Ensemble Reza’s education project aims to involve 300 young musicians

Ensemble Reza
Ensemble Reza

Passionate musicians are opening up the world of classical music to school kids in Mid Sussex.

Ensemble Reza, who have teamed up with West Sussex Music, are set to work with more than 300 children in an education project based on the BBC Ten Pieces initiative.

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No Caption ABCDE SUS-150226-144129003

The BBC has selected ten classical pieces to encourage children to create responses to the works through music, digital art or dance.

Working with Ensemble Reza team schools will create their own music based on one of the Ten Pieces in a series of workshops. The students will then perform them at Ensemble Reza’s Ten Pieces Music Festival Concert on Thursday, July 17, at the King’s Church, Burgess Hill (7pm).

The project involves six primary schools: Holy Trinity, Cuckfield; Bolnore Village Primary School; Harlands Primary School, Haywards Heath; St Giles Primary School, Horsted Keynes; Blackthorns Community Primary School, Lindfield, and Northlands Wood Community Primary School, Haywards Heath, together with Oathall Community College, Lindfield.

“The pieces are the starting point, the original source of inspiration for the children,” says Pavlos Carvalho, cellist for Ensemble Reza.

“We will listen to the piece together and start asking them to listen out for certain things or they’ll tell us what they find interesting about the piece. It might be a rhythm. It might be a particular colour change in the music or it might be a particular feel. We take that particular rhythm and then see if the kids can create something of their own based on that.

“For example, if you were doing a Beethoven symphony – the fifth – they could take that and make something different just from the rhythm. It doesn’t have to be those notes but it can be something that, if we heard it, even if it wasn’t obvious, we would know that it’s inspired by Beethoven’s Fifth.”

This isn’t the first project Pavlos has worked on that aims to introduce classical music to kids. Last March Ensemble Reza, who formed in 2013, performed their first ever family concert at Holy Trinity Church, Cuckfield. Pavlos also worked with students from Blackthorns Primary School and Oathall Community College to help them create music for Romeo and Juliet.

He makes it clear why he considers this work important.

“First of all it’s just beautiful music,” he states. “Secondly, we live in a time where this particular classical music is often being sold in a cheap way to try to encourage students or young people to hear it so they don’t actually hear what it’s about.”

Pavlos explains that people will often put a drumbeat on the music, add a video or simply distil the piece because they don’t respect children’s ability to concentrate on the work in its original form.

“Some children grow up never actually realising what a substantial and beautiful part of music they’re missing,” he continues. “Sometimes their fate can be determined for them simply because they’re not exposed to something like this.”

But this kind of project isn’t just rewarding for children. Pavlos often finds the imaginative ideas that kids come up with to be very inspiring.

“As a trained musician one always tries to leave the imagination open,” he says. “Sometimes education unlocks certain doors that can feed the imagination, but other times there are certain boundaries and limitations that one is aware of and rules that you wouldn’t break.”

But children approach music free of any rules, he explains. Without proper knowledge of concepts such as harmonic progression and melody, kids can sometimes suggest remarkable things. It’s humbling, says Pavlos, and shows how even trained professionals have something to learn.

He offers an example: “The last project we did – the Romeo and Juliet one – the theme tune of the whole project with all these children (many of them very experienced musicians) came from a little girl who didn’t play any instruments. She didn’t even have singing lessons. She just went away after we talked about it and sat with me at the piano and sung me this idea, a series of three or four notes that she had in her head. From that we produced the most unbelievable, beautiful, emotional waltz and it came from a girl who’s never done any music in her life.”

For this project the Ensemble Reza musicians are working with the highly accomplished composer, presenter and musician Jason Rowland.

In the past twelve months Jason has led music projects for The Royal Opera House, The Philharmonia, The London Philharmonic Orchestra, The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Britten Sinfonia. He was also the musical director for the Canary Wharf Christmas sing-a-long concert.

And if that isn’t enough, throughout June and July Ensemble Reza are also planning to create a Community Orchestra to rehearse every Wednesday evening. The group will be conducted by Pavlos Carvalho and will learn a selection of the Ten Pieces to perform at the Ten Pieces Music Festival Concert.

Ensemble Reza are making an application to Arts Council, England for funding towards the project. They are also looking for local sponsors.

To join Ensemble Reza’s Ten Pieces Festival Community Orchestra, or to find out about supporting the Ten Pieces Project, contact hannah.carter@ensemblereza.com.

To find out more about the musicians visit ensemblereza.com.

Find out more about the BBC’s Ten Pieces project here.

Pavlos Carvalho will perform a programme of great romantic cello music at Great Walstead School, Lindfield, on Saturday, February 28 (7pm). The show features cello sonatas by Frank and Rachmaninov. Tickets cost £13 for adults and £5 for children and students under the age of 18. See Carousel Music in Haywards Heath, Pepperbox in Cuckfield or SWALK in Lindfield.