A MUSICAL partnership between school pupils and some of the world’s finest musicians took to the stage at Sunderland’s Empire Theatre.

Two schools concerts today (28 March) were the result of months of planning and rehearsals by pupils from secondary and special education needs schools with musicians from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

The work is part of a new national orchestral project created with Orchestras Live.

It has been delivered in partnership with Sunderland City Council through the Sunderland Music Hub and Sunderland Empire theatre. The partnership creates more opportunities for children and young people with extra educational needs to get involved with live orchestral music.

Since January, 17 pupils from Sandhill View and Southmoor Academy, and Sunderland Empire’s ‘Curious Connections’ Youth Theatre group have been in workshops with staff from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Empire.

The unique experience saw the young people from Sunderland produce, programme and present both the two full orchestra schools concerts at the Sunderland Empire today, and a ‘relaxed’ performance of a chamber orchestra on Sunday (26 March).

A ‘relaxed concert’ is designed for people who may be concerned about attending an orchestral concert and may find visiting the theatre a daunting experience. The informal performances are designed to help people with additional needs such as autism, ADHD, dementia, young children or nervous first time theatre visitors feel more comfortable in their surroundings and enjoy the occasion more.

Sunderland City Council Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services, Councillor Louise Farthing said: “This has been a fantastic opportunity for children and young people in our city, not only to develop their musical talent but also to display their organisational skills working alongside the professionals staging concerts at Sunderland’s Empire Theatre.

“We want to provide every pupil in every school in our city with the chance to achieve their full potential, and this music project is playing a great role in this on-going process.

“There are many ways to help a young person’s personal and social development, and music education in schools is one of them.”

All the schools taking part are involved with the Sunderland Music Hub which delivers music education opportunities on behalf of the City Council, through DfE/Arts Council Music Education Hub funding which also supported this individual project to take place in the city.

The Hub works with schools, youth music groups and a wide range of organisations ensuring children and young people have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument and develop and progress their skills and talents. In January nearly 1,000 pupils took part in singing festivals for choirs.

Rebecca Pedlow, Manager of the Sunderland Music Hub, said: “We are delighted the council has been able to support bringing this major national project to Sunderland, one of only six areas across the country.

“The schools concerts provide an opportunity that not only supports many curriculum targets broader than music, but will also be a rare opportunity for children to experience a 70 piece London orchestra live at our great local venue, the Sunderland Empire theatre.

“In this relaxed and welcoming environment, everyone can enjoy an orchestral concert by dancing, singing, joining in, moving about freely or simply listening to the amazing music from this world-class ensemble.”

Partnership Manager with Orchestras Live, Stuart Bruce added: “The project is truly inclusive, putting young people at the heart of producing as well as experiencing live music events with a world class orchestra.

“This is our first collaboration with Sunderland Music Hub and the Sunderland Empire theatre, and we hope it will be the starting point for further inspirational youth-led orchestral projects in the area.”

Hollie Coxon, Sunderland Empire’s Creative Learning Manager, said: “This is the first relaxed orchestral concert held at Sunderland Empire and was a fantastic opportunity for patrons to experience the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in a relaxed setting.

“We have successfully held relaxed performances for pantomime over the years and this is a key addition to our offer. We are committed to growing the range of relaxed theatrical events at the venue to ensure everyone has the opportunity to experience buzz and excitement of live theatre.

“Our recent achievement at the national Autism Professionals Awards is evident of this.”


MUSICAL YOUTH: Sunderland City Council Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services, Councillor Louise Farthing joins young producers and performers on stage at  Sunderland’s Empire theatre with members of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.