Monday 11 May 2015

“Is cheese an instrument?” – A creative eruption in the first phase of Britten Sinfonia’s Link Ensemble

The Link Ensemble is a new creative group, led by Duncan Chapman, integrating students with special education needs at Comberton Village College with their GCSE peers through two-day music workshops with Britten Sinfonia musicians. Creative Learning Graduate Assistant, Emily, shares her insight into the group's first workshop...

When I’m not in the Creative Learning office at Britten Sinfonia, I can be found working with children with special education needs in a local school and so I was particularly excited when I had the opportunity to be involved in the first day of Britten Sinfonia’s Link Ensemble, a creative ensemble integrating SEND students with their GCSE peers through music. The project, in partnership with Comberton Village College, Cambridgeshire Music Partnership and Orchestras Live, has been in the pipeline for a number of years and it so it has been amazing to carry out the ideas of my colleagues and get this project off the ground.

Over two days we explored and created music at Comberton Village College with an enthusiastic group of 25 students, some with a variety of special educational needs alongside their mainstream peers. With so many different and distinctive musical voices to be heard the workshops were alive with energy, creativity and playfulness. From the onset a young student posed the question “is cheese an instrument?” which both baffled our musicians and became the catalyst for many creative, out-of-the-box suggestions throughout the day. To see students begin to open up to the musicians, to question and challenge them was a fascinating process to observe as their confidence in musical ideas and direction grew. An aspect that was also evident in the creative relationship between the students, something that the project hopes to build upon.   
Creative Learning Coordinator, Mateja, explored the difference in string sounds with a student who has limited sight. 
Photo credit: Comberton Village College
Led by Duncan Chapman, we explored the expansive sound world that we could create as a group using guitars, pianos, a recorder and various percussion alongside three Britten Sinfonia musicians on flute, viola and bass clarinet, (I proudly took on the role of triangle player). Everyone contributed musical ideas as we built up a collective sound – even using recording to loop and delay ourselves to create new sound experiences.  Bass clarinettist Jack O’Neill commented that, ‘everyone’s input was valuable and vital, making for a joyful and sometimes unexpectedly powerful musical experience... I found it inspiring that everyone was given the space and time they needed to express themselves, ask questions and develop their ideas.’ Take a listen online here to some of the creations from these exciting workshops; we will build upon these ideas throughout the project.

Although this was just the first phase of the project, it already feels like we’re building a solid and creative collaboration that will flourish and develop over the next two phases in July and November, culminating in a public performance on the main stage at Saffron Hall on Saturday 21 November. I am eager to watch the group’s creativity take on a life of its own – the excitement is in not knowing where this will take us – watch this space!
A group discussion of developing ideas on the second day of workshops with workshop leader Duncan. 
Photo credit: Comberton Village College

Emily Moss
Creative Learning Graduate Assistant