Thanks to the fine choir of Burntwood Academy, I had the rare opportunity to listen to one of my own pieces in the Royal Festival Hall – 'i carry your heart with me' from little tree, settings of E E Cummings’ poetry. While doing that, I also had the chance to hear about 1000 young Wandsworth musicians in various artistic endeavours on the RFH stage, during a yearly concert given by Wandsworth Schools’ Music.
Hearing the large number of singing primary schoolchildren was a particular thrill. And loud applause to whoever decided to have the entire workforce sing and play a medley of songs from Carmen, together with a real opera singer,Katie Grosset, from the National Opera Studio, also based in Wandsworth, where else. (Congratulations too to Bizet for writing this wonderful opera which received such a rotten reception when it first opened. Dying weeks after the premiere, Bizet was not to know that his creation would become synonymous with opera, Spain, sopranos, etc and be sung everywhere, forever.)
The concert was a reminder of how much the future of music in England lies in the hands of Music Hubs, and the Saturday music schools where most of their instrumental teaching takes place. In the week when the government confirmed the imminent conversion of all English state schools into academies, I reflected again on how schools’ music has particularly lost out from the diminution of local authority input to education. Seeing Wandsworth’s borough-wide celebration involving numerous schools and young musicians was cheering. Let’s hope they can keep doing it, even if the relationship between schools and local government becomes a distant memory.
[Pictured - Burntwood Academy's new building won last year's RIBA Stirling award - making it officially the leading site of new architecture in the UK. But the school choir rehearses in an old wooden LCC-era hall, still standing on the site, from where this little mural comes. Why is this old structure still here, I asked? "Because if we knocked it down we wouldn't be allowed to put it up again" was the answer.]