Orchestra Unwrapped is a huge hit

On Wednesday 7th December, 700 children from 18 schools across the borough gathered in the Corn Exchange to experience the magic of a full, live Symphony Orchestra.  Orchestra Unwrapped is the Philharmonia Orchestra’s unique concert series for children aged 7-11 years.  The Harpur Trust was proud to be able to bring this project to Bedford for the very first time; the final community event in our year long 450th anniversary celebrations.

The concert was introduced by presenter and education specialist Paul Rissmann, who guided the children on a fun and interactive journey through the Orchestra’s instruments, players and music. The concert was complemented with a giant screen of visuals to enhance the learning experience for the schoolchildren, including the children’s own artwork, produced ahead of the concert.

The hour long concert included music from Arnold, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Bartok, Piazzolla and Grieg. The finale was a piece of music from a ‘galaxy far, far away’ which the children and their teachers recognised instantly.  But for many the highlight was Rissman’s Past, Present, Future?, which the children sang to and which they had been learning at school leading up to the event.

But the concert was only one element of the project.  Our funding enabled the Philharmonia to commission Rissmann to write this brand new audience participation piece for the concert, and he worked with children from four local Bedford schools to come up with some of the wording for the piece.  The Orchestra Unwrapped project also includes learning resources for children and teachers, for use in both the classroom and at home; and INSET teacher training (delivered at Bedford Modern School earlier this term), equipping teachers with the skills to maximise the concert experience for their pupils, enhancing their knowledge and appreciation of music, as well as developing personal creativity, expression, confidence and group work skills.

As part of it’s anniversary, the Trust offered to pay for all 18 schools to participate in the programme, and we also provided additional funding to enable local, talented musicians from the North Beds Youth Orchestra to perform on stage alongside the orchestra’s world-class musicians.

Alexandra Brierley, Director of Education at the Philharmonia, commented: “Orchestra Unwrapped is more than just a schools concert – it brings the symphony orchestra into the curriculum and class-room, and benefits children and teachers alike. We are delighted that with the support of The Harpur Trust the Philharmonia was able to bring Orchestra Unwrapped to Bedford for the first time, and to bring children from all over Bedford to experience a world-class symphony orchestra.”

David Russell, the Chief Executive of The Harpur Trust added “All of our anniversary events this year were put on specifically for the community of Bedford Borough and they have all reflected our mission to break down barriers, create opportunities and provide education.  Orchestra Unwrapped does all of these things and so much more and having just seen the enthralled expressions on the children’s faces, I cannot think of a better way to end our celebration year.”