We recently completed a four-week long devising and performance project with Primary schools in Westminster as part of its Song Stories outreach strand. Around 120 children in Year 4 and Year 5 from St Barnabas’ Church of England Primary School and St Clement Danes Church of England Primary School in Westminster, London took part in a series of workshops based upon the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice and the opera Orfeo by Monteverdi. The workshops were led by the spirited Animateur John Barber, and supported by Endymion musicians Adrian Bradbury, Jenna Sherry, Massimo Di Trolio and Rebecca McChrystal and students from the Royal Academy of Music. Students from the Academy were involved to participate in the project to gain work experience and to absorb and refine their outreach and education skills.
The project, called I am Orfeo, enabled the children at both schools to devise and compose their own songs around the story of Orpheus, and rehearse them to perform at a gala concert. They also had a chance to learn about the instruments from our quartet (percussion, clarinet, cello and violin) and watch mini-performances by these solo instruments and in duos.
Both schools came together on Thursday 13th March at St Clement Danes Church in Aldwych, central London, to perform the complete story of Orfeo, with arrangements of Monteverdi by John Barber and interspersed with performances from us. The two schools sang one massed song all together, and their own original songs based on the story. The event was a huge success, with parents and public attending, and a wonderful sharing experience between the two schools and the musicians from Endymion and the Royal Academy.
We are incredibly grateful to the many trusts who supported this work, in particular the Ernest Cook Trust and the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, without which it would not have been possible.