Since its inception in 2015, the Great Orchestra Experiment has become a hugely successful and innovative event that sells out every year. This year’s effort, which took place on 27 March at Nottingham’s Albert Hall, was no different, with 31 schools and over 1,400 children attending or taking part. What’s the secret of its success?
Imagine having hundreds of children in one room, all playing a piece of music that they haven’t rehearsed, and somehow pulling it off. Sounds different, to say the least… Well, The Great Orchestra Experiment in Nottingham isn’t like most orchestra performances. Children bring their instruments to Albert Hall to play along with the established Robin Hood Youth Orchestra, which has some members who started out as children in the audience of the same concert years earlier.
It’s not completely unplanned. There’s plenty of preparation involved, with the music hub providing resources in advance, and a lot of effort is made to ensure that music from a wide variety of genres is covered. “We’ve had classical music, we’ve had the William Tell Overture, a Latin American piece, Big band songs, an Asian fusion piece…so we really tried to get music from all sorts of different styles and genres,” Nottingham Music Hub CEO Ian Burton explains.
The concept for the orchestra was developed by Burton and his staff in response to a growing frustration with the lack of concerts that were suitable for children:
Most orchestral concerts are not designed for children. They are not interactive, they are less likely to play pieces that children are familiar with. The event is especially designed for 8 – 9 year olds who are learning to play instruments in a whole class ensemble at their schools. Every year has a different theme, and a varied music programme from classical to film to world music to popular music. Children actually get to participate in the concert and have the opportunity to sing, play instruments, and even conduct. A PowerPoint presentation, moderators/actors help to facilitate the whole process so it really appeals to all kinds of learners and engages all the children.
The event aims to encourage children to continue learning their instruments and working hard, so that in a few years time they would be good enough to join the youth orchestra that is on the stage performing for them. That has indeed happened.
Such has been the success of the event that the Hub is working on rolling out the concept to other areas. They are in the process of designing a GOE package that other services and schools can buy into. The more children this truly innovative event can reach and inspire, the better!
Watch a snippet of 2016’s performance