Monday 17th & Tuesday 18th February 2020
Participants will rehearse Bach's Brandenburg Concerto no. 3 and The Gypsy's Violin by Jeff Moore over two days, ending with a massed performance in Gloucester Cathedral. Later in the year participants will be able to repeat the concerto as part of the National Youth String Orchestra at the Three Choirs Festival in Tewkesbury Abbey.
Tutors from across Gloucestershire had a fabulous time delivering The Big String 2019. The two-day event saw 140 string musicians rehearse and perform as a large ensemble at Gloucester Cathedral.
The event proved to be a great success, but don’t take our word for it; see what Noah, one of the participants, has to say about the experience:
Despite being in its third year, the 2019 Big String project was found to be more exciting and formative than ever. As a participant since its debut, I found this year’s project to be more inclusive and smoother than ever before.
The project is unlike anything I have experienced throughout my time involved in music in Gloucestershire. It is a monumental challenge to engage 140 children over 2 days of hard work especially considering the age range, with the youngest being 5 to the oldest of 18. As one of the older students myself I was surprised at how pleasingly challenging this year’s music was (I particularly enjoyed Corelli’s Christmas Concerto) yet despite this, thanks to the range of parts and difficulties, not to mention the excellent array of tutors, the younger pupils stayed engaged and inspired throughout the course. With experience varying from those never playing with others before to those familiar with quartets and orchestras inside and outside of Gloucestershire Academy of Music, the venture was a learning curve for all and catered for growing leaders in respective sections, as well as budding orchestral players who will no doubt go on to play amongst the friends they formed on The Big String around the county. Playing with a group, especially of large size, is a lot harder than it seems in contrast with solo playing where the individual dictates the pace and manner of the piece. Orchestral playing requires players to act as part of a team. Each student is responsible for keeping in time with the conductor, whilst staying in the right place, whilst following the leader of the section for bowing and style, which as you can imagine is fairly taxing on a primary school child! As the celebrated professional violinist Michael Bochmann put it for us “It’s a good thing we all have three eyes!”
The nature of the orchestra put the older, more experienced players at the front of the orchestra whilst the younger players were placed behind. At the start of the project this seemed to generate almost two time zones in the main hall at Pate’s Grammar School and needless to say it was difficult to come on and off together. Despite this obstacle, I was amazed at the concentration and discipline the children managed to show and wondered if I at that age I wouldn’t have simply got lost or daydreamed the rehearsal away! After each break the pupils would sit down and improve upon the pieces resulting in a wonderful performance in the Cathedral in the afternoon.
The Big String Project 2019 saw a vast assortment of players, colours, instruments and enjoyment that I believed was one of many highlights of the extensive GAM calendar for this year. I hope it has inspired players to plunge head long into music playing in Gloucestershire and I look forward to another bigger, better experience in 2020. With 140 players, 9 tutors, 3 professional soloists, 2 conductors and numerous volunteers; this was a truly special event.
Reproduced with kind permission of Noah, 17, TBS2019 participant (double bass)