NEW OCTAGON MUSIC PROJECT SECURES £60,000 FUNDING TO BRING MAJOR ORCHESTRA TO SOUTH SOMERSET
The Octagon Theatre has unveiled plans for a ground-breaking new music project called Strike A Chord! that will see the South Somerset venue join forces with acclaimed conductor Charles Hazlewood and one of Britain’s most celebrated orchestras, the London-based Philharmonia Orchestra. The South Somerset District Council (SSDC) run venue has been awarded funding, a £49,998 ‘Grant for the Arts’, from Arts Council England and a grant from Yarlington Housing Group’s Community Fund. The Octagon Theatre will contribute £10,000 from its existing SSDC funding to the project. The project is the first of its kind for The Octagon and South Somerset and will bring The Philharmonia to The Octagon and Somerset for the first time and take classical music to Yeovil primary schools.
Beginning in January 2016, Strike a Chord! will involve a wide range of musical activity and workshops delivered by the Philharmonia Orchestra in nine of Yeovil’s primary schools, culminating on 7 June 2016 when the full Philharmonia Orchestra will be in residence at The Octagon Theatre. This day will feature a specially tailored afternoon schools concert and then an evening public performance.
Octagon Arts & Entertainment Manager, Adam Burgan, said, “we are incredibly excited about this project; it is a big development for us as a theatre and brings world class artists to South Somerset. The opportunities for our patrons and specifically school children to engage with these artists are very special and I am thrilled that we have been able to secure the investment and funding to see this amazing project become a reality. Seeing The Philharmonia on our stage under the baton of Charles Hazlewood will be a dream come true and introducing a new generation of children to the wonder of live classical music is a privilege.”
Prior to these concerts, South Somerset’s children will be given the opportunity to discover the power of live orchestral performance through a series of interactive and creative workshops both in school and at The Octagon Theatre, led by an expert artistic team consisting of Philharmonia players and creative project leaders. South Somerset school children will discover the power of live orchestral performance, develop core musicianship skills and self-expression through music as The Philharmonia, with creative direction from eminent conductor Charles Hazlewood, shake up conventional approaches to Classical Music. Complementing these workshops will be a series of INSET training workshops and accompanying resources for primary school teachers to develop further their skills for using creative music making in the classroom. Conductor Charles Hazlewood and composer Paul Patterson, whose piece ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ the Philharmonia will be performing as the central work of the schools’ concert, will also lend their expertise to these workshops. With text by Roald Dahl, Patterson’s ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ will also provide a unique opportunity for schools to become involved in Roald Dahl’s Centenary Celebrations taking place across the UK in 2016.
Nine primary schools will take part in the project: Holy Trinity, Oaklands, Milford Junior, St Michael’s, Castle, Ash, Birchfield, Fairmead and Fiveways. A five-piece ensemble of Philharmonia musicians will visit each school along with Paul Patterson and Charles Hazlewood to deliver a whole school assembly and workshop. The project will conclude with a high-octane lunchtime orchestral performance in June, conducted by Charles Hazlewood and delivered by the Philharmonia at The Octagon. This will feature a one hour narrated performance of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’. The concert will begin with a ‘singalong’ with Charles, who will then introduce children to the different sections of the orchestra. In the evening, members of the public will have their own opportunity to experience the orchestra under the direction of Charles Hazlewood with a different programme of works being performed.
Somerset based conductor Charles Hazlewood was the keynote speaker at the launch of Creative Somerset in 2012, where he raised the statistic that 60% of children in the UK have never experienced a live orcheastra. Speaking about this project to challenge that figure, he said, “I welcome the possibility of creating a Music residency in South Somerset, a fresh concept for young people to explore sound, born from the source of a symphony orchestra, none other than music royalty, The Philharmonia. For the first time, a world-class London based symphony orchestra will play at The Octagon, inviting hundreds of children to experience a vibrant spectrum of sound through high octane performance. There could surely be nowhere better for us to base this power house than The Octagon in Yeovil. Easily accessible and with an authentic commitment to the Arts, The Octagon is the most exciting venue in the region to offer opportunities for development and experimentation, with a growing concert-going public eager for premiere class performance.”
This proved the starting point for Adam Burgan to contact Charles with the ambition of providing access for children in South Somerset to not only experience live classical music but experience it being played by one of the world’s greatest symphony orchestras being conducted by one of our most celebrated conductors.
James Williams, Director, UK Programme and Creative Projects at the Philharmonia said: “The Philharmonia will bring our experience of education and outreach from across the UK to support this new partnership with the Octagon Theatre, helping to establish a long-term strategy to bring great orchestral music to Somerset. The multi-strand approach of this project allows us to tailor our resources to ensure that this project genuinely allows everyone in South Somerset the opportunity to experience great orchestral music in their local arts venue, school and via the project’s online resources.”
The Strike A Chord! project will be managed by Ellie Velazquez, who has been developing on behalf of The Octagon with the project partners.
Residents of Yarlington Housing Group properties will have special opportunities to engage with the project. Charles Hazlewood will create a playlist that will bring music into Yarlington life and other activities with an aim to ignite a curiosity within the community that will encourage residents to explore the world of orchestral music from contrasting perspectives. Artists will work with to engage residents and work with a youth group. Residents will also have priority access to a number of tickets for the public concert.
Ken Comber, Head of Communities for Yarlington Housing Group, said: “We are really excited to be partnering with the Octagon. We hope that through working together, we can ensure that everyone knows, and has a chance, to take part in this community project. Having such a well renowned conductor and orchestra in Yeovil is a unique opportunity and we are pleased to be a part of this initiative.”
Tickets for the concert and full details will be released shortly with tickets for the public evening concert expected to be in high demand.
Cllr Sylvia Seal, Portfolio Holder for Health and Wellbeing, SSDC said, “This is a fantastic project for the residents of South Somerset and I am delighted to see national bodies like The Arts Council investing in our district. The Octagon’s growing reputation for bringing world class artists to the area goes from strength to strength and all of us at SSDC are so proud of the service we provide for our residents.”
The Philharmonia Orchestra has a long-established reputation as the UK’s national orchestra, performing over 60 concerts per year across the UK as far afield as Aberdeen to Truro.
James Williams, Concerts Manager for the Philharmonia said, “The Philharmonia will bring our experience and learning to support this new partnership with The Octagon Theatre and their associated partners to establish a long-term strategy to bring great orchestral music to a region that currently is underserved with this art form. The multi-strand approach of this project allows us to tailor our approach and resources to ensure that this project genuinely allows everyone the opportunity to access great orchestral music in their local arts venue, schools and online resources.”