overview of our 2018 course
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Our Tenth Successful Year
by Course Director, Sarah Gleadell
2018 was our busiest year ever, with 30 participants, of which 10 were newcomers. As usual we were a little ‘bottom heavy’ with 11 cellos, 15 violins, 2 violas and a double bass and one young clarinettist (who also played percussion) for luck. Our new participants – ranging in age from 8 to 14 – were very much part of the team right from the start.
As usual we had two groups for orchestra and Dalcroze, divided according to ability which on the whole coincides with age. Each of our eight chamber groups was able to have a daily session, thanks to Bonnie and Alma our housemothers, experienced musicians who are both excellent teachers. The senior groups work well on their own but all have tutorial input every day.
The repertoire was very varied this year, ranging from traditional English and Jewish folk music to Britten’s Playful Pizzicato. The senior orchestra performed the world première of Prelude by Rudyard Cook, a regular participant who – at the age of 12 – is already an accomplished composer and cellist. The chamber performances were impressive, considering they had only been rehearsing for five days.
Dalcroze Eurhythmics, led by Lucinda Wright, is an integral feature of the course, much enjoyed by all, which greatly helps the children’s overall musicianship. This year singing enhanced their concert demonstrations.
Polly Orr-Ewing leads the choir, another important daily happening, and this year’s concert performance was of a particularly high standard. Colin Matthews composed music for two poems by Carol Ann Duffy especially for Magdalen Farm Strings – another world première for us! Funny, lively words and music ensured that the children gave a spirited and tuneful performance.
The forecast this year was appalling and the mud was glutinous and thick out on the farm. However, as always we were lucky with the weather: it hardly rained at all during our afternoon outdoor activities and much fun was had by all. ‘Survival in the Wild’ which involves den building and tribal face painting resulted in everyone being completed covered in mud, though fortunately all were clad in full waterproof gear.
After tea each day there was, as usual, an hour of orchestra practice, followed by supper and the evening entertainment. The ‘Superchef’ competition with two teams making pancakes and pizzas using ingredients found on the farm was very popular. Other afternoons were spent playing ‘Capture the Flag’ and assorted energetic games, as well as a team building session on the Low Ropes course.
After supper we always provide – or make our own – entertainments. We held an improvisation evening based on the Carol Ann Duffy poems. This worked extremely well and the children voted for one of the groups to perform their improvisation work at the concert. Miranda Rutter, a well-known folk musician is a very popular ‘regular’ at Magdalen. Dance tutor Russell Payne and his partner came on another evening and taught the basics of Rock ‘n Roll dancing and some disco routines. The Talent Show is always fascinating as the children come up with all sorts of things – music, acting, comedy, song and dance – all self-generated, some solo and some in groups.
The concert is our demonstration of all that has been achieved during the week. The children gave it their all and were greeted by enthusiastic applause. Luckily a fair of number of our participants have siblings on the course; otherwise it would be impossible to fit in all the family and supporters who wanted to attend. We just managed it and were lucky that it was mild enough for people to take their lunch (created almost entirely with organic ingredients from the farm), out into the courtyard. This concluded yet another ‘Best Magdalen Farm Strings Ever'. We very much hope that everyone will return again in April 2019.
I have received some wonderful feedback from both parents and children. Their enthusiasm is very gratifying indeed. It goes without saying that we do, of course, listen and - where possible - act on any suggestions for improvement.