Award Winner: Orchestras Live

Orchestra's Live - Lullaby Concerts
© P. Coghlin

As we gear up for the next lot of Fantastic for Families awards, we’re shining the spotlight on last year’s well deserved winners.

Here we hear from Orchestras Live, a music charity with over 50 years experience working with orchestras in communities across the country:

We believe live orchestral music has the power to inspire people for a lifetime.  We create environments where orchestral music can thrive, and work to ensure everyone has access to world class orchestral experiences.

Partnership Manager Stuart Bruce writes about Orchestras Live’s Lullaby Concerts, a landmark project about to enter its 10th year.

The Lullaby Concerts were created and developed by Orchestras Live together with City of London Sinfonia (CLS) and partners in Suffolk and Essex. They aim to bring inspirational first experiences of live orchestral music to young children and families whilst developing the skills of Early Years practitioners in using music as a means of learning and play.   Over the last 9 years Lullaby has reached more than 9,000 young children, parents/carers and Early Years practitioners in some especially disadvantaged rural and coastal parts of East England.

“An amazing performance and great introduction to instruments from the orchestra. It was the best thing I have done with our son.” A typical comment by an audience member following a Lullaby Concert.

The Lullaby tours have come a long way since their origins as a project called Adventures in Sound – Orchestras Live’s first exploration into Early Years activity in 2003, and before the orchestral sector had started work in this area.  Small scale workshops in nurseries enabled us to hone creative approaches and develop specialist music leaders, one of whom, Claire Henry went on to become the much-loved presenter of the Lullaby Concerts.  The first truly orchestral concert under the Lullaby banner was in 2009 when we produced two performances inside a Spiegel Tent in a park in Suffolk.  Its success created demand from other partners in Suffolk and elsewhere, and so broader tours grew up to 12 performances in each of 6 areas in recent years.

Orchestra's Live - Lullaby Concerts
© P. Coghlin

Our local authority and music education hub partners see it as an important way to develop music participation and family audiences in culturally under-served communities. For Orchestras Live it has become a vehicle for developing the artistic model and the role of orchestral musicians in the delivery of a theatrical narrative as well as world class performance of repertoire and new interactive material. It is fair to say that the CLS players have become increasingly engaged, committed and pro-active as the project has evolved over the years.

Young people have been embedded in the model from the onset, with local young musicians performing alongside the professionals to act as role models for the audiences.  More recently, young people have been involved as local promoters of concerts, gaining music industry skills from Orchestras Live and CLS managers and musicians. Music education hub partners have provided pathways into instrumental tuition for young children at each event.

There have been a number of new artistic collaborations to help keep each tour distinctive and fresh.  In 2014 we worked with Dance East to include a local young ballerina in the production.  Last year we collaborated with East Anglian Traditional Music Trust, resulting in folk musicians and a young step dancer performing with the orchestra. We were very proud when this production won a Best Family Event award in the 2016 Family Arts Festival, as well as being nominated for an RPS award. Our most recent Lullaby project, Mission to Launch, used themes of science and space, and is a finalist in the Music Teacher awards for Excellence in Primary/Early Years.

Orchestra's Live - Lullaby Concerts
© P. Coghlin

The increasingly collaborative and organic approach was very evident this year when the preliminary taster workshops, held at community settings in each area of the tour, provided a test-bed for the artistic narrative. Ideas tossed around by the young children and CLS players, such as using a bicycle pump to propel a rocket into space with a jet of air, became integrated into the concert and formed a device for children to control the orchestra by being ‘pumpers’.

Orchestras Live’s commitment to the ongoing development of diverse music leaders was illustrated in this year’s introduction of a Deaf musician, Ruth Montgomery, as an assistant music leader in the project.  Ruth gained experience of working with a professional orchestra and an established, highly skilled music leader in Claire Henry, and equally it proved a valuable learning experience for the orchestra. At a time when ‘Relaxed concerts’ are permeating the orchestral sector, Lullaby has evolved into a naturally inclusive performance which continues to inspire all families wherever it goes.

“I felt honoured and proud to be involved…..with Orchestras Live I felt I was out in the public, promoting a positive message on diversity.” (Ruth Montgomery)


Applications for the Fantastic for Families Awards are open until 10th January 2018. Find out more and apply.

18 November 2017