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Commitment and Energy

'The Fragile Shell',


'Four million years ago' is where our story starts. This year's Junior school residency project by Sinfonia Viva was prompted by the limestone gorge at Cresswell Crags in north-east Derbyshire, where Britain's only known ice-age rock art was discovered in 2003.

Kids from four Derby schools joined with schools in Whitwell and Cresswell for The Fragile Shell, a cycle of songs reflecting the changing seasons, by composer and workshop leader James Redwood and librettist Hazel Gould (Assembly Rooms, Derby, UK, 24 June 2009). Slotted in between them were songs that the individual schools had created, on themes ranging from ice-age life to today's climate change concerns, reflecting aspects of their visit to the site in May. Springfield Primary's King of the Crags was a tussle for supremacy between the woolly mammoth and the sabre-toothed tiger. This was followed by Cresswell Junior's touching little tribute to their Phenologist Hero, quietly recording the dates and times of events in the natural world; Chellaston Junior's jaunty presentation of the ice-age menu on offer at the Cave Art Café; the serious but not preachy warnings of Asterdale Primary's We're in Trouble; Whitwell Primary's vigorous work-song Digging Bones, and Lawn Primary, also managing to avoid any hint of preachiness in Legs (urging us to use them more often).

Redwood's score, and his orchestrations of the schools' songs, had his usual imaginative flair, with a highly effective open-ended ending. Sinfonia Viva's incisive playing included some imaginatively-judged improvised solos for clarinet, guitar and double bass. Conductor, and Viva's choral advisor, David Lawrence presented and directed the performance with great aplomb. But, as usual, the abiding impression was of the kids' commitment and energy. The confidence with which they took to some quite sophisticated melodies, rhythms and part-writing was amazing.

Copyright © 29 June 2009 Mike Wheeler,
Derby UK










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