It’s been all go in the office this week. As the summer morphs into the autumn, schools go back, holidays end, we start to kick on with our preparations for the autumn season. In my first little while as Learning & Participation maestro, with the rest of 2013 in prospect, I’ve had animals on the mind for much of the time: planning and photographing for our Giraffes Can’t Dance Music Box workshops, talking to Paul Rissmann about dog-and-cat duo Stan and Mabel and whether horses really can play bassoons, or deciding whether our budget will stretch to cow onesies for that all-important press photo.
That’s all been complemented, from the desk next to mine, by Polly, creative supremo and recently appointed Learning and Participation Creative Director, who (with the “travelling the world through music” theme of Stan and Mabel uppermost in mind) has been playing the Flower Duet from Lakmé and Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries in recent days. By the way, I love the twist at the end of Stan and Mabel (anyone who isn’t yet familiar with Jason Chapman’s wonderful book should look away now to avoid a spoiler): not only do they form the only animal orchestra in the world – they form the best animal orchestra in the world!!
As with all our early-years commissions, with these two pieces we aim to open up classical music to the whole family through workshops, participation, engagement, learning, and FUN! A new strand for us this year is the focus on assisting the continuing development of teachers and facilitators, and offering them resources and ideas to support their work with children, through INSET sessions, the first of which takes place in Sheffield next month. More are planned elsewhere in 2014. And, in the name of making sure that maximum fun and fulfilment can be had at every turn, there will soon be a Stan and Mabel Participation Pack available for free on our website (by the end of the month), which will enable teachers, parents, children – everyone – to learn all the songs and games before coming to one of the concerts later in the year.
As a serious hard-working journalist, I put down my tea, leaned to my left, and asked Polly for a suitable quote about all this. She told me: “Everyone can take part in music. With our world-class musicians, there’s an emphasis on quality, and our commissions from Paul enable children and their families to be part of something that’s really inspiring and accessible.” Regarding INSET sessions, she says that “the emphasis is very much on helping and supporting parents and teachers so that it becomes something they can all share in with their children.”
So we look forward to October, when the wonderful Ensemble 360 return to enliven and inspire us in the Crucible Studio and elsewhere with warm, world-class music-making – and, if all goes to plan, to don the occasional bovine suit in the name of fun…
Learning & Participation Manager @frasermitr