overview of our 2017 course
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Our Tenth Successful Year
by Course Director, Sarah Gleadell
We had 25 participants this year, a few less than in 2016 (29), but a much more manageable number. We were delighted to welcome six newcomers, including a 15-year-old double bass player, a viola player of the same age, and four 9/10 year olds. As in 2016, the age range was 9 - 17 and ability from Grade 2/3 to Grade 8 and above. We had 8 cellos, 15 violins, 1 viola and 1 double bass.
Each year we have two groups for orchestra and Dalcroze, divided according to ability which fortunately normally coincides roughly with age, so there is an older group and a younger group.
We had six chamber groups again this year, each of which had a daily session. We are very fortunate in that our house mothers, Bonnie and Alma, are both accomplished musicians who also happen to be excellent teachers, both of them with teaching experience. So - with our 3 tutors - each chamber group had an adult helping them virtually all the time. However, in the final concert the children introduced their pieces and took their bows in a professional manner, without adult help.
At Magdalen Farm Strings we try to stick to British repertoire with a few excursions in music from films or musicals, which the children greatly enjoy playing. Considering that they had learnt the pieces from scratch, and taking into account, the huge variety of other things they had done during the week, their performances were pretty impressive. They also enjoy their daily Dalcroze, which they find very helpful for timing and dynamics: each group gave an excellent demonstration at the concert.
Choir - led by Polly Orr-Ewing - is an important daily feature of the course and I personally think that this year's performance was the best ever. Faber Music has now published the music and words for our patron Colin Matthews' and Wendy Cope's 'Pig Songs', and the children sang all 10 of them, as well as giving a most entertaining rendition of 'Macavity, the Mystery Cat'. Colin came to two rehearsals as well as the concert, and gave some very helpful pointers.
The Magdalen 'Learning and Well-being' team greatly enjoy the Magdalen Farm Strings gang and they led three of the afternoon activities, which are always outdoors and always involve a good deal of energetic activity which frequently includes getting very wet and muddy. This year was no exception: one day ended in everyone getting completely soaked, which fortunately did not create a problem as we had wonderful weather. A highlight of one afternoon was making scarecrows, which were then ceremoniously burnt on the campfire, followed by toasting marshmallows and singing.
After tea each day there was. as usual, an hour of orchestra practice, followed by supper and the evening entertainment. We had a wonderful and very noisy African Drumming session, led by Laurence Hill, and our favourite folk musician, Miranda Rutter, was able to join us once again for an evening of dancing with our own instantly created folk band. A new evening activity this year, which worked extremely well, was an Improvisation session. The Talent Show and certificate presentation are always anticipated with much excitement and this year was no exception.
The Talent Show was particularly interesting this year, as several of the children played their own compositions. We intend to build on and encourage this next year.
Our concert was most entertaining and enjoyed by everyone present. It was a very satisfactory conclusion to what everyone said was 'our best Magdalen Farm Strings ever'. The delicious lunch afterwards rounded off the week and was a good opportunity for parents to meet each other and for the children to make their usual farewells, which include much hugging and promises to meet again next year.
For me personally, the most satisfying aspect of Magdalen Farm Strings is the number of parents who tell me how much their child's enthusiasm for their instrument has increased over the course of the week they are with us at Magdalen Farm, not to mention considerable improvement in their playing.