Opera North: Leeds pupils will get up close and personal with musical stars

Pupils from Windmill Primary School, Belle Isle, with Matt Sharpe (standing), a celloist and members of Opera North at the launch of the programme at Howard Assermbly Rooms.

Pupils from Windmill Primary School, Belle Isle, with Matt Sharpe (standing), a celloist and members of Opera North at the launch of the programme at Howard Assermbly Rooms.

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Opera North is set to launch a new project at a Leeds school in January following its successful bid for funding.

In Harmony Leeds will take place at Belle Isle’s Windmill Primary School after grants were awarded from the Arts Council and the Department for Education.

Yesterday, (Dec 7) at a launch party, pupils got their first chance to get up close and personal with the power of a full orchestra in action.

In January each child at the school will also receive their own musical instrument as well as taking part on daily music lessons, choirs and orchestras.

Rebecca Walsh, director of education at Opera North, said: “We are so exited about launching In Harmony Leeds with this event, which really places the children we’ll be working with at the core of the action.”

Windmill Primary School, where 92 per cent of pupils are from families classified as ‘hard-pressed’ and 60 per cent are eligible for free school meals, was selected through consultation with the local education authority, based on the potential to create the greatest impact for children and their families.

Ms Walsh said: “They will have a privileged close up view of an orchestra playing some of the most famous pieces of classical music just for them, including works by Britten, Stravinsky, Shostakovich and Saint-Saëns.”

She added: “In Harmony Leeds is the first project of its kind to be delivered by an opera company, so singing will also be a major part of there day-to-day experience of the project – something that all children can relate to and participate in right from the star.”

Opera North described the project as a ‘substantial investment’ in an area of Leeds which is among the most deprived in the country. Headteacher Sally Sumpner said: “This will really change the nature of the school and leave children with a life skill. We’re all really looking forward to it.”

It is based on the Venezuelan El Sistema programme which transformed children’s lives.

Raymond Manners.

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