It was tipping it down with rain when the Young Leaders arrived at St Leonard’s Church in Malinslee for a performance that would celebrate their week of intensive music-making in Shrewsbury. In they packed, meeting and giving stickers to members of the In Harmony Telford Nucleo Orchestra, which was preparing to rehearse.

The church is a stone’s throw from Old Park Primary school, home to In Harmony Telford, from which 9 Young Leaders joined the orchestra this year. This was an important opportunity for these new Leaders to perform to their families, for the Young Leaders to share a stage with the budding In Harmony Telford Nucleo Orchestra, and for all the young musicians to inspire their younger peers and families.

The church soon filled up and warmed up as guests took tea and cake before taking their seats, and we had a chance to meet the proud families of our Telford Young Leaders, most of whom had not stayed away overnight from home until the weeklong Camp. ‘I’m so glad she stayed, she would have missed out on this amazing opportunity,’ said the mum of a Young Leader who had bravely pushed through her homesickness to stick it out.

Just before the concert, we gathered together on the grass outside and listened to our conductor Félix: ‘This is the moment we have been working so hard towards – after this performance, life will go on, you will have other things that are more important to you – in this moment right now, we have the opportunity to give everything we have, all we have learnt, to the audience, to each other, to ourselves. Let’s make it count.’ Then a breath of collective meditation before hands into the middle and a cheer.

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Lucas, clarinettist and new Young Leader from In Harmony Telford introduced the concert to his community: ‘Don’t worry if you don’t know any of the pieces. Just sit back, relax and let us entertain you.’

The In Harmony Telford Nucleo Orchestra opened the concert with an impressive and varied programme including Adele, Beethoven and Rossini arrangements, conducted by their Music Director Jeremy Clay. The focus and professionalism was absolute, fully deserving the roar of applause that erupted at their final flourish.

The Sistema England Young Leaders Orchestra, conducted by their Music Director Félix Briceño, followed with the Allegro of the Saint-Georges Symphony No 2, the Habanera from Bizet’s Carmen Suite No 2, Artes’ Chamambo transitioning into Pérez Prado’s Mambo No 8, and Portuguese folk piece Ritmos Ciganos.

From the commanding first bar of the Allegro, the Young Leaders owned their performance, digging deep to pull out a new level of passion, kinship and energy that had their teachers dancing in the aisles and audience members swaying in their seats.

As the applause died down, a Young Leader grabbed me: ‘Now that we’ve performed it, I want to do it all again right away.’ It is often the way – we need to think about this for next time.

The Young Leaders handed out helium balloons to children in the audience and families hugged. The mum of one of our percussionists from Telford who had raced back from a family wedding to join the performance, told me she was almost lost for words: ‘I didn’t know she could do that.’

Sistema England, In Harmony Telford and Old Park Primary School worked together to bring about this beautiful occasion. Special thanks to: Music Director of In Harmony Telford Jeremy Clay for his vital mobilising efforts, optimism and generosity before and during the Camp; Mrs. Haywood, Head of Old Park Primary and her husband for their incredible ‘behind the scenes’ help, to Vicar John for his very warm welcome to St Leonard’s, to the In Harmony Telford Nucleo Orchestra for their courage and for sharing their love of music with us, and to our Young Leaders for a spine-tingling performance that left us all humbled and happy.

Fiona Cunningham
CEO
Sistema England

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Photos: Iván González