Students from Heart of England School, along with children from other Solihull schools recently gave a performance which delighted the audience at the Warwick Arts Centre.

A mass orchestra, Orchestra of Solihull Schools in Concert (OSoSiC) made up of over 200 young people, provided the entertainment, which for the first time included a choir.  Schools from around the borough set off during the morning to meet for the first rehearsal which was due to start at 1pm, with conductor Danial Watson.

Rehearsal at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire
Rehearsal at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire with the BBC Concert Orchestra

After rehearsing well everyone broke for lunch although for some it was working lunch. The choir rehearsed separately in the Helen Martin studio with help from a director from Armonico Consort.  They rehearsed with enthusiasm and the choir of boys and girls from secondary and primary school produced a good sound.

Conductor Daniel Watson rehearsed the orchestra hard and the performers responded well to his leadership. He had been rehearsing with them for several weeks. The young musicians have also been working with the BBC Concert Orchestra and the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.  Members of the Conservatoire Learning and Participation Ensemble (LEAP) were there on hand, sitting amongst the orchestra and playing with the students.

Speaking about the origins of the OSoSiC project, Richard Jones, Assistant Head of Solihull Music said: “A network of music teachers meets throughout the year to discuss and share ways to develop music in Solihull schools. It provides support to teachers and allows staff to network with other Solihull members.”

The orchestra rehears for OSoSic II in the Butterworth Hall
The orchestra rehears for OSoSic II in the Butterworth Hall

The concert is based on the BBC Ten Pieces and Richard spoke about the importance of inspiring young people to perform and about the crucial role of the partnerships in projects: “The Ten Pieces provide a vehicle to consolidate links within the Solihull Music Hub, which is further enhanced by our partnerships with the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and the BBC Concert Orchestra.”

Although there were some signs of nerves, everyone was keen to get started.  The concert started at 7 o’clock with an intense and passionate version of is a Zadok the Priest by Handel It was a good start!

Sarah Henton conducting the orchestra during the performance
Sarah Henton conducting the orchestra during the performance

The programme included a world premiere of a new piece written by Natalie, Heart of England, Year 13.  Titled, Peter Pan Overture, the piece is based on the characters of the pirates, Tinkerbell, the children and Captain Hook from the Peter Pan story.  “I wrote it over several months for an A Level composition.  I love film music and it’s fantastic to hear it played – it really came to life!”  Natalie said she was helped by feedback from players and the conductor allowing her to revise the piece.

The orchestra and singers went from strength to strength during the performance which included solos, small ensembles and a humorous and entertaining performance of the Minute Waltz played on xylophone by two musicians from LEAP.

The performers went from strength to strength along with powerful and dramatic performances of pieces like Finlandia (Sibelius) and Dies Irae (Verdi), there were moments of calm and focus provided by solos from Louisa (Tudor Grange) who played the cornet and Amy (Tudor Grange) on violin.

It was a great day for musical excellence and such a great opportunity to see our students reach out to an audience and thrill them.  There was even an encore!

Review

  • The concert began with an intense version of Zadok the Priest by Handel. It was sung with passion and plenty of volume. A great start!
  • Next, two pieces by Tchaikovsky:  firstly, Russian Dance where the percussion were really on form, creating an amazing bank of sound,
  • then, Waltz of Flowers from the Nutcracker was a toe-tapping piece for sure, with lots of audience members swaying!  A very assured performance.
  • A solo piece on cornet followed, played by Louisa from Tudor Grange.  Confident and well done.
  • Now, a strong performance of Elgar’s Enigma Variations very enjoyable and played well.
  • Time for the choir now to fill the hall with sound. This is the first time a choir has been included with OSoSiC.  They performed three American Chants.  They have been well taught and they had a good sense of timing.
  • Another solo now from Conservatoire student, Tom on the cello: a spellbinding performance.  Really excellent.
  • Clearly an orchestra favourite, the next piece performed with energy and vigour.  It really looks like they were enjoying Copeland’s Hoe Down!
  • After the excitement of the Hoe Down, a well-rehearsed violin solo (Study, op. 36, No.7 by Mazas) from Amy from Tudor Grange playing with real emotion.
  • Back to the full orchestra for a very confidently played rendition of Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9.  An evocative and melodic performance, especially by the brass section.  Plenty of motion and feeling.
  • World premiere performance now of the Peter Pan Overture composed by Natalie from Heart of England School.  Conducted by Sarah Henton (Head of Music, Heart of England) the themes of the Pirates, Tinkerbell, the children and Captain hook are clearly audible in the piece.  Very good composition and well played.  Let’s hope Natalie does more composing.
  • Another opportunity for the choir to show off now. A performance of Sing by Lloyd Webber and Barlow; a beautiful and harmonious rendition.
  • The addition of a choir to the OSoSiC event has added real colour and vibrancy to the whole event and is an excellent way of including more children; a great performing opportunity.
  • An amusing interlude now provided by two musicians from LEAP. A humorous and entertaining performance of the Minute Waltz (Chopin) played on the xylophone and includes some choreography!
  • The final two pieces really show the progress of this fantastic orchestra.  Firstly, Sibelius’ Finlandia.  Loud and certain with conductor Dan Watson in control, bringing out the best in this orchestra; beautifully finishing notes with precision and excitement.
  • Finishing off the evening with Verdi’s Dies Irae which basically produces a wall of sound.  Incredible, with fantastic contribution by the choir.  These performers really know how to turn up the volume up to 11!