National Centre for Early Music

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Happy Birthday Dear Henry!

01 May 2009

 The National Centre for Early Music (NCEM) is working with The National Singing Programme, Sing Up, to celebrate the 350th anniversary of Henry Purcell - one of England's finest composers - in a series of celebrations across England starting in Bury St Edmunds in May and concluding at the Music for Youth Schools Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in November.

Funded by a grant of £45,000 from Sing Up to the NCEM, the celebrations start with a collaborative education project joining together professional singers from The Sixteen and young people from four Cathedral Cities with music leaders from the Choir Schools' Association.

The project - which is led by members of the internationally acclaimed vocal group The Sixteen - will involve over 600 young people aged between 8 and 11 years in performances designed to celebrate the life of Henry Purcell. This piece - which is structured around the life of Henry Purcell - will then be staged by The Sixteen and the young people in a series of matinee performances in St Edmundsbury (9 May), Liverpool Metropolitan (5 June) and Lichfield Cathedrals (16 July) and Southwell Minster (19 June).

Harry Christophers, Conductor and Founder of The Sixteen, says: "We are thrilled to be a part of this project. The Sixteen has been working for several years in education work and is constantly looking to expand the scope of its activity in this area. This is the first time we have been associated with something quite on this scale and, indeed, more importantly with such young children. We are delighted to have the opportunity to work with so many people from this age range and introduce them in an exciting way to the music of our heritage."

Delma Tomlin, Director of the NCEM was very pleased that the Centre had been able to initiate such a hugely significant project. "Working with The Sixteen in Cathedral cities across England will give many young people the chance to learn about early music and the joy of singing as well as offering them an extra-ordinary opportunity to share the same stage as The Sixteen and their world famous director Harry Christophers.

"The educational project has been developed by Dr Cathryn Dew, the NCEM's Educational Consultant, to reflect the history, music and sense of the drama of the period and is strongly linked to the National Curriculum. Songs in the performance piece include London's Burning - reminding the young people of the Fire of London in 1666, Ring a Ring a Roses to bring reference to the Plague which was still raging through London in the 17th century and some of Purcell's most famous pieces including the ever cheerful Come Ye Songs of Art.

"The project has allowed us to join forces with many music professionals to pass on a tremendous amount of knowledge and skill to young people as well and has truly put early music on the national platform."

Sing Up regards this as a key project for their programme. Baz Chapman, Programme Director, added "We are excited to be working on this project with The Sixteen and the NCEM. Sing Up is thriving on groundbreaking partnerships which result in these exciting, high-quality projects."

The NCEM and Sing Up will continue to celebrate the music of Purcell throughout the year. In the autumn, they will be working with over 500 primary school children from 11 schools in York to prepare a short piece to perform at this year's Schools Proms at The Royal Albert Hall on 9 November 2009. The piece, known as 'Ode on the 350th Birthday of Mr Henry Purcell' has been especially commissioned from Cathedral composer Dr Richard Shephard. The young peoples' choir will be directed by Susan Hollingworth, musical director of the Scunthorpe Co-operative Junior Choir who won the BBC Radio 3 Choir of the Year in 2008.

In addition to these venue based activities, the National Centre for Early Music is developing a free on-line educational resource for Key Stage 2 teachers. The resource, which will be available from in May, will include special arrangements of Purcell's music for young voices and activity ideas for teachers.


Press Contacts:

National Centre for Early Music

Shona Galletly PR
07813 796 733

Sing Up

Caroline Eardley (77PR)
0207 492 0977

The Sixteen

Claire Willis Eleventenths PR
07951 600 362

Editor's Notes
Sing Up is the Music Manifesto National Singing Programme, produced by Youth Music with AMV-BBDO, Faber Music and The Sage Gateshead, supported by the Government.

The National Centre for Early Music, based in York and funded by the Arts Council England, is working to join people together in a national celebration of Henry Purcell (1659-1995).

The Sixteen founded by Harry Christophers celebrates its 30th anniversary this year and is recognised as one of the world's finest choral groups. Associate Artists at the Southbank Centre, they are also the Voices of Classic FM and recently featured in the acclaimed BBC Four series Sacred Music. Their current performing schedule includes a 27-concert Choral Pilgrimage to the cathedrals and abbeys of Britain performing the music of James MacMillan, Purcell and Handel.

Since 2001 The Sixteen has been building its own record label, CORO, which will release its 76th disc in 2009. Recent recordings include Handel's Coronation Anthems and 'Bright Orb of Harmony'(music by Purcell and MacMillan) which accompanies the 2009 Choral Pilgrimage, Fauré's Requiem with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields and Handel's celebrated oratorio, Messiah, with an all-star soloist line-up: Carolyn Sampson, Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Mark Padmore and Christopher Purves, which was awarded the prestigious MIDEM Classical Award 2009.