Just on the Horizon

In the last few days the Horizons project has started in full force.  On Thursday 12th January the team were in the school and on Friday 13th January they spent the day in the care home.  All the team were in for the start of the project to witness aspects with John and Karen leading the sessions that are currently planned in and as expected, they are having a great time as well as enabling very exciting artistic moments to take place.

At the school we were joined by WNO players Chris Vale (Bassoon player) and Philip Heyman (Viola player) who provided something quite fantastic – not only through their beautiful instruments but in the quality of how they communicated and built relationships with the children.  In the morning children worked with the team in 3 sets of pairs, making their way to the Light and Sound room to the sound of Bassoon, Viola and Accordian.  Once in the room the children were able to explore the instruments and from this the children decided how they wanted to play with the sound.  Alfie, who we had met in the research year, continued to amaze us with his development as he created a call and response moment with John using his eyes and a hand gesture to signal when he wanted music to happen or not.  In the afternoon all the children worked together in the classroom, again the instruments were explored and the team continued to build relationships with the children and explore the possibilities musically with them.

At the end of the school day, all the staff came together to be introduced to us all and find out more about the project.  The best way to do this it was felt, was by sharing Alfie’s song that had been composed as part of the development period; taken from the experience of working with him and seeing film footage captured by Dave, turned into poetry by Karen which John worked with to create a beautiful short piece.  As we had two WNO players, John had created parts for them so that the staff in the school could see how a child can and continues to inspire our artistic creations.  Goose bumps, hair stood on its end and staff emotionally moved could clearly be seen as responses in the room as we listened to the music and heard Karen’s poetry spoken in time.

Harnessing enthusiasm, twelve staff agreed to stay further and participate themselves in a practical session in which Lee led a physical warm up and John took them through a vocal warm up followed by vocal games until suddenly without anyone realising they were singing some very beautiful music in three part harmony!  This begins the forming of our Community Ensemble who will be key in helping to tell our opera when in it comes to recording and performing.  The staff gave us great feedback and we look forward to working with them and any more that join us over the next 3 sessions and of course as the project develops.

On the Friday it was a change of location to work with the residents at The Ridings in Castle Vale.  This time the team were joined by Sian Cameron, a regular WNO MAX vocal animateur and singer.  The morning started with some singing in the lounge using what has become the trusted book of ‘Songs You Think You Know’, with some often well known sing along songs originally from the early part of the 20th Century that we find many people know at least the tune and a few words too, which are a great way to start building relationships and see how people respond.  From this Karen led 1-1 sessions with 3 residents, talking to them and writing in her note book words from the exchange.  While this took place other members of the team spoke to residents and occasionally Sian and John offered some small musical moments.  As The Ridings has a large number of residents, in the afternoon the session was repeated in another of the homes lounge areas.

It’s not just the residents and staff that we are looking to work with, and the day was a great chance to begin to meet families.  Trevor is a daily visitor, spending time with his wife every afternoon and provided us with lots of feedback, thoughts and ideas.  We particularly like his idea of projecting the final film onto the ceilings of those in the home who are unable to leave their beds.

So the project is underway, all the themes, imagery and ideas continue to develop in each of us and the more we meet the participants the more excited and animated we become to the potential of what we are making.  Just on the Horizon is our finished film opera, we can only make its general shape at this stage, while we hold the tension of the desire to get to the end and see what we’ve created as well as savour every moment of the process.

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