La Folia 30th Anniversary Concert review

30th Anniversary Concert


“Awesome!”… One word, shouted out loud in celebration by a singer from Exeter House Special School following their performance of ‘We Have a Voice’ encapsulates two wonderful aspects of La Folia’s 30th anniversary concert held at St Martin’s Church on Saturday 15th October. The exciting and powerful performance from the youngsters, all of whom have special needs and the sublime music making from the orchestra, once more delighting the Salisbury audience with an exciting programme of the very highest calibre.

Salisbury has been privileged to enjoy thirty years of world-class performances by this group of musicians, under the baton of the internationally acclaimed composer, performer and director Howard Moody.
Originally The Sarum Chamber Orchestra, the group has diversified over the years and now, as well as continuing to delight audiences with orchestral concerts, it works with young people all over the South of England, submerging them in magical musical experiences in a range of bespoke projects.

On Saturday night we were treated to a celebratory cross-section of La Folia’s work. The concert opened with the young people of Exeter House accompanied by the orchestra singing ‘We need a System’, a piece composed in a collaborative project using the students’ own poetry and melodies. To quote Howard Moody “This is their music – every word – every note. It comes from their imagination.” Their performance was electrifying, powerful, uplifting and with a quality of tone and delivery which left the audience spell-bound.

From a seamless segue emerged ‘Loose Change’, a composition from La Folia violinist and composer Jeff Moore, haunting melodies from Cello and Violin floating above shimmering strings, beautifully played by the orchestra. Bach’s ‘Concerto for Oboe D’Amore and Strings’ celebrated the return of Salisbury’s own Nigel Shore, who in the thirty years since performing in the SCO’s first concert has enjoyed a world-wide solo and orchestral career. The rich tone of the oboe d’amore balanced beautifully with the orchestra, who treated the music with the delicacy and nuance of a period instrument performance.

The second half of the concert saw the return of Nigel Shore, this time with Daphne Moody in a superb performance of Bach’s ‘Concerto for Oboe and Violin’. Daphne Moody’s violin playing once again wowed the Salisbury audience, as she and Shore crafted beautiful phrases, the third movement left us on the edge of our seats as it sparkled with virtuosity from both players. A surprise rendition of Rachmaninov’s ‘Vocalise’ by Shore was an unexpected treat as an encore to the Bach.

Moira Alabaster’s viola solo in Ulysses Awakes deserves a special mention, a rich depth and beautiful sonority in the melody soared over the orchestra making the most of the superb acoustics in St Martin’s Church.

Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings was in safe hands drawing the concert to a close. The power of the sound, the tone colour and the virtuosity of the ensemble was breathtaking. A fitting end to a superb evening.

Review by Hilary Craven

Photography by Adrian Harris

30th Anniversary Concert adrian-harris-photography-5195

“La Folia perform miracles” with Evening Songs

“Literally awe-inspiring… For me, one of the most special moments was watching one of our Choristers singing alongside two students from Exeter House and smiling as if they were old friends. …What an amazing project, bringing children together and broadening horizons. By the end of that special service, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.” Cary Sinclair-Kemp (Teacher, Salisbury Cathedral School)

La Folia’s most recent project, Evening Songs, culminated in an innovative Evensong service in July 2016. A creative collaboration between La Folia, Exeter House Special School, Salisbury Cathedral School and Salisbury Cathedral, Evening Songs saw pupils from Exeter House and the Cathedral School together devising words and composing music for the service, responding to the Liturgy in highly individual ways.

BBC South Today had a look behind the scenes during one of the workshops, run by artistic Director Howard Moody. You can watch the footage and read some of the inspiring feedback here.

The service itself drew a crowd which almost filled the cathedral, and the stunning, heartfelt performance resonated powerfully with the audience. Here’s just some of the amazing feedback La Folia has received.

Helen Birchenough (Trustee, Ageas Salisbury International Arts Festival)

“It is hard to believe that anything could be done to Salisbury Cathedral to make it more beautiful…but something happened at Evensong last Tuesday to bring an extra level of beauty to this hallowed space.

