STUDENTS, their families and music lovers in the community are being urged to tune into a spectacular festival of sound as a school’s unprecedented year reaches a crescendo.

Barnard Castle School has been in the vanguard of online learning since the pandemic forced the country into lockdown.

The music department, headed by Director of Music Richard Dawson, has been lifting spirits and maintaining learning using a variety of digital platforms, including the school’s own YouTube channel.

Concerts, individual performances, ensembles and live-streamed lessons have kept students on song with their studies.

To mark the end of an unparalleled term, Mr Dawson and his colleagues in the music department have organised a week-long extravaganza celebrating students’ talents.

The Barnard Castle School Festival of Music 2020, from July 10 to 16, will contain a range of exciting live events as well as a selection of on-demand video content.

The programme includes:

  • A Leavers’ Concert at 1pm on July 10
  • A Night at the Movies at 6pm on July 10
  • An Introduction to the Barney Music Department at 10.30am on July 11
  • Choral Society and Concertos Concert at 6pm July 11
  • Choral Evensong with the Virtual Chapel Choir at 6pm July 12
  • Evening Recital at 6pm on July 13
  • Barney ‘Unplugged’, a Rock and Pop Showcase 6pm on July 14
  • Young Musician of the Year – Grand Final at 6pm on July 15
  • A Celebration of the Arts at 6pm on July 16

The selection of online videos will include a Big Barney Singalong; a Composition Showcase of students’ own music written during the home learning period; introductory videos to the saxophone, clarinet, flute and the school’s historic organ found in the chapel; a video on how the music business works; the Young Musician of the Year finalists’ workshop and the past catalogue of virtual lunchtime concerts, which have taken place every Friday at 1pm during lockdown.

Mr Dawson said: “When the lockdown was enforced, our students were faced with a real period of uncertainty. The arts are so incredibly important for our mental health and wellbeing, and we thought it was essential to continue to offer our pupils as many musical opportunities as possible in order to help them and our staff cope better with the impact of the pandemic.

“As a school we were very quick to appreciate the benefits of staying in touch via the internet using a range of video conferencing platforms to teach, rehearse, perform and, importantly, just chat.

“Technology has proved to be the most incredible tool for our learning, especially music, and we will continue to embrace it wholeheartedly in the future.”

Mr Dawson said he hoped the online audience would be inspired to watch, listen and maybe even take up an instrument.

As well as having a richly experienced staff, students also benefit from the expertise of 17 visiting music teachers, who teach a range of instruments as well as singing, and a variety of musical styles. A Young Organist Scheme offers free lessons to pupils wishing to start the organ. More than 200 individual music lessons take place each week, covering a variety of instruments, and pupils are offered the chance to join a variety of ensembles.

Mr Dawson said: “Making music as part of a group is one of the great joys of being a

musician and joining an ensemble provides so many unforgettable memories.

“A wide variety of musical groups rehearse each week, catering for young musicians of all levels. Ensembles regularly perform at Durham and Newcastle cathedrals, Durham City Centre and in the Bowes Museum, while overseas tours offer the chance to travel and perform abroad.”

The school offers GCSE and A Level Music, and music scholarships are awarded at 11+, 13+ and 16+.