As part of the Cambridge History Festival, CaMEO partnered with Historyworks, to present the Creating My Cambridge: Singing History Concert, a culmination of creative writing and composition project in local primary schools. The Creating My Cambridge project was also generously supported by John Lewis, enabling video resources and workshops to be provided to schools in the run up to the concert.
The Singing History concert created a real buzz in West Road Concert Hall, as both primary school children and community choirs came together to celebrate local history through song, poetry and rap. The auditorium was heaving with audience members both young and old who had come to enjoy this celebratory afternoon, and to share in the unique opportunity for children to present their history-inspired creative works.
Tizzy Faller from CaMEO and Mario Satchwell from Historyworks kicked off the concert leading the audience in an active warm up- setting the tone for the relaxed and participatory feel of the concert. This was followed by community choir leader- Rowena Whitehead teaching the audience Vela Sigabone- a traditional African welcome song, supported by her choir Resound!
It was then a chance for local primary school children from Milton, St. Philip’s, The Spinney, and Milton Road primary schools to perform their pieces. These were developed in school during a series of workshops with a number of artists and historians including Dave Cohen from Horrible Histories, Mario Satchwell and Helen Weinstein from Historyworks, and Tizzy Faller from CaMEO.
There were a variety of performances as part of the concert, spanning a real breadth of local history and crossing a number of different styles. This included a round based on Oliver Cromwell by Dave Cohen, songs about the Fitzwilliam Museum lion statues composed by Kirsty Martin, inspired by Michael Rosen’s Listening Lions poem, songs about Thomas Hobson by Dave Cohen and Inja’s Freedom rap, about Equiano and the abolishment of the slave trade. Freedom was performed live by Inja alongside children from St Philip’s Primary School, The Spinney School and Sing! Community Choir, which provided a great opportunity for collaboration between artists, school children and the local community.
The real highlight however, was hearing the children’s own performances, which included songs and raps, accompanied by body percussion and instruments. Milton Primary School’s Milton Mash Up composition group shared a number of great pieces, including a piece about Milton Village, supported by their school choir. St. Philip’s School children led a fantastic collaborative piece about the Fitzwilliam Museum lions, Milton Road shared compositions based on the story of Thomas Hobson, with some imaginative body percussion accompaniment and The Spinney shared a number of wonderful poems about Hobson and Cromwell.
The concert Finale was led by Resound! singing Something Inside So Strong, with the audience being encouraged to join in, as they had done throughout the concert. At the very end of the concert all the children were invited to the stage to sing Vela Sigabone one last time, making for an uplifting end to a fantastic concert.
As part of the project CaMEO were involved with visiting a number of schools to deliver composition and body percussion workshops, as well as developing lesson plans and resources for teachers. To access these resources visit: www.creatingmycambridge.com/guides-and-films/how-to-do-body-percussion/
For further information, resources, how to videos and lesson plans linked to the project visit:
To get involved with the Creating My Cambridge: Singing History project or to request for a workshop in your school contact Helen Weinstein at:
Feedback from the concert:
“I just wanted to say how much the children enjoyed the concert and especially sharing their compositions. It was great for them to see all the other schools work and presentations. I think their highlight was hearing my name in a rap!!!”
Rebecca Moulton, choir leader and music teacher, Milton Primary School
“Thanks for organising yesterday - it all seemed to go really well and I know that the children that attended with us from The Spinney enjoyed it all very much. The singing was fantastic and it's lovely to see the children being given an opportunity to show their skills like this.”
Steve Barnwell, choir leader and music teacher, Spinney Primary School
“Thank you so much for organizing such a wonderful Concert yesterday, what a triumph!
There was such a fabulous sense of community!”
Rachel Snape, Headteacher, Spinney Primary School
In February CaMEO partnered with Revelation Rock-Gospel Choir to lead a Gospel singing workshop at St. Bede’s Secondary School, which formed part of their Youth for Christ Mission Week. In the workshop CaMEO and Revelation taught a number of simple gospel tunes, learning simple harmonies and the all important gospel grooves to accompany them! The workshop was well received by both pupils and staff that attended and the school are hoping that this will be a springboard for a Gospel Choir to be formed at the school in the future.
Throughout this academic year CaMEO and the Outreach Choir have continued to provide singing workshops in prison, including expanding its work to provide training opportunities and visit new prisons. CaMEO visited HMP Bedford and HMP Whitemoor before Christmas to lead Christmas singing workshops, including learning Christmas classics such as Santa Claus is Coming to Town and De Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy. The culmination of the morning workshop at each prison was a performance of the songs at the Prison’s Annual Carol Service, which were very warmly received by staff and residents alike.
In the Spring CaMEO provided training for the prison outreach team with community choir leaders Rowena Whitehead and Mark DeLisser, giving time and space to develop their understanding of teaching and directing singing in the community. With a workshop at HMP Bedford the following day the students had opportunity to try-out the skills they’d learnt in the training sessions within a prison environment. The repertoire of the workshop, held on St. Patrick’s Day, had a nod to the Irish feast day with the prison residents learning Molly Malone in the workshop and the Outreach Choir performing Danny Boy as part of the afternoon concert.
This Summer after students exams are over, CaMEO and the Outreach Choir will continue to expand their work at different prisons, leading singing workshops at HMP Whitemoor and HMP Wayland.
If you would like to find out more about Prison Outreach or are interested in joining the Outreach Choir then we’d love to hear from you. Do get in touch with us at: firstname.lastname@example.org