…It was as if a blast of fresh air had blown into the Cathedral and slightly dislodged the timeless symmetry and order of the place, making the choir and congregation alike experience it with new eyes and ears. In the opening words of their new Nunc Dimittis: ‘O my God, we have seen something amazing. Amazing’. We certainly have.”

Richard Hooper (Lay Vicar, Salisbury Cathedral)

“Remarkable, a real privilege to have been involved. I was struck by the overall musicality of what was produced, the fascinating way the new words were different but entirely suitable, and the wide range of different things the young people brought to it, including unwavering commitment!”

Janine Hillary (La Folia donor)

“There was the most amazing atmosphere in the Cathedral. The singing was wonderful and it was so good was to watch the parents and families of the Exeter House children looking so incredibly proud. …Watching the Exeter House children come back down the nave hand-in- hand with the choristers and other musicians and punching the air with joy was one of the most amazing things that I have ever seen in the Cathedral. …Roll on the next one!”

Janet O’Callaghan, NADFAS

“La Folia is such an inspiration and the work you do for those young people, I want to stand and SHOUT ALL ABOUT THE MARVELLOUS WORK”

Staff at Salisbury Cathedral

“Thank you. You have transformed us.”

Tom Clammer (Canon Precentor, Salisbury Cathedral)

“It was absolutely a pleasure to host and to be involved in this service, about which I am getting comments and emails daily which all say the same thing: that this was one of the most, if not the most important thing the cathedral has ever done. It has undoubtedly been transformational for all of us, and we must build on it in our planning for the future.”

Rose Harding (Development Director, Southwark Cathedral)

“Congratulations to all of those involved in Evening Songs at Salisbury Cathedral. A mighty and almighty occasion of beautiful music and song and liturgy and prayer. An experience to make the heart palpitate, the nerve-endings tingle, the soul lift, and the H! A! P! P! Y! to ring out! I do not doubt for one minute the hard work that went in to this. A very great privilege to be present last night. I will remember it for the rest of my life…”

Jeff Moore (composer and violinist)

“Words still completely fail me, as they did on the day. I can’t remember ever being quite so moved by the raw power of music”

Parents of students at Exeter House Special School

“A truly magnificent and uplifting experience…quite simply one of the most joyous occasions I can remember”

“So amazing, so proud, wonderful – what a school”

Students from Exeter House Special School

“Really happy”

“Two thumbs up! Howard made good songs”

“Singing in front of lots of people was the best”

“I made new friends”

“The Cathedral School are FANTASITCAL at singing. I’m proud to sing with them”

“It’s fun, it’s musical and it makes me dance!”

“It’s amazing working with other schools and hearing them sing.”

Staff at Exeter House Special School

“A truly magical evening. So proud of you all”

“It was a very emotional and it was great to see the confidence in our Exeter House students”

“Couldn’t be prouder of everyone involved. It was perfect and the response has been overwhelming”

“A superb example of true inclusion”

“Quite simply beautiful. Howard is a magician. He takes the smallest sounds or movements from the students and creates a masterpiece. The project this year has been breath-taking. I’m immensely proud of both schools and how they have combined to create a wonderful piece.”

Alistair Watson (Chorister, Salisbury Cathedral)

“I really enjoyed Evening Songs. It was really special…Let’s do it every year..?”

‘Evening Songs’ – an innovative new project from La Folia

La Folia’s newest project EVENING SONGS is a creative collaboration between La Folia, Exeter House Special School, Salisbury Cathedral School and Salisbury Cathedral.

It is a series of workshops (January – July) culminating in the Cathedral Choir and students from Exeter House School singing Evensong together in Salisbury Cathedral at 5.30pm on 12 July, 2016.

