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By Ian Everett
Swaledale Festival Concert, St Oswald’s Church, Askrigg
Bammental Grammar School Symphony Orchestra
St Oswald’s Church, Askrigg, was crammed for this concert by a remarkable German school orchestra. With many of them being only ten or eleven years old they tackled a demanding selection of music by Wagner, Brahms, Dvorák and Vaughan Williams, followed by selections from well-known films.
Highlights were the smooth, deep tone of the cellos’ “big tune” in the final movement of Brahms first symphony, the shimmering, elusive texture of the chimes at the beginning of “The Lord of the Dance” and the way the orchestra closely followed the changes in tempo and volume asked of them by the conductor.
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It was amazing to watch tiny ten-year-olds at the back desk of the cellos confidently producing a solid base line for the others to build on. The conductor, Ingo Schlüchtermann, told me that the works had been carefully arranged to give the beginners lines which were not too demanding for their skill levels. This way they could contribute to the thrilling sound of a full, sometimes very loud, symphony orchestra early in their musical careers which must be a tremendous experience for them.
Herr Schlüchtermann explained that one in eight German schools provide this sort of musical education in ordinary, not specialist, state schools. The school orchestra is 50 strong, and the age range 10-18.
The young musicians were invited to the Dales this year as part of the Swaledale Festival’s Young Artists Platform. Malcolm Creese, artistic director of the festival, said they were keen to involve and engage young people in both performance and attendance.
This was the only concert the orchestra is performing in this visit but they will take home fond memories of their coach tour of Yorkshire which included visits to York, White Scar Caves, Whitby and Grinton Lodge, where they stayed, and of their warm reception by the Askrigg audience. They will be very welcome if they return.