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Birmingham Jeremy Clay Reviews The Arts

My premiere tonight by Thumb Contemporary Music Ensemble

It’s been a while since I posted anything, mainly because I have been busy composing my latest piece for Thumb Contemporary Music Ensemble – being performed tonight – 7.30pm – 23rd May at the Recital Hall at Birmingham Conservatoire in an hour-long concert entitled MERGE. Should be fun!

Aside from that, I’ve been filling my time with fun stuff like BCMG’s Nostalgie cabaret and the Music Maze workshop we did alongside that. Also went down to London for my first creative meeting with Springs Dance Company for my new collaborative commission The Selfish Giant, based on Oscar Wilde’s story of the same name.

Also way back on 29th April (yes, royal wedding day!) futuresonic hosted their second event at We Are Birmingham which was an interactive laptop performance from BiLE (Birmingham Laptop Ensemble) which was intriguing!!!

Oo and I have another new nephew who is called Jonas! Winner!

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Birmingham Community Music Jeremy Clay New Music The Arts

Feel the Buzz with BCMG

This Sunday was the second part of a two-day composing workshop I was doing with BCMG called Feel the Buzz. Its a workshop for 14-18 year olds and the format is a kind of collaborative composing/improvising together approach. Jackie Walduck was leading with BCMG musicians and she used a kind of 1-page score technique which the young people fleshed out collaboratively. All based around the nOSTalgie Cabaret BCMG are doing in May.

We were drawing parallels between the past and present, so one piece we did was based on Mack the Knife (the words in that songs are really quite horrific – check them out!) and another was on 21st Century Pirates! Nice!

There was a final performance of all the music produced on Sunday evening and it was great! It was really nice to see young people all working creatively together and having input into the final pieces. And whatever Birmingham City Council think about BCMG, this project engaged an incredibly diverse group of young people from many different backgrounds.

Unfortunately due to cuts, Birmingham Music Service (who have generously funded this project for the last 10 years!) are unable to continue funding it next year, although they really want to! So it means BCMG are going to have to find to some money from somewhere to keep it going. Really hope it doesn’t stop because I think it is a brilliant project.

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Community Music Jeremy Clay New Music The Arts

Music Play with Early Years conference plus BCMG at Ninestiles

Last Thursday I had a pretty busy day!

Went to Music Play with Early Years conference run by Music Leader. Felt a little like I stuck out like a sore thumb… it appears men are vastly under-represented in the world of Early Years music… ie only 3 men in the entire conference… And I know no harm was meant by the speakers at the conference but I’m not sure highlighting my presence as a token male was the best way to approach this…

It did raise the question of why there aren’t more males working in early years? (answers on a postcard) I think it is (unfortunately) quite a taboo direction for men to go in. Even in this day and age I think people raise an eyebrow at the thought of a male early years worker. (This is also true of male nurses, according to my nurse friend – although they are loved by hospitals, society in general has a bit of  thing about it!)

Anyway, the conference brought two things to my attention – the first was brought up by Dr Susan Young about the need for child-led, adult-led and child-and-adult-led forms of activity for the best outcome. The last of these is the activity which is lacking in music play settings- this I think is partly because it is the hardest form of activity to successfully achieve.

The other thing was the very interesting teaching methods of Sandra Barefoot & Sarah Moody from Visible Thinking. Their creative use of art, drama and music for early years play seemed like a great idea – particularly the use of what essentially turn into graphic scores as you demonstrate. Its about using marking so that the sounds made on instruments are represented on paper. This seemed to engage children on a different level, and seemed like a great way to provide another gateway by which children can access the music.

In the evening I did a pre-concert workshop at Ninestiles School in Yardley with BCMG before their first Urban Tour concert. The concert turned out really well. The three percussionists – Simon Limbrick, Julian Warburton and Scott Wilson did a great job. I particularly enjoyed Tag by Philip Cashian which has real character to it despite the chance techniques employed during the reading of the score. And of course, Okho by Xenakis is a fantastic piece – always a winner for me!

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Birmingham Community Music Jeremy Clay The Arts

So What? Sound it Out training day

Went on a one-day Sound it Out event on Saturday which was pretty good – nice to catch up with people from Sound It Out and the New Horizons course I did last year. Although Mark Bick started the day on a depressing note about cuts to the arts, things did pick up and he did talk say that there could be new opportunities for Community Musicians – if the ‘Big Society’ idea actually begins to work…

There was also a great talk on Social Pedagogy and the role that community musicians can play with regard to this – I can really see how music can play a real role not just in education but also it has a real social impact, being a way in which communication barriers can be broken down.

Then Bobbie Gardner gave a brief but helpful talk on social media and its role for community musicians – just wish there had been more time on that – its tricky to fit it all in in 30 mins!

And of course there was the traditional sharing of warm-ups / activities which is always enjoyable!!!!! Winner!