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Youngsters' band is a real class act ; Pupils update landowning family's 19th century sounds [Sentinel, The (Stoke-on-Trent, England)]

October 23, 2013


PUPILS will bring the poetry and music of one of North Staffordshire's most famous families back to life by staging a unique concert with their new class band.

The major project will see youngsters from NCHS The Science College, in Newcastle, team up with professional artists and Keele University. Using recently discovered archive materials from the Sneyd family, who used to own Keele Hall, they plan to produce a stunning new adaptation of the music. The young musicians will premiere their work in March at Keele Hall as part of the latest programme of events for Keele Concerts Society.

Eddie Kerr, NCHS's head of creative arts, said it would also give pupils the chance to show off the skills they have learnt through their class band.

An entire class of 26 pupils have been learning brass and wind instruments through weekly music lessons at school. Mr Kerr said: We have introduced it with the top set in year seven and they get to play the instruments for a year. The instruments include the trombone, trumpet, flute, clarinet, euphonium, tuba and saxophone. Many of the pupils have never played before and it's given them a fun way to study music. They have begun READ WITH HAND thesen by learning a few notes, but will work up to producing their own compositions - and that's where the link-up with Keele will come into its own. The Sneyd family were wealthy landowners who can be traced back to the 13th century in North Staffordshire. Alongside their ancestral home of Keele Hall, they owned swathes of neighbouring land, including the site now occupied by NCHS The Science College. The school itself used to be called Sneyd High and so pupils will be uncovering a slice of history as well as exploring their musical talents.

Former Keele music lecturer John Simmonds, who now works for the creative organisation Re:Source Me, is also involved in the collaboration. He said: We went through the manuscripts in the archives at Keele to find something that would fit the musical instruments.

That's when we found some verse which had been set to music. It was written by Charlotte Sneyd in the 19th century. A lot of her poems were very nature-based. The pieces were probably performed for the family in the Sneyds' drawing room. NCHS pupils are now looking forward to taking an element of the original work and adapting it. As well as playing the instruments from their class band, they could be using music software on iPads to fuse the old with the new.

There will also be 4D art projections on stage.

HELP IS AT PUPILS Flautist Imogen Heelis, aged 11, from the Westlands, said: It's exciting to work with other people who are talented musicians. Young trumpet player William Palmer is also enjoying learning a musical instrument. The 11-year-old, from Knutton, said: It's something to get you off the XBox. It's good to play in the band as well. With the Sneyd links, I knew the school used to be called Sneyd High because of the Sneyd family. It will be interesting to find out more about it.

Jessica Turnock has been learning the saxophone for the project.

The 11-year-old, from Silverdale, said: It's going to be quite scary performing at Keele Hall. But it will also be really enjoyable. The class band is tutored by a specialist music teacher from Entrust, the organisation which now runs education support services in Staffordshire. All the instruments, which have been supplied by Yamaha UK, are loaned to pupils for free.

To help prepare for the Keele performance, pupils are also working with artists from a London-based creative group called Sound Collective. Funding has come from a variety of sources, including the Keele Key Fund, which is money donated by the university's alumni.

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