Earlier this month Celebration, our annual festival which showcases the diverse music being made by young people across Suffolk, took place in the Snape Maltings Concert Hall. In its 35th year, Celebration attracts performances from primary, secondary and SEND schools as well as community music groups. There were 43 schools and community music groups (around 1400 young people) performing across six nights. We had a wide variety of programming take to the stage; from Stravinsky’s Firebird to the YMCA. All young people learn and perform a finale song together, which this year was written by Ivor award winning composer Charlotte Harding, in collaboration with students from four of Suffolk’s special schools and units.
Finale Film: Charlotte Harding - Me
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Letter from Margaret Taylor, Leader of Music at Sir John Leman High School
Dear Britten Pears Arts,
I’ve been coming to Snape Maltings to perform in Celebration on various occasions since 1990. Like everything, it’s changed over the last 30 years but it’s always a thrill to take part and is one of my highlights of the school year.
When I first took part in Celebration of Schools’ Music (as it was known in the early 90’s), the sponsors of the event gave students merchandise. After digging though the bottom of my wardrobe, I even managed to find a t-shirt from the 18th year of Celebration which brought back some great memories. Another particularly strong memory is 1998, where 4 schools joined forces bringing together 350 students to perform pieces from a work called African Jigsaw. Imagine completing the paperwork for all of those students! The performance took up the entire half of a concert and it was amazing to be part of such a large ensemble and to collaborate with other schools.
Over the years, it has been interesting to see how Celebration has changed and how this is reflected in what is happening in many schools and the changing world in which we live. In the earlier days, there were always 2 or 3 high schools present and usually with a range of instrumental ensembles. In more recent years I’ve been impressed by the variety of musical activities from the primary schools. In the current education climate, and with the effects of Covid-19, it was great to see that there are many musical activities still taking place in primary schools.
Performing at Snape Maltings is always a great day for everyone involved and it’s often the first-time students have been to the internationally renowned concert hall. The stage seems bigger each year & the venue offers a phenomenal acoustic presence. Sound Engineers and Stage Managers help the ensemble to feel like professional musicians for the day. Despite my students being older, they are always terrifically excited. Just prior to leaving this year, we had a snowstorm, which always creates more excitement even amongst 18 year olds! Having arrived safely we were led to our base for the afternoon and then into the concert hall for our rehearsal slot. I did have to smile that after our rehearsal we spent the afternoon refining our finger clicks! I wasn’t aware that there were so many different ways to do these, but we finally managed to agree on using both hands and moving our arms outwards towards our feet.
Schools come together for the finale & I can still remember many of the finales from years gone by. This year’s song, ‘Me’ struck a particular chord with the students. The students (and I) are often nervous before performing but everyone rises to the occasion with extra energy and there’s a real buzz during and after the concert.
I feel incredibly privileged to have had so many opportunities to bring students to perform at such a fantastic venue and I hope that in the coming years, many more Suffolk students will continue to have this unique opportunity to create music and memories. As I approach my twilight years in education, I would like to thank all the staff involved over the many years, both front of stage and behind the scenes, for this great event and I would encourage as many schools as possible to take advantage of this unique opportunity to showcase their skills, talent and enthusiasm.
Leader of Music, Sir John Leman High School, Beccles
We are grateful to generous support from:
Alan Swerdlow and Jeremy Greenwood
The Vernon Ellis Foundation
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