Earlier this month, the pupils at Frank Barnes School for Deaf Children had the opportunity to perform at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the Camden Schools Music Festival. The festival has been held at the venue every two years since the early 90s and brings together around 2,500 children from schools across the borough to perform in choirs, bands, and orchestras. It is a great opportunity for every child to showcase their talent at one of the world's most iconic music venues.
Photo: Maria Teterina, CEO, Music of Life Foundation
I have felt extremely privileged to work at Frank Barnes School since October 2017 with my friend and colleague, Ruth Montgomery. Together, we provide classroom music and one-to-one instrumental tuition to many of the children at the school, generously funded by Music of Life Foundation and Camden Music Services.
Unlike previous festival years where Frank Barnes children have simply signed along to the songs, this year's festival gave the children the opportunity to demonstrate their skills on their instruments (cello, ukulele and recorder) as part of the 'Wondrous Machine Band' beside Swiss Cottage School, St Patrick's Primary School, and Gospel Oak Primary School. Composed by James Redwood, Wondrous Machine involved all 2,500 children (plus members of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment) all playing instruments, using body percussion, singing, and signing in British Sign Language. With such large numbers involved in the band and choir the piece required a huge amount of coordination, and in the months leading up to the performance the children attended several group rehearsals and worked very hard to learn their individual parts.
On the day of the performance, the whole thing came together to produce an overwhelming and breathtaking wall of sound. I was bursting with pride to see my students so determined and focused during the performance - something that will undoubtedly remain as one of the highlights of my career for the rest of my life.
"Special mention must be made of the ambitious success, ‘Wondrous Machine’... Redwood described it as a piece that “delights in the sheer preposterousness of putting together so many musicians in one performance,” but nevertheless it proved a complete triumph, epitomising the night, the borough and the spirit at work here, tirelessly all year round." - The Kentish Towner