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Central Academy Students Go Wassailing

[O]n Wednesday Central Academy students performed with hundreds of their peers from across the country in a special concert in the Royal Northern College of Music. The students had travelled from Carlisle to Manchester to dance at one of the first ever performances of Wassail! Carols of Comforts and Joy – a brand new musical score composed by renowned composer Alexander L’Estrange.

The performance was organised by United Learning – a national group of schools which includes Richard Rose Central Academy. United Learning’s Partnership Fund, which seeks to enhance the opportunities available to students, had commissioned the piece as a way of opening up the world of choral singing to students across the Group – the piece itself draws on folk traditions with a modern twist influenced by both jazz and modern choral music.

The Central Academy students danced alongside the other United Learning students who sang the vocal score of Wassail itself. They had choreographed the original piece themselves and then rehearsed intensively to give a show-stopping performance which wowed the audience.

Dance Teacher, Wendy Boothman worked with the Year 12 Btec Dance group and choreographed two pieces for the performance. She said,
“This was quite a challenge as the Music is based in the folk tradition. Our students had to research English Morris and then we looked at traditional Ceilidh dance. Combining the two we created a fitting piece of choreography for the evening. Working with the composer was so inspiring and he loved the traditional nature of our performance and the way that we had tried to create something original for the event. The venue was stunning and it made the whole day something that we will remember for a long time to come.”

Year 12 student Sarah McPake said: “We hadn’t danced to this style of music before so we were presented a new challenge in terms of choriography. We combined the styles morris dancing with Scottish country dancing to come up with a piece that suited the music well. We particularly enjoyed performing with a live band.”

Catherine Barker, Head of Music and Performing Arts at United Learning, said: “Last night’s performance was absolutely spectacular. The sound of hundreds of students from across the country singing together has been truly moving and I am thrilled that the students received such a resounding round of applause from the audience.

“Not only has this project introduced our students to a vast array of different types of music, it has given them the chance to collaborate with their peers from across the country. These performances showed that music can unite us all – wherever we live and whatever our background. It has been incredibly poignant to see our choirs comprising students from a diverse range of cultures and I hope that Wassail! will continue to bring such enjoyment to all schools throughout the country.”

This project has recently been shortlisted in the Best Classical Music Education Initiative category at the Music Teachers Awards 2018, sponsored by Classic FM. The winner will be chosen by a public vote on www.classicfm.com.

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