WORLD-CLASS musicians from Europe’s first majority BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) orchestra Chineke! performed to some of the most deprived schoolchildren in Bristol, and nationally, on November 17.
It was part of the Chineke! Bristol Outreach Project – a ground-breaking collaboration between the Chineke! Foundation’s Orchestra, St George’s Bristol, and the Bristol Ensemble’s ‘Preludes’ Music Project.
A string quartet of players from Chineke! Orchestra visited three schools in Easton and Knowle West – Redfield Educate Together Primary Academy, Easton CE Academy and Ilminster Avenue E-Act Academy.
All schools serve communities, which feature in ‘Bristol City Council’s Deprivation in Bristol’ map, with 21% of the general population and 25% of children in Easton who are income deprived. A significant proportion come from parts of Bristol which are listed in the top 10% of most deprived areas nationally.
The musicians, who are Sarah Daramy-Williams (violin), Tania Passendji (violin), Wei Wei Tan (viola) and David Kadumakasa (cello), gave performances in the schools.
These sessions present black and minority ethnic role models to children, with performances from talented BME classical musicians alongside a presentation of the music and life-story of 18th century black composer Joseph Boulogne, (Le Chevalier de Saint Georges).
Sometimes known as the ‘Black Mozart’, Saint-Georges was born in 1745, composing 10 years ahead of Mozart. He was the son of a wealthy French sugar planter and an African slave and at only seven years old, was sent to Paris alone to become a gentleman. Saint-Georges grew up to be a virtuoso violinist, a champion fencer and a very popular composer. A superstar of his time, he charmed Paris, influenced Mozart and was music teacher to the doomed Queen of France Marie-Antoinette.
The Chineke! Bristol Outreach Project workshops followed the orchestra’s acclaimed performance at the BBC Proms. Their first sell-out concert at St George’s Bristol was in April, followed by a Diversity in the Arts Conference.
Chineke! return to St George’s, just off Park Street, on November 26 to perform works by Joseph Boulogne, W.A. Mozart and contemporary black composer Errollyn Wallen MBE.
The orchestra, whose mission is ‘to champion change and celebrate diversity in classical music’, includes celebrated talent and BBC Young Musician of the Year, Sheku Kanneh-Mason.
Double bassist Chi-chi Nwanoku OBE, Chineke! founder and Artistic & Executive Director commented: “Education and mentorship are fundamental to the mission of the Chineke! Foundation. We are delighted to support and lead these special Chineke! performances in Bristol schools.
“We hope the children who hear his music and learn about the life of Joseph Boulogne, (Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges) will feel inspired to find out more about this great black composer and that meeting Chineke! musicians will encourage the young people to experience a classical music concert or try an instrument themselves.”
Head of Education for St George’s Bristol, Catherine Freda, said: “Chineke! is an exciting young orchestra, which is challenging the status quo, offering opportunities to musicians, and inspiring many others through their innovative education work.
“We are delighted to be working with Chineke! musicians, the Preludes team, and schoolchildren in Easton and Knowle West. This project forms a key part of St George’s diversity ambitions.”
Penny Rawlings, who leads and manages Bristol Ensemble’s Preludes, explained: “Preludes is a bold and innovative music project that has been running successfully since 2009 in several areas of Bristol experiencing high levels of disadvantage.”
She added: “It is the most extensive project of its type in the country. Our aim is to put classical music at the heart of every child’s education and by doing so improve confidence, co-ordination, speech and language and benefit all other areas of their learning.”
Bristol has deprivation ‘hot spots’ that are amongst some of the most deprived areas in the country. Two of the three wards that make up the school community of Redfield Educate Together Primary are in the most disadvantaged wards nationally.
Ros Farrell, Headteacher at Redfield Educate Together Primary, said: “Music is a vital part of our curriculum and valued greatly by the children, parents and staff. Preludes provide every child in the school with a high quality introduction to classical music every week in a child-friendly way.
“Many of our children come from disadvantaged areas and it is vitally important they have the same opportunities as other children. This orchestra will let children experience music fully. In school we have many children from the age of five already learning an instrument as well as having whole class music lessons.”
Chineke! Orchestra is supported by Arts Council England’s ‘Grants for the Arts’ scheme, and PRS Foundation’s ‘Resonate’ scheme
Photos by South West News Service