Summer Music Academy – Bursary Report 

August 2019 

On the 28th - 30th August this year, fifty-one children joined us for our third annual Summer Music Academy. Of these, eighteen took part in the chamber music strand, which ran for the first time in 2018, generously supported by the JDCMF Project fund. We were delighted to receive support once again in 2019 to continue our development of chamber music provision for young people in our locality. 

Our aims in developing the chamber music strand of the course are: 

  • to provide opportunities for local students to study chamber repertoire which are otherwise lacking, especially in the State sector; 
  • to initiate the formation of longer-term chamber groups; 
  • to facilitate top class coaching by bringing together a team of coaches of the highest calibre; 
  • to provide inspiration and effective modelling with the inclusion of a staff performance as part of the course. 

Having grown from eleven students in 2018 to eighteen this year, we needed to increase our coaching team from two guest tutors to three. The funding we received from the Joan Dickson Chamber Music Project Fund was used to enable us to do this, and we were lucky enough to secure the services of three fabulous tutors; Nick Roberts, cellist from the Coull Quartet, Dan Shilladay, violist from the Berkeley Ensemble and at the very last minute, Simon Chalk, violinist, Artistic Director of Southern Sinfonia and Conductor of Il Divo, who stepped in at 48 hours’ notice when Morven Bryce was sadly taken ill. 

Course structure Over three days, each chamber group took part in: 

  • 3 coached sessions in their chamber groups 
  • 1 independent rehearsal session 
  • 3 chamber orchestra tutti sessions led by guest tutors 
  • 1 chamber orchestra sectional led by guest tutors 
  • Dalcroze session 
  • Folk session, developing aural skills 
  • Critical listening during the staff concert 
  • Final performance of chamber work and as part of the Academy Chamber Orchestra 

Implementation Putting chamber groups together can be a challenging task, especially when some of the students involved are unknown. Having gathered detailed information about their playing experience beforehand, we allocated players to five chamber groups in advance of the course. As many of these players were new to chamber music, the coached sessions focused on developing ensemble skills and building confidence whilst learning to own the independence of their parts. Each group was also given an unsupervised session in which they could build co-operation, explore their own 

musical ideas and practice effective rehearsal techniques. We were delighted that the two violin quartets, cello trio, string quartet and string trio all worked very well together and formed strong social and musical bonds by the end of the course. At least two of these groups are planning to rehearse together regularly going forward. 

Repertoire selections were made in advance, carefully bearing in mind the particular skills and development needs of each group, and music was sent out to be prepared in advance; each group studied two works, including movements by Telemann, Schubert, Prokofiev, Bohm and modern German composer, Joachim Johow. 

We also brought the chamber strand and main strand of the course together to perform Manfredini’s Concerto in G major. Having been inspired by a concert we had taken students to see with Rachel Podger and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Ruth arranged the piece so that every one of our fifty-one players could take part. Chamber students took on lead roles, with four soloists taking on the role of ‘Rachel Podger’ splitting the Obbligato part between them. The remaining chamber cohort became the ‘Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment’ with our main course students supporting with simplified parts. The amassed sound in Prior Park Chapel was glorious and the grandeur of the piece and the building in which it was played, was certainly a fitting end to our best Summer Academy yet! 

Value Added Undoubtedly, it was the calibre of coaching from our guest tutors which made the course such a success. Students were truly inspired - and somewhat awestruck - to be working with such exceptionally skilled, knowledgeable and generous musicians, and they all came away full of enthusiasm and ideas for how to make their performances really sparkle, whatever their level of technical development. 

We are immensely grateful to ESTA and the JDCMF Project Fund for enabling us to bring this calibre of coaches to work with our cohort of enthusiastic string players from all backgrounds, and we look forward to sharing their sustained development as time goes on. 

By Michelle Falcon & Ruth O’Shea Co-Directors Bath Strings Academy CIC