Following La Folia’s Magna Songs special needs project performance in Salisbury Cathedral in July 2015, Ian Wicks of Salisbury Cathedral School wanted to share something of that experience with the choristers. Artistic Director Howard Moody saw the opportunity to explore a long-held dream which is now becoming a reality: pupils from Exeter House and the Cathedral School are together devising words and composing music for Evensong, responding to the Liturgy in highly individual ways.

The project is led by Howard Moody, voice animateur Emily Blows and Cathedral lay vicar Steve Abbott. Visual artist Susan Francis is working with Exeter House pupils to create designs for an order of service to guide the congregation through what might well be an unfamiliar Evensong experience.

This Evensong is completely innovative. Such a collaboration has never happened in Salisbury Cathedral before and other Cathedrals are already showing interest.

Evening Songs is the first project to be funded through the singing trust, La Folia’s new fund specifically for special needs projects.

In this we are most grateful for the support of: the Anton Jurgens Charitable Trust | Exeter House School | The Geoff and Fiona Squire Foundation | The Girdlers Company | Harnham Croft Nursing Home | Lady Hawley | Will and Janine Hillary | Valerie Mitchell | Olive Moody | NADFAS | Salisbury Cathedral | Salisbury Cathedral School | St Thomas’s Church Community Fund | The Verdon-Smith Family Charitable Trust | Wiltshire and Swindon Community Foundation | Wiltshire Council | anonymous donors

Press release: Magna Songs at Salisbury Cathedral – a new Magna Carta from young people with special educational needs

‘We have a voice that’s strong enough to say no!
We have the power to make things change!’
Taken from Magna Songs

Young people from four special schools/units in Wiltshire have created a new ‘great charter’ of rights and freedoms, working with Wiltshire-based creative arts company La Folia to present it through music, drama, dance and visual arts. They’ll be singing and dancing a promenade performance of their charter, ‘Magna Songs’ at Salisbury Cathedral on Tuesday, 14 July 2015 at 10.30am. Admission is free and no tickets are required.

The aim of Magna Songs is to mark the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta – famous as a symbol of justice, fairness, and human rights – and to give voice to some of the young people who find it difficult to express their own needs and human rights in today’s society. The project was inspired by the Charter’s fundamental tenet of every individual’s right to self-expression.

Magna Songs is being created by La Folia alongside 150 students from two Salisbury schools (Exeter House School, which caters for pupils with severe and profound multiple learning disabilities, and the Resource Base at Woodford Valley Primary Academy, a unit for pupils with Autism Spectrum Disorders); and two Trowbridge schools (Larkrise Special School and Grove Primary School Hearing Impairment Unit).

La Folia has been creating projects with the two Salisbury schools for the past nine years. What’s distinctive about the work is that it is student-created, and inspired by the great classics of music and literature, in this case an historic document – often challenging students’ own, and others, ideas about their capabilities. The work sees them achieving creative, personal, social and even physical successes that exceed even their own expectations.

This particular project gives the students an opportunity to express their own voices through song and dance. The students of the school council have been finding a language which they might use in the future to represent their friends in the city council of tomorrow. The non-verbal students can find a language – an expression of themselves that makes others listen to them in a different way and make them understand. La Folia’s Artistic Director, Howard Moody, is accustomed to people’s surprise about where the work has come from: “We’re often met with disbelief when we tell people that the students have created the words and music themselves. But the score has indeed come from their own musical imaginations. Each word or musical phrase has been generated from their responses to the stories.” For this particular project, he continues: “We wanted to use the inspiration of the Magna Carta to give a voice to young people who, because of their particular circumstances, find it difficult to be heard”.

The venue for the Magna Songs performance was also led by students. Following a visit to the Cathedral, where students responded strongly to the space, La Folia decided that the next performance with the students should be presented there.

In addition to the Magna Songs performance on Tuesday, 14 July, internationally renowned tenor Mark Padmore, guitarist Morgan Szymanski, along with La Folia String Quartet , Indian dancer Anusha Subramanyam and percussionist Bangalore Prakash   will perform the songs, as well as Bach’s great magna carta of music, ‘The Art of Fugue’ in a chamber music performance on Saturday, 19 September at 7.30pm in the 13th century Medieval Hall,  200 metres from Salisbury Cathedral.

