Special Needs

Over the past 5 years, our Special Needs programme has expanded significantly to include large-scale projects and performances in care homes.

Music is Special Camden – Wondrous Machine

In the autumn and spring terms we brought together pupils from Swiss Cottage School, Frank Barnes School for Deaf Children, Gospel Oak Primary and St Patrick’s Primary to explore the music of Henry Purcell and in particular the Wondrous Machine from his Ode to St Cecelia. Working with composer James Redwood, pupils created their own piece in response to Purcell’s music by creating melodies and rhythmical patterns, all of which fitted into a musical machine. The project grew and expanded significantly to include 4 wider opportunity groups, the Camden Concert Band, Jazz Band, Youth Orchestra and over 2000 singers into one very large musical machine which became a featured piece at the Camden Music Festival at the Royal Albert Hall in March.

After the concert, Peter West, Head of Camden Music, wrote to us:

This was undoubtedly the most ambitious project we have ever undertaken, combining every single instrumentalist and singer participating in the event together with the creation of a brand new Wondrous Machine Band.

Judging from the feedback we have received, the performance made a huge impact and many people including our Director of Children Schools and Families, representatives from Youth Music, John Lyons and Arts Council England talked about the extraordinarily high quality of achievement coupled with a philosophy of maximum inclusion.

We are so fortunate and privileged to work with you as a Hub partner and are extremely grateful for all your support on this project. We hope you feel as proud at everyone’s achievement as we do.

Our Band

Our Band was our large scale SEN project. Taking place over the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons, this ongoing work provided a unique opportunity for students in SEN settings to develop a long-term relationship with a professional orchestra. In each of the five settings, we formed student bands who each term would work with musicians from the Orchestra and an animateur on creative music making which would support young people to develop musical and social skills and experience a range of instruments and music. Our overall aim was to engage young people and staff in SEN settings in creative, high-quality music making, where students could explore how to play different instruments, perform and work together as an ensemble and to encourage personal growth and confidence in expression.

In year one of the project, we took our influence from Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas. Each band created short works inspired by Purcell’s semi-opera, whilst also learning excerpts from the Purcell itself. They then performed these works alongside players from the Orchestra.

Following on from year one, in year two we created, for the first time at the OAE, a SEN opera, Fairy Queen: Three Wishes, which combined both mainstream and SEN students. With a new libretto by Hazel Gould and new compositions by James Redwood, the Orchestra provided scaffolding for students to work around and input their own ideas into. Performances were given in Plymouth, Durham, London, Norfolk and Southampton, with each performance having its own identity because it was led by the participants.

Musicians on Call

Musicians on Call is a discrete part of our education programme which aims to bring the joy of music-making to those unable to access the concert hall because of disadvantages such as ill-health or disability. We also work with partner organisations to tackle loneliness through using the arts, which has been proven to be effective in combating isolation amongst the elderly. Over the year, we do a number of visits to care homes and hospices.Two musicians visit each care home for at least three hours which allows time for a recital, group chat, interactive activities and individual conversation with residents and carers. Bedside visits and small group performances also take place when residents are unable to join the recital.