‘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 www.lafoliamusic.org or to book tickets for Magna Songs on 19 September visit www.salisburyplayhouse.com. 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.
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.
Exeter House School (www.exeterhouseschool.co.uk)
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 (www.woodfordvalley.wilts.sch.uk)
The Resource Base at Woodford Valley Primary Academy caters for pupils with Autistic Spectrum Disorders.
Larkrise Special School (www.larkriseschool.co.uk)
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 (www.grove.wilts.sch.uk)
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.
“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’).
• Howard Moody – composer; arranger; conductor; keyboard player http://www.howardmoody.net/
• Colin Brown – actor with RSC; leads drama projects in variety of contexts http://www.bcltd.org/actors/colin-brown/
• Emily Blows – formerly voice coach at leading drama schools; has flourishing teaching practice
• Anusha Subramanyam – leads dance group Beeja http://beeja.com/
• Vipal Songoi – photographer and film maker in theatre and dance www.raindesign.info
• Susan Francis – visual artist over wide-spectrum of genres http://susanfrancis0.wix.com/susanfrancis
• Mark Padmore – tenor soloist of international repute http://www.markpadmore.com/
• Bangalore Prakash – percussionist in Indian tradition
• Buster Birch – percussion http://www.freewebs.com/busterbirch/
• Anna Cooper – violin, viola, accordion
More background to the project
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 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.”
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.