London Chamber Orchestra

The London Chamber Orchestra (LCO), founded in 1921, is the UK’s oldest professional chamber orchestra. It is widely regarded as one of the world’s finest ensembles, combining the charismatic leadership of Principal Conductor Christopher Warren-Green with the skills of London’s most exceptional musicians. Since its inception, it has established a reputation as an innovative and adventurous ensemble.

 

A perhaps lesser known side of its work is Music Junction, the LCO’s outreach programme which works with children and young people to share the joy of music-making not just in the concert hall, but also within the wider community. The programme’s conviction is that music has the power to transform the people and communities that it touches.

The seeds for Music Junction were planted almost twenty years ago when Sir Yehudi Menuhin worked with his protégée Rosemary Warren-Green, now LCO’s Education and Outreach Artistic Director, to pioneer a new approach to music education, teaching the violin in secondary schools. This process that was documented in the film, Menuhin’s Children (Colin Bell, 2000). Inspired by the impact of Menuhin’s work in schools, Rosemary helped set up Music Junction for LCO in 2010. Children’s charity Barnardo’s came on board soon after as a programme partner, and Music Junction now operates with 14 schools and young people’s organisations.

The initiative brings together young people from very different social and economic backgrounds, many of whom face an element of disadvantage or extreme vulnerability. Through music-making, it encourages participants to develop empathy and respect for themselves and each other within their wider communities, as well as promoting confidence, nurturing self-esteem and raising aspirations.

The aim is also to nurture young people's musical appreciation, understanding and talent so that classical music becomes a familiar part of their cultural landscape.

There is an increasing body of evidence that suggests that high-quality, participatory music education leads to a wide range of non-musical benefits, including: enhanced aural perception and language skills; enhanced literacy skills leading togreater comprehension; better verbal learning and retention abilities; greater ability to learn some areas of mathematics; improved executive functioning including sustained attention, goal-directed behaviour and cognitive flexibility; enhanced creativity; greater aspirations which enhance motivation and subsequently attainment; increased self-confidence and sense of self-worth; greater resilience; ability to deal better with anger and a reduction in aggression; greater ability to express emotions; stronger time-management skills, communication skills and a greater ability to work with others.

The programme currently works in 14 schools and organisations in Berkshire, Havering, Kent and Waltham Forest. These include two independent schools, one grammar school, two comprehensive schools, three modern academies, two specialist music centres, two Barnardo’s schools and two young carers projects.

 

By bringing together children and young people from very different walks of life, LCO helps to foster a greater sense of connection and empathy among the participants, which ripples out to the wider community to challenge social fragmentation.

 

Every year, LCO Music Junction has its own artistic theme, which acts as a springboard from which the Music Junction team and participants develop their musical ideas. The project brings children from varying backgrounds together to participate in creative composition workshops throughout the academic year.

Flashmobs and Instrument Taster Sessions mark the beginning of the school year and a Showcase Concert marks its end, in May. Last year, Music Junction reached 3,000 through its flashmobs. Music Junction offers a unique musical experience, particularly for those whose circumstances allow for so few opportunities.

Rosemary Warren-Green

Education and Outreach Artistic Director

 

Rosemary Warren-Green plays a leading role in the LCO’s ground-breaking community project: Music Junction, where young people from very different backgrounds work together to create mutual empathy and connection through music-making.

 

How did you become involved with the London Chamber Orchestra?

 

‪Christopher Warren-Green invited me to play the Bach double with him in a Concert for peace and Croix Rouge in Geneva. Peter Ustinov read ratifications on the Geneva Convention between items, to try and get governments to adhere to the Geneva Convention. The concert was outdoors and the huge audience were all holding candles. It was a spectacular sight from the stage and the concert was broadcast by Sky TV on Christmas Day. I loved playing with such an amazing orchestra. So many wonderful musicians and friends all brought together under Chris's inspired and charismatic leadership.

 

How did the idea of Music Junction come about?

 

In 1999 I collaborated with Yehudi Menuhin on a TV documentary called "Menuhin's Children" for BBC2. It was a wonderful project teaching children from scratch in groups. I wanted to continue the idea and give it legacy.  Music Junction was an offshoot of that original seed. 

 

What makes the Music Junction special?

 

Music Junction is a socially inclusive project.  We bring together young people from all walks of life and they work together and build relationships through music.

What has been the most inspiring story you have seen as a result of the work the Music Junction is doing?

 

It's difficult to pinpoint one story but we taught a child who found it impossible to communicate. She transformed into a fiddle-playing chatterbox! That was really inspiring and special.

 

In terms of Western composers – have you noticed any favourites?

Not favourites as such.  We have covered a wide spectrum, Haydn, Beethoven, Sibelius, Britten, Maxwell-Davies, Frances-Hoad to name a few and have always had engaged young people. 

 

What is the biggest challenge for the Music Junction?

Raising enough money to secure its future.

 

What would £10,000 enable Music Junction to achieve?

£10,000 would pay for the “Flashmob” concerts at the start of the programme, which reach up to 3,000 children and give us the best opportunity to get children and young people excited about joining the project. It also allows those who want to try out an instrument on the day to do so, so they can decide which instrument they want to play if they join the project.
 
Alternatively, it could pay for up to 12 instrumental teaching sessions which is where LCO musicians work in small groups with the participants and help them to develop a ‘toolkit’ of instrumental skills that they can work on between sessions, and take with them beyond the life of the programme itself. These sessions are hugely popular with the children and young people, especially those who have never played an instrument before, as they get a huge sense of achievement from taking part. 

 

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

 

My dog Luna. A Springer Spaniel who wins the prize for the most positive energy, especially at half past horrible! 

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With thanks to Victor Ehikhamenor for allowing us to use images of his art work.