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The Primary Robins meet the Berkeley Ensemble

Posted by Annabel Larard on 14 April 2016

The Derrill Allatt Foundation, one of the sponsors of Primary Robins, kindly arranged for The Berkeley Ensemble to give a workshop at Winnall and Stanmore Primary Schools in Winchester.

They began with a wonderful arrangement of the overture to Rossini's opera William Tell. Within seconds the children were tapping their feet and smiling and one little boy shouted out with great enthusiasm “It’s The Lone Ranger”!

We were then treated to the beautiful Hornpipe from Handel’s Water Music.

Each player introduced their respective instruments to the children - bassoon, clarinet, viola and violin. The children were fascinated that violin bows were made from horse hair and that strings used to be made from cat gut!
The children were then invited to ask questions. Here are some examples of the sort of things they asked;
“Why do you bob up and down when you play?” Andrew explained that without a conductor it helps the players stay in time.

"How much do your instruments cost?" Fran told us that, of the four instruments, her violin was the most expensive and that the most expensive violin sold at auction for over 16 million dollars!

The children were then given the opportunity to try conducting and composing. The result of the latter was a brilliant new duet for clarinet and violin.

The workshop finished with Andrew, John, Dan and Fran playing a wonderful Tango. They asked the children how this piece made them feel. For one girl it was walking along a river; another said it made her think of purple roses on a sunny day; one little boy said it transported him to a secret garden!

It was a truly brilliant day and a unique experience for the children. They were all buzzing afterwards and there is no doubt that it will have inspired some of them to have a go at playing an instrument. 

We hope that the Berkeley Ensemble will visit some of the other schools involved in Primary Robins and we are very excited that they will be accompanying the children at one of the summer concerts at The Grange - for which they are all busily learning new pieces. Some of the older children have been singing songs in two parts and The Rhythm of Life is one of their favourites.

On Saturday the four Primary Robins who are performing in Oliver! had their first rehearsal. Alexandra Spencer-Jones, the associate director on the show, painted a wonderful picture of Victorian England and what life in a workhouse would have been like. The four girls then worked on their individual characters and their stories. As part of this they chose their own characters' names - Alice, Elizabeth, Ann and Kitty. 

To have children from the Primary Robins singing in a production at The Grange was one of the central aims of the project and I am thrilled that it is becoming a reality this summer.

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