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Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment - Watercycle Project Autumn 2014

In the Autumn of 2014, NCEM embarked on a partnership with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE) through their nationwide project Watercycle. The Watercycle project, which will be delivered in 9 different regions around the country, focuses on educating young people about water through the art of music. Throughout the four months, members of the London-based orchestra ran workshops and sessions with all the local York ensembles, community groups, and schools involved in the project. As part of Watercycle, NCEM hosted three events:
  • Tots concerts - introductory concerts for children aged 2 - 5 and their families
  • Schools concerts - interactive concerts for primary schools (KS1 and KS2)
  • Community concert - a public concert involving five local community groups
The five primary schools taking part were Lord Deramore's, St Aelred's, Heworth, Bishopthorpe, and Carr Infants, each bringing with them 80 children to participate in the project. The children were guided through an exciting musical journey, looking at well-known pieces of baroque and classical music based on the theme of water. As part of the workshops, the OAE players educated the children in the science of water, including rain, clouds, rivers and sewers, and how that links into the music they had been listening to. Leading up to the concert, the KS1 and KS2 pupils were taught water-related songs, which they then sang alongside the OAE in their performance. Each of these concerts was a huge success, with high levels of enthusiasm and engagement as well as new educational musical discoveries inspired by the orchestra.

The community concert involved five local ensembles: NCEM's Minster Minstrels, The Belfrey Singers, Castaway Goole's Sloop Group, Castaway Sing and A Level music students from York College. OAE players led several workshops and sessions with each group throughout the term in preparation for a large-scale performance at the end of December which brought all the ensembles together. The theme of water remained the focus, with York College composing a Concerto for York based on the poem Ouse by John Wedgwood Clarke. The Minster Minstrels played excerpts from Telemann's Water Music, which worked perfectly alongside Handel's Water Music played by the OAE. The poem Ouse also inspired the composition of a digital soundscape created by Castaway's Sloop Group, and The Belfrey Singers enjoyed their performance of Dry Thy Tears from Handel's Acis and Galatea. To conclude the concert, everyone (including the audience!) sang the Watercycle Song - a roof-raising piece sung at every Watercycle event around the country, and composed specially for this project by James Redwood. 

Responses from those who took part show the impact this project has made on young musicians and their teachers alike: 
  • We were delighted that 60 children from our school were able to participate in the Watercycle project. The music had been specially written for KS1 children so it suited their voices and interest perfectly. Both staff and children thoroughly enjoyed the workshops and performance and developed their musical skills as a result. Thank you for providing the opportunity for our children to participate in such a high quality musical experience. (Bishopthorpe Infant School)
  • The project was a fantastic experience for our students. Working with James (the composer) gave a valuable insight into how a professional composer works; he encouraged them to try out new ideas and showed them it was ok if some of them didn't work. This gave the students confidence with writing their own music which has fed directly in the composing unit of their Music A level. The icing on the cake was being able to play the piece with the OAE! The students loved hearing the music they had written being played by professionals; it was great for the students to rehearse with them and ultimately perform in the concert, an experience they will not ever forget. A few of the students had not ever played in an orchestra before, one could not read music, so again this was a fabulous opportunity for them. All of the students have since willingly attended "Classical" Music concerts and this is as a direct result of the OAE project. (York College)
  • The Watercycle project with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment was a joy and an inspiration from start to finish! The workshops with the musicians from the orchestra inspired both pupils and staff and covered so much in  short space of time, both musical learning and putting that into a historical context. The musicians were really tuned in to the needs and interests of the children. Ideas from the workshops and also the fabulous teacher resource will be used to enhance music lessons for years to come. (Wigginton Primary School)
A key aspect of OAE's Watercycle project was to raise awareness and fund-raise for WaterAid. The Bottle It activity invited participants to collect small change in empty plastic water bottles throughout the term. The filled bottles were then used as percussion instruments during each performance before the money was collected at the end. The funds raised will help WaterAid transform lives by improving access to safe water, improved hygiene and sanitation in the world's poorest communities.

Read more about the community concert and the family concerts  .