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Specialist Music School UK Orchestra

Wells Musicians Form Part of New Virtual Orchestra

To mark the 40th anniversary of the government’s Music and Dance Scheme, young musicians from the UK’s five specialist music schools have collaborated on a new commission.

An 80-piece virtual orchestra has been formed by pupils from Wells Cathedral School, Chetham’s, St Mary’s Edinburgh, The Purcell School and the Yehudi Menuhin School.

Wells provided one of the biggest cohorts, with 23 pupils playing string, woodwind, brass and percussion instruments.

The pupils recorded their own individual parts of a new piece specially written for them by Gwilym Simcock – called Union Overture and Celebration. The piece premiered at 10am on 19 August, and can be watched on the YouTube channels for all five schools:

Established in 1981, the UK government’s Music and Dance Scheme (MDS) allows talented young performers to fulfil their potential, regardless of their financial background, by funding world-class specialist training at one of the UK’s famous five specialist music schools. The scheme has provided a vital for many of the country’s finest musicians, including Martin Bartlett, Nicola Benedetti, Jacob Collier and Steven Osborne.

Composer Gwilym Simcock – who has been acclaimed at home and abroad as one of the most gifted and imaginative composers working in Europe today – is himself one of many acclaimed musical graduates from the MDS funded system, having studied at Chetham’s School of Music.

Gwilym Simcock said: ‘Union Overture was an exciting project for me that drew upon the unique set of skills that students learn at the specialist music schools in the UK. The piece was written in two weeks, and then the students had just two weeks to learn and record their parts, before I combined them together into the finished recording.’

‘The skills required for the musicians to do this are ones that they’ll need for the rest of their careers in music, and there really aren’t any better places in the world than these fantastic musical institutions here in the UK for them to learn their trade in such depth and to such a high standard. I really hope that audiences enjoy the piece, and the hard work all these students have put in to make it possible.

‘I’m extremely proud to have been a student at Chetham’s for nine years. Undoubtedly, what I learned there has given me the opportunity to have a very enjoyable and fulfilling career in the music industry. The funding that allows pupils from all backgrounds to attend these wonderful institutions is absolutely crucial, and without it the musical world in general would be a much poorer place – and more importantly so would many, many young lives.’

A spokesperson for the five specialist music schools said:

The UK’s five specialist music schools all have celebrated youth orchestras, but never before have we collaborated together like this. Now is a special moment, as we join forces and begin to mark the 40th anniversary of the UK government’s MDS funding. This support has been vital to so many of our finest classical musicians. We must now do even more to widen this access and we hope new performances like this will start to raise broader awareness of the scheme.

Anyone interested in finding out more about the MDS funding at Wells can visit www.wells-cathedral-school/music