1 November 2012
Participation, energy and fun were the key ingredients in a performance in the Wellington Town Hall on Wednesday 24 October by the Enso String Quartet from the United States, students from Kimi Ora School in Wellington and community musician Julian Raphael.
Julian, education facilitator for Chamber Music New Zealand’s Ensembles In Schools programme, led the performance, played the guitar and sang.
The Enso String Quartetperformed two pieces – by Debussy and Haydn – to an audience of nearly 200. At times, they walked through the audience, playing and connecting with disabled students from nine schools in the Wellington region, including Kimi Ora School.
Sign language interpreter Bridgette Strid also interpreted the performance for Deaf students from Newlands College.
“I’ve done various projects working with school children and professional ensembles – whether in Nelson, Wanganui or Masterton,” Julian says.
“I’ve worked in classes where there are children of all abilities but this was my first experience of working particularly with disabled young people. It was a lovely event and one I’d be keen to do again.”
Late last year, Chamber Music New Zealand was one of 11 arts organisations or venues to receive grants from Creative New Zealand for projects aimed at increased accessibility. The performance with the Enso String Quartet was the result.
For Chamber Music New Zealand, the Creative New Zealand grant provided the impetus for the project. Its main aim was to create a safe, relaxed performance space where disabled youth could engage with international musicians who were also performing in the organisation’s main concert season.
The project was managed by Jessica Lightfoot and Victoria Dadd of Chamber Music New Zealand, members of Arts Access Aotearoa’s Arts For All Wellington Network. In the early stages of the project, they asked for a lunchtime session with the network to brainstorm ideas and approaches.
“This was the first time Chamber Music had done an event like this so we wanted to get it right,” Victoria says. “The Arts For All session included representatives from disability organisations, who provided an inside perspective and good advice. There were also people from other arts organisations wanting to do similar projects so the opportunity to share information and experiences was invaluable.”
With Julian on board, one of his first tasks was to approach Kimi Ora School and its music therapist Andrew Tutty, who was keen to be involved. In the two weeks leading up to the performance, Julian worked with the students to devise a sequence of music to perform.
“The students met the Enso String Quartet players just an hour before the performance, which was a special occasion, and then we performed,” he says.
“I’m a very experienced facilitator and music leader so making it look effortless was on of the things I was aiming for. But to get to that point, there was a lot of thinking and planning, and talking to people.”
Andrew Tutty described the performance as “fantastic” and says it was great to see the students performing to an appreciative audience and using their music skills.
“There were some lovely moments between the performers and students, and I also liked the way that everyone was so comfortable and able to participate so easily,” he says.