overview of our 2019 course
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Our Twelfth Successful Year
by Course Director, Sarah Gleadell
It’s hard to believe that Magdalen Farm Strings has now been going for 12 years. We were delighted to welcome a record number of no less than 33 participants to our 2019 course: for the first time we were over-subscribed and sadly had to turn two last-minute applicants away. Again we had 11 cellos but this year they were satisfactorily balanced by 19 violins, 2 violas and a double bass. The majority of our 8 newcomers – ranging in age from 8 to 14 – were siblings, and so fitted in seamlessly with the old hands.
Owing to the increased numbers we decided to have 3 groups for orchestra and Dalcroze, divided according to ability, which fortunately mostly coincided with age groups. Every chamber group had a coached daily session. The senior groups always work well on their own but all have plenty of tutorial input every day. We could not have managed this without the increasingly important input from Alma Orr-Ewing and Bonnie Schwarz, both of whom are in the final year of music degrees at Leeds and Manchester respectively.
The repertoire was, as ever, varied and eclectic with music by Purcell, Mendelssohn, John Rutter, Edward McGuire, Dag Wirren and Karl Jenkins. We consider it vital that, as well as playing in their own smaller orchestral group, all the children get to play together so that the younger ones, ranging from aged 8 upwards, get a chance to feel what it is like to play with much more advanced players. When necessary, easier parts are written specifically for them.
Dalcroze Eurhythmics was this year led by Diane Hunka in conjunction with Rebecca Spencer, a Dalcroze specialist. We were delighted to welcome Diane for the first time. She is a most distinguished musician, currently Course Director of the MA in Classical String Performance at the University of Limerick where she also teaches Dalcroze, Kodaly and improvisation. Dalcroze is an integral feature of the course, much enjoyed by all, which greatly helps the children’s overall musicianship.
Polly Orr-Ewing’s choir goes from strength to strength. The children greatly enjoyed being the first choir to sing Colin Matthews’ musical arrangements for two poems by Carol Ann Duffy, which he composed especially for us. At the concert these were preceded by two traditional folk songs. All our musicians sing tunefully and with great gusto and enjoyment.
Once again the weather was kind to us, warming up as the week went on. The rain held off, with the result that the usual copious quantities of mud were not forthcoming, to the disappointment of some! ‘Wild Theatre’ was a new afternoon activity, as was a challenging orienteering hike around the 150 acres of farmland. On another day, some of the children had a junk band session with a group of disabled youngsters who were on a day visit to Magdalen. This was led by Polly, who is studying for a degree in Music Therapy; it was greatly enjoyed by all who took part. Feeding the pigs, goats and chickens is always a popular afternoon activity as is ‘Capture the Flag’ and assorted other very energetic games.
Our after supper entertainments always have a musical theme. This year we held a ceilidh which was enormously popular – the dancing got quite wild. Chas Dickie led a very interesting improvisation evening and Pete Shaw delivered a lively Klezmer workshop. The much-anticipated Talent Show where the children perform in any way they like was, as ever, hugely popular.
The children worked extremely hard all week and delivered an excellent end-of-course concert, much appreciated by the assembled families and our wonderful sponsors. Their increased numbers meant that amount of logistical planning the tutors had to put in to ensure the concert ran according to plan should not be underestimated. The staff at Magdalen Farm made sure the day ran smoothly and a delicious and sustaining lunch was ready to be enjoyed by everyone before they departed to make their way home, amidst many heartfelt cries of ‘See you next year!’