Manchester’s 300 children perform: UK’s first youth orchestra concert in 16 months
The Chetham Symphony Orchestra has become the first youth orchestra in the UK to perform to a live concert audience since the start of the pandemic.
The event – the culmination of a two-week music festival at Chetham’s School of Music – brought together 328 students from the UK’s largest specialist music school.
Chetham’s is home to many of the country’s top young musicians, ranging in age from 8 to 18. Their performance, to a socially distant audience, took place at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall on Friday 9 July.
The event is a turning point for music education, following the devastating impact of the pandemic on music education in UK schools.
Covid-19 has resulted in the cessation of extracurricular music activities in nearly three-quarters (72%) of UK primary schools and two-thirds (66%) of secondary schools, according to a report by the Incorporated Society of Musicians .
More than two-thirds (68%) of primary teachers and more than a third (39%) of secondary teachers reported a reduction in the supply of music as a direct result of the pandemic.
Tom Redmond, Co-Director of Chetham’s School of Music, said:
“Performance opportunities for the development of young musicians across the UK have been decimated by the pandemic. Even the school’s traditional song concerts have been canceled across the country for the class of 2020/21.
“In comparison, students at Chetham’s and other UK specialist music schools have been lucky. We were able to continue to offer our young people a specialized musical education, the possibility of making music regularly with others in their Covid bubbles and the possibility of performing in front of the public via live broadcasts.
“It has been a long time since no young person from this country played in a youth orchestra in front of a live audience. These are the experiences that truly form a young musician. It is a moment of emotion for all of us!
On Twitter, audience member Dr Sarah Croke said: “A truly amazing concert. Nothing can replace the energy and experience of live music. Well done @ Chetham’s for finding a way to let us in! “
The concert day presented works by composers from Beethoven and Tchaikovsky to Brahms and Resphigi.