By Sarah Pickstone
It’s become a daily occurrence that we read about refugees experiencing hostility in our country, about struggles for them to integrate into society and their inability to secure work that suits the limitations relating to their current ‘status’. Often the talents of refugees aren’t celebrated or even acknowledged. We at Young Orchestras feel that it should be the opposite; we should be celebrating refugees, shouting about the culture and food they bring to this multi-cultural country and embracing them into our community.
Our roots come from licking the wounds of conflict by bringing together the next generation of young people through music. Shortly after the Second World War we created the Anglo-German Music Course, bringing together young English and Germans to ensure the next generation were ones of peace. Over 40 years later the Music Week still brings together young people from all over the world who want to play and enjoy music within that same spirit of friendship. It has been re-named the European Youth Music Week and brings together, under one roof, dozens of nationalities, ranging from Indonesia, Serbia, America and Japan (we probably should change the name!).
Two years ago the Directors of Young Orchestras sat on the European Youth Music Course and grumpily discussed the similarities between the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people due to war after the Second World War and the crisis taking place now. We felt this wasn’t right so decided to make a difference the only way we know how. And this is how European Youth Music Refugee Choirs were born.
We have spent the past few months rehearsing across the country with young refugees and now bring 36 of them together on Sunday 29th July at Oakham School, Rutland, to form one choir and spend a week rehearsing together alongside the European Youth Music Week. This structured, yet fun, week will comprise of rehearsing various pieces of music, carrying out workshops (musical workshops, cultural workshops, improving English etc.) and mixing with like-minded young people who have had similar experiences and young people from the orchestra. At the end of the week the choir and orchestra will come together to perform a specially commissioned choral piece of music and perform in a concert at Leicester Cathedral.
This concert will enable the young people, both refugees and those in the orchestra, to showcase their talents. The concert takes place on Friday 3rd August at 7pm at Leicester Cathedral and coincides with Arabella Dorman’s internationally-acclaimed artwork instillation Suspended. Composed of hundreds of items of clothing discarded by refugees upon their arrival on the island of Lesbos, a ‘stilled explosion’ will be created over the Cathedral nave, inviting the viewer to contemplate the violent fragmentation experienced by the inhabitants of the garments. The concert repertoire contains mainly orchestral music, including Bernstein’s West Side Story and Stravinsky’s Petroushka but the climax of the concert will be those young refugees singing a piece of music that has brought them together.
To find out more about European Youth Music Refugee Choirs visit our website www.europeanyouthmusic.org/eymrc.