A ‘Magna Songs’ songbook will also be published on the internet. Not only will the songbook provide great songs for other young people and music educators to use, but it will also express the ‘rights’ of the participants in the most public and accessible way.

“The sight and sound of the students’ Magna Songbook, being sung and danced in the Cathedral, the home of Magna Carta, on the 14th of July, will be a true expression of social change”, said Howard Moody. “And our final project concert will break new ground, with its inclusion of songs created by children with special needs, sung by a leading professional singer of international calibre, and placed alongside a masterwork of the classical repertoire.”
Magna Songs has been supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England‘s ‘Grants for the arts’ programme. Other funders include Wiltshire Music Connect; The National Association of Decorative & Fine Arts Societies (NADFAS); The Community Foundation; Wiltshire Council; private individuals, Frank and Elizabeth Brenan; and anonymous donors.

For more information visit or to book tickets for Magna Songs on 19 September visit Admission to the performance on 14 July is free, and there will be a retiring collection to support La Folia’s ongoing special needs work.

Press contacts: Sue Kent, general manager, La Folia 01722 714249 or Anita Holford, Writing Services 07866 6053326

Notes to Editors

• Interviews are available with Howard Moody, Artistic Director, and Sue Kent, General Manager.
• Photo opportunities can be arranged by contacting Sue Kent – see workshop schedule attached.

The project at-a-glance

• Creative workshops in schools (from November 2014 to July 2015) where the participants have: (a) been introduced to the story of King John and the Magna Carta through narration, and have devised their own dramatic interpretation; (b) composed songs exploring the issues they want to express, and to become part of the performance and the essence of the song book; (c) discovered Indian dance, as some of the non-ambulatory participants displayed exquisite hand and upper body gestures and through this style of dance are able to perform on equal terms with the more physically able, who have also learned a new skill and language of movement; (d) discovered Indian music, another new ‘language’ particularly relevant to participants who vocalise but cannot speak; and (e) had the opportunity to make their own props and costumes.
• Teacher workshops to give teachers a personal insight into what their students were experiencing, and to encourage the development of activities between workshops.
• Family workshops in September 2015 which: (a) will meet the expressed need for creative holiday events where families can take all their children and be accepted and participate; (b) will increase their understanding of the activities that they can do as a family at home, which (c) will give them all pleasure and relaxation.
• A hospital performance in July 2015 where the participants will perform to their clinicians and therapists. The hospital ArtCare project hops that the professional carers will gain some insight into the creative abilities of the children whose physical needs they meet on a daily basis, and it will also act as CPD for the clinicians and therapists.
• A Cathedral performance on 14 July 2015 where the participants can gather all their experiences into a show which will show the public what they can achieve.
• The online publication of a songbook which will provide great songs for others to sing, and express the ‘rights’ of the participants in the most public and accessible way.
• A chamber music performance on 19 September 2015 where the project songs will be performed alongside Bach’s great Magna Carta of music ‘The Art of Fugue’, and with musicians of the highest international calibre: tenor Mark Padmore, guitarist Morgan Szymanski, dancer Anusha Subramanyam, percussionist Bangalore Prakash and La Folia String Quartet.

The schools:

Exeter House School (
Exeter House School caters for pupils with severe and profound multiple learning difficulties. A significant number have autism spectrum disorders. All pupils enter school with a statement of special educational needs, an increasing proportion having sensory and physical disabilities along with more complex learning needs.
Woodford Valley Primary Academy (
The Resource Base at Woodford Valley Primary Academy caters for pupils with Autistic Spectrum Disorders.
Larkrise Special School (
Larkrise Special School is for children with severe learning difficulies (SLD), including those with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD) and Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD).
Grove Primary School Hearing Impairment Unit (
There has been a Hearing Impaired Unit at Grove Primary School for more than 25 years. Deaf awareness is promoted throughout the school and the children are an integral and vital part of it.

