On 9 and 10 November, 1200 pupils from 14 local primary schools will participate in the Peterborough Sings! Big Band Singing Days at the Broadway Theatre, working on a repertoire chosen to give them an insight into the world of big band swing and the songs of Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, with the emphasis firmly on fun and enjoyment. The concluding concerts will be accompanied by the 19-piece Peterborough Youth Jazz Orchestra
The Big Band Singing Days are the fourth in a series of ‘big sing’ events organised by Peterborough Sings! on behalf of Peterborough Music Hub as part of the ambitious Arts Council England-funded Peterborough Singing Strategy, which aims to transform provision for singing in the city’s primary schools. Delivery is in three strands: a professional development programme based on group seminars and individual mentoring, a programme of practical workshops for singers and leaders, and large scale ‘big sing’ events which are themed to facilitate cross-curricular links.
June 2014 saw pupils from schools across the city take part in the spectacular World War One Centenary Singing Days at the KingsGate Auditorium in Parnwell, performing original songs from the period including Pack Up Your Troubles, It’s A Long Way to Tipperary, Home Sweet Home and Good-bye-ee, as well as new compositions by Rowland Lee – well known for his children’s animation theme tunes – all accompanied by a professional orchestra in concerts recorded for BBC Radio Cambridgeshire. In stark contrast – and deliberately so – the next ‘big sing’ events, at the Broadway Theatre in October 2014, were the Rock’n’Roll Singing Days, with a song list of favourites including Blue Suede Shoes, Blue Moon, Rock Around The Clock, Shake Rattle and Roll, Jailhouse Rock, Johnny B Goode and Stand by Me, and an authentic live band accompanying the final concerts, which played to some very appreciative audiences!
In March 2015 came the Broadway Experience Singing Days, also at the Broadway Theatre: working alongside West End professionals, a 14-piece orchestra and members of the award-winning Peterborough Youth Choir, pupils enjoyed a whistle-stop tour of musical theatre greats, rehearsing and performing Over the Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz, My Favourite Things from The Sound of Music, Consider Yourself and Where is Love from Oliver!, Truly Scrumptious from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Singin’ in the Rain! These events were impressive on many levels, not least in terms of their smooth delivery given the sheer numbers of children attending and the level of organisation required, but also for some inspirational teaching from the project’s mentors and young leaders, superb musicianship from the accompanying live bands and orchestras and – above all – the infectious enthusiasm and obvious enjoyment of the hundreds of children participating: who in the audience could possibly resist singing (and, yes, dancing!) along with them to Shake Rattle and Roll and Rock Around the Clock?
To date, the ‘big sing’ events have engaged thousands of children from over 40 local primary schools and have been fantastically well received by staff, children and parents alike: ‘Something new and exciting for Peterborough,’ says Clive Butters of the Beeches Primary School, ‘We’re really looking forward to the next one’. William Prideaux, Director of Peterborough Sings! comments: ‘I wholeheartedly recommend the project. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for schools and community groups, their teachers and leaders, to develop their skills and aspirations.’ With the Singing Strategy continuing into 2016 there’s no doubt that many more of the city’s schoolchildren will be fortunate enough to benefit from Peterborough Sings!’ innovative ‘big sing’ events. The only question is, what’s next…?
The Big Band Singing Days are at the Broadway Theatre on 9th and 10th November 2015.
The Broadway Theatre is home to the city’s unique music education charity Peterborough Sings! which works weekly with over 250 members in Peterborough Male Voice Choir, Peterborough Voices and Peterborough Youth Choir, as well as with hundreds of schoolchildren through its Arts Council England-funded Singing Strategy. Further information at www.peterboroughmvchoir.org.uk