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The Age Old Story

As part of the 2016 Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival, the NCEM continued its successful education partnership with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE) and composer James Redwood.

During the week leading into the festival, James and members of the OAE took up residence in Beverley, working with 4 students from the University of York's Music Education Group (MEG), 20 boys from Beverley Grammar School and 120 pupils from across its feeder primary schools (Keldmarsh, Walkington and Beverley Minster). Together, this large company set out to devise a re-imagining of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas. One of England's finest composers, Purcell gave the next generation of young musicians rich material to work with - from delightful choruses, to mischievous witches and raucous sailors - as they created their new opera, using the age-old themes of love and loss.

The week began with a focus on the 15 young men from across Years 9 and 10 at Beverley Grammar School, who had signed up as Student Mentors, tasked with providing positive role models for younger pupils and encouraging their participation in artistic activity. On Monday 23 May, these Mentors developed starting points for several new pieces of music and explored ways in which they could share and develop these pieces with the primary school participants, with whom they would be working for the remainder of the week. Encouraging the leadership and facilitation skills of these older students was a key success, with the Grammar boys reflecting afterwards that the project helped them to:
  • "Learn how to include everyone"
  • "Always be supportive and encourage younger musicians"
  • "Be patient with people when they're learning"
  • "Think about setting a good example"
  • "Find ways of keeping people motivated"
  • "Work as a team"
  • "Appreciate what teachers do!"
Following devising sessions out at the three primaries during the middle of the week, led by OAE and supported by the Student Mentors and MEG musicians, the project returned to Beverley Grammar School on Friday 27 May for a spectacular finale! With ranks swelled by a Year 7 Boys Chorus and young professional musicians from NCEM's EEEmerging ensemble-in-residence Consone Quartet , the 160-strong company performed their brand-new Age Old Story opera to friends, family and the wider Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival audience. The concert can be viewed in full here .

Young people immersed themselves in the project with great committment and reported a large number of positive outcomes, including:
  • "I loved everything - it really helped me develop my confidence and I would love to do it again!"
  • "I really liked having the adults watching us and showing them what we could do"
  • "I liked it best that we could go to different schools and work with new people"
  • "It was special teaching someone else to play music"
  • "I don't normally like singing but this was such fun!"
  • "Making up our own songs was amazing!"
  • "This helped my confidence in singing in front of people I don't know"
  • "I had lots of fun playing my instruments and singing"
  • "The musicians who taught us were super-good. I am inspired!"
  • "This made me want to play more classical music"
  • "I enjoyed the show and the songs and thought it was all really creative and fantastic!"
  • "This helped me feel more confident and interested in early music"
  • "I want to take my mentoring and leadership skills further now"
  • "I cannot say how much I LOVED it - really really!!"
Staff were likewise enthusiastic and have commented on the legacy the project will leave for them and their students:
  • "I've got loads of new ideas for composition, using story and poetry that I can use again"
  • "The children have been on a fantastic learning journey this week - understanding that together we can achieve amazing things"
  • "Some of the children are now enjoying a more varied range of music than they previously showed interest in"
  • "Pupils are now wanting to take up instruments and go to more concerts - they have been inspired into the future"
  • "The link to Beverley Grammar School will be very useful for the children who go there when they move on to secondary education"
  • "Young people (and staff) have been left with a great desire to perform again!"


This project was generously supported by the Mayfield Valley Arts Trust, The D'Oyly Carte Charitable Trust, the East Riding Music Education Hub, OAE Education, Beverley Decorative and Fine Arts Society, and Beverley Grammar School.