La Folia
“Those who are familiar with the ancient gypsy tune ‘la folia’ from which we take our name, will know that musically it represents limitless possibility for invention and re-invention. We hope to redefine what an orchestra is or can be, remembering that the word ‘orchestra’ was originally used to describe the space where different art forms met. Through new collaborations, commissions and productions we seek to surprise ourselves and our audiences.” Howard Moody, Artistic Director

La Folia began as Sarum Chamber Orchestra, and has performed classical concerts for more than 25 years. It continues to do so under its new name, and has a long history of creating large-scale projects and a reputation for innovation and best practice both in mainstream and special education. Previous projects with schools have included ‘Seasons’ (Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’); ‘Midsummer Dreaming’ (Shakespeare’s ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’); ‘Sounds That Hurt Not’ (Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’); ‘Brand New Brandenburg’ (Bach’s ‘Brandenburg Concertos’), and in July 2014, ‘Full Fathom Five’ (revisiting ‘The Tempest’).

Project artists:

• Howard Moody – composer; arranger; conductor; keyboard player
• Colin Brown – actor with RSC; leads drama projects in variety of contexts
• Emily Blows – formerly voice coach at leading drama schools; has flourishing teaching practice
• Anusha Subramanyam – leads dance group Beeja
• Vipal Songoi – photographer and film maker in theatre and dance
• Susan Francis – visual artist over wide-spectrum of genres
• Mark Padmore – tenor soloist of international repute
• Bangalore Prakash – percussionist in Indian tradition
• Buster Birch – percussion
• Anna Cooper – violin, viola, accordion

More background to the project

Hospital performance

Another first for the company and the young people is a hospital performance in July 2015 at Salisbury District Hospital, when the participants will perform to their clinicians and therapists.

“The clinicians and therapists who know these young people tend to focus on their body or set of symptoms,” says Sue Kent, La Folia’s General Manager. “This will give them a chance to see them as people who can sing and dance, have imaginations and aspirations, as well as to talk to the young people in a more informal environment.”

Why Indian dance?

As some of the non-ambulatory participants display hand and upper body gestures of exquisite refinement, through this style of dance they will be able to perform on equal terms with the more physically able, who will also be learning a new skill and language of movement.

“This is the first time we have worked with Indian dance,” said Sue Kent, La Folia’s General Manager. “The driver was being able to introduce a new type of dance to all participants, but in particular to give physical expression to non-ambulatory children through upper body movement and hand gesture. It’s also the first time we have worked with Indian music which has sounds in common with the vocalisations of some of the children who have no speech; those sounds can be encouraged and developed as part of the performance.”

Having witnessed a rehearsal session where a student in a wheelchair danced with Anusha Subramanyam, who leads the dance group Beeja, Howard Moody commented: “Both dancers inspired a musical freedom that for me represents something of a creative utopia. This was an unconditional fusion of form, without division between artistic styles – an emerging Magna Carta for the Arts.”

Family workshops

Family workshops will also be held in September 2015, which will address the expressed need for creative holiday or weekend events where families can take all their children and be accepted and participate. The workshops will also increase their understanding of activities they can do as a family at home to give them pleasure and relaxation.

“This is also the first time we have worked with students’ families,” says Sue Kent, La Folia’s General Manager. “We know from feedback that families are inspired by what they see their children achieving in our performances and try to follow up at home. In holding these family workshops we will develop our own expertise in giving them skills, and also learn ways of communicating with their children from them.”

Project evaluation

Magna Songs will be evaluated by Shirley Taylor of University of Winchester research department into Arts as Wellbeing. The observation and evaluation is made at specific points: an initial Cathedral workshop for an overview of the project and ways of working; mid-point in a school where La Folia’s work has been established over many years; mid-point in a school new to La Folia projects; final performance.