Super Strings and In Harmony Telford & Stoke Chamber Orchestra Conductor: Richard Shrewsbury

John Ryan’s Polka (Anonymous) Tudor Dance from Capriol Suite (Peter Warlock) Performed by West Everton Super Strings and In Harmony Telford & Stoke Chamber Orchestra Conductor: Rod Skipp

“Conversations […] explores the use of instruments as expressive tools to aid social and communication skills. Children have been improvising using their instruments combining the sounds they create with live electronics. The live electronics created by James Dooley and Integra Lab at Birmingham Conservatoire provide a whole new set of sounds for the children to explore. Listen to how the electronic sounds take over from the instrumentalists then become part of the piece as it develops.”

A Bright Sound was commissioned by the ISM and written Kirsty Devaney for the In Harmony ensembles. “The work has been a wonderful collaboration between In Harmony students and staff,” said Devaney. “It has involved me working closely with them to develop and compose the piece. During a composing workshop with In Harmony Liverpool, the students composed small musical ‘cells’ that I have included into the middle section of the piece. I wanted to reflect the ethos of In Harmony and play to the strengths of the players – playing music together. The whole piece is about working together; sometimes it requires the students to work in pairs or in small instrumental groups until everyone is playing completely together and in time by the end.”

“My main question for the piece was ‘how can I create complex textures that are common in my music but at the same time make it as easy as possible for the students to understand and play?’ I have had to experiment with different notational methods and as a result the instrumental parts look very different from the main score, which is unique to me. I would like to thank my tutors at Birmingham Conservatoire for their continuing support, the ISM for giving me this wonderful experience, and the tutors of In Harmony whose dedication, hard work and passion has been inspiring,” said Devaney.

The comission is being paid for by the ISM through a crowdfunding appeal. The logistics costs of this performance and the rehearsals that preceeded it were match funded by the European Union’s Culture Programme, as part of the “SMEEC – Sistema-inspired Music Education and Exchange with Canada” project, with funding from the Ellis Campbell Foundation and to the Joseph Ettedgui Charitable Foundation.

Also on Wednesday, at 14:00h, In Harmony founder and Sistema England chairman Julian Lloyd Webber will be interviewed by writer and journalist Clare Stevens. This conference interview is sponsored by Leeds College of Music.

At 15:45h, a panel discussion on the Sistema model, chaired by ISM president Richard Hallam, will follow. The panellists are: Marshall Marcus, CEO of the European Youth Orchestra and trustee of Sistema England; Peter Garden, Executive Director, Learning, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic; Andrea Creech, Institute of Education and Mandie Haywood, Headteacher at Old Park Primary School in Telford.

On Thursday 17, Marshall Marcus will host a private meeting with representatives of the programmes that are part of the Sistema Europe network.

In Harmony Liverpool is led by Liverpool Philharmonic with local partners including Faith Primary School, West Everton Community Council, Liverpool Hope University, Resonate Music Education Hub, The Beacon CE Primary School and The Shewsy.

In Harmony Telford & Stoke is a partnership between Telford & Wrekin Music, Stoke City Music Service, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Manchester Camerata.

In Harmony is a national scheme part-funded by the Department for Education and National Lottery through Arts Council England.

Sistema England is a charity, chaired by In Harmony founder Julian Lloyd Webber, that seeks to transform the lives of children, young people and their communities through the power of music making, as part of the international El Sistema movement.