Spirit of Birmingham Project - Vocal Workshops


Ellie Griffiths, Corporate Relations Manager, shares her experiences of the Spirit of Birmingham project:

This academic year the CBSO, supported by our Official Airline Partner, Qatar Airways, have been working with schools across Birmingham to create a new piece of music that celebrates our city. Over 180 pupils from Anglesey, Gilbertstone, Harborne, Bournville, Thornton and Deykin Avenue Primary and Junior Schools have been taking part and it’s not long until they share all their hard work with us.

They began their journey earlier in the year with creative workshops in each individual school. Award winning composer Eamonn O’Dwyer, along with the CBSO Education team, worked with the children to explore their ideas of what Birmingham meant to them, what it sounded, smelt and felt like in their communities. Each school then worked with CBSO Musicians to compose music, rhythms and melodies.

Eamonn then took the children’s lyrics and musical ideas and has written a brand new musical theatre song for the schools to perform on stage at Symphony Hall at 6.15pm on Wednesday 14 June.

During May, I was lucky enough to be invited into two of the participating schools to watch (and take part!) in their vocal workshops, the last stages of the project before all the schools come together to perform the world-premiere in June.

"Music is such an important part of everyone’s life, at any age, and it was great to see this project promoting confidence, creativity, imagination and team work, whilst also providing unique opportunities to work with professional musicians and perform in our city’s world-class concert hall!"

I first visited Anglesey Primary School, and was greeted by a fantastic group of very enthusiastic singers. After the CBSO’s vocal coach Suzie Purkis and accompanist James Keefe took us through some warm ups (with actions!), we got stuck into the song.

It was incredibly interesting to see the way Suzi and James broke down the song and music for the children to learn, building on each verse, encouraging comments and collaboration from everyone. By the end of the session I couldn’t believe how quickly they’d mastered their parts and how professional they sounded. It was a real example of team work.

The session finished with a warm down where I was a willing participant (!) in a staff versus pupils dance off – apparently I dance like I’m from ‘the 90s!’ – I’ll take that! Thanks Anglesey!

The following week, I popped along to Bournville Junior School to see how they were getting on – it was a very hot sunny day, but that didn’t deter anyone’s enthusiasm.  Again, I was impressed with how much of the song they already knew. The session was led by Helena Raeburn, and James again on piano.

Together they worked on bringing the children’s individual voices into a cohesive sound – which was very powerful! We spent time identifying the patterns in the music, as well as counting the beats to help identify where their parts fit with the other schools. Again, by the end of the session, the team work and professionalism was amazing.

No dance-off this time, but we had fun taking some very silly photos and we all got a little bit of extra time in the playground after!

Bournville1.
Bournville Silly Photo.

I can’t give anything away on the final piece, but it is very catchy, and I think it does truly represent our amazing city.

I’m very proud to have played a small part in getting this project realised through my work with our corporate partners. Our Education team wouldn’t have been able to provide this opportunity without Qatar Airways support.

Music is such an important part of everyone’s life, at any age, and it was great to see this project promoting confidence, creativity, imagination and team work , whilst also providing unique opportunities to work with professional musicians and perform in our city’s world-class concert hall!

It is going to be even better to see all 6 schools coming together for the final sharing session at 6.15pm on Wednesday 14 June at Symphony Hall – everyone is welcome (and if you hang around after there are a few tickets left to watch our fantastic Orchestra in concert with Music Director Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla and artist in residence Steven Osborne)

If you’d like further information on the project, other opportunities in schools, or how you or your business can support, then do please get in touch on egriffiths@cbso.co.uk or 0121 6166500