Thursday 30 April 2015

Peterborough Music Takeover day - O to make the most jubilant song!

On Saturday 18 April, Peterborough City Centre was alive with the sounds of the Music Takeover: all sorts of music… in all sorts of places…!  Recorders and ukuleles in the shopping centre, choral groups in the city square, pop bands on pop-up stages and solo artists and duos in cafes and restaurants. Everywhere you turned, up popped someone to serenade you while buying a coffee or nipping to the shops.

Britten Sinfonia’s Creative Learning department were delighted to be invited to take part in the event, and worked with local community groups to create and perform a brand new piece, ‘O to make the most jubilant song!’ which was premiered in Cathedral Square as part of the Music Takeover day.

We commissioned the wonderful young composer and music leader Omar Shahryar to work with four fabulous music groups. We hoped to challenge a diverse range of musicians from different ages, musical backgrounds and different community groups to come together to celebrate and champion their city.

Between January and March a Britten Sinfonia team visited each of four groups, Cantus Polonicum – the Polish Choir, City of Peterborough Symphony Orchestra (CPSO), Peterborough Choral Society and the Indian Dhol Ensemble a number of times, to get to know each other and to compose musical ideas. Omar then went away and compiled and modified these ideas, along with his own, and created the finished composition. We had two fabulous days, where all the musicians came together to workshop, rehearse and get to know each other before the big performance day.

On the concert day, (lucky for April) the sun came out, and the performers shined! The final piece was about 15 minutes long. It included complex instrumental sections for Britten Sinfonia and CPSO musicians, sections in English and Polish for the two choirs, and a massive party finish featuring the Dhol drummers and a catchy tune to get the audience singing along as well!

I think that all participants would say that the process was challenging! It was difficult to imagine what the final performance was going to be like, when workshopping and improvising on a cold January evening. but Omar took loads of inspiration and ideas from the participants and crafted them into a fabulous final piece. We were all singing and dancing at the end of the performance – and most importantly, all the musicians involved did themselves, and their city, proud. It was a wonderful performance to be a part of, and to see different communities and musical styles come together to celebrate!

Bravo to all who took part!

Special thank yous to:  Omar Shahryar – composer, Ellie Moran – mezzo soprano, Britten Sinfonia Musicians, funders Orchestras Live and Arts Council England and the event organisers Vivacity Peterborough.

Isobel Timms
Britten Sinfonia Academy Manager

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