Our founder Ernest Read was passionate about spreading music as widely as possible to children and young people and put on his first concert for schools almost 90 years ago (back in 1929). His orchestras played in schools, concert halls and the BBC studios, culminating in the birth in 1945 of the renowned Ernest Read Concerts for Children at the Royal Festival Hall.
Read knew that the length, content and style of a concert needed to reflect the audience and developed an innovative format that many professional symphony orchestras still follow today with short programmes, accessible introductions to the repertoire and audience participation. The concerts had a well-renowned and established reputation and sold out for 30 years.
Today, half of our annual programme is devoted to working with children.
Concert programmes alternate between pieces involving the children and pieces played by ERSO in order to keep the children performing and the young members of the audience fully engaged. The children play arrangements of pieces that are composed for their varying abilities and complement the concert’s theme. The young players sit within their instrument’s section of ERSO for the duration of the concerts.
We have found that the experience of sitting amongst the symphony orchestra is very inspiring and motivational for the young musicians as it allows them to experience what their instruments can sound like with practice and what it would be like to play within a larger, more advanced ensemble. In the past, we have received very positive feedback from parents and children. The participants said how much they enjoyed the experience, and that it has inspired them to try harder with practicing their instruments so they could take part in more concerts like this.
“What a great idea to involve the children in this musical experience with a full adult orchestra! Please pass on our special thanks for making our son so welcome, and for helping him to feel comfortable playing as part of the Orchestra.”
Parent, Camden Children’s Concert, November 2016
“A wonderful idea to inspire the young performers – fantastic!”
Parent, Camden Children’s Concert, November 2017
On the concert day, our priority is to provide the children with an enjoyable and developmental experience. Each child is assigned an adult “buddy” to help them with the music and make sure that any questions or anxieties are addressed so that the children can enjoy their rehearsal and concert experiences.
Summary of Aims and Benefits of the ERSO’s Children’s Concerts:
- To work with children at different stages of progression on their musical journeys, inspiring and encouraging them to continue with their music-making through working side-by-side with ERSO in rehearsal and concert, helping them to reap the considerable benefits of continuing to be involved in music.
- To give the children the chance to work with an inspiring professional conductor at a rehearsal and in the concert.
- To expose the children who perform with ERSO and the children within the audience to diverse and exciting music played by the Ernest Read Symphony Orchestra. This will further encourage the children performing to continue with their music by showing them the kind of music that they will be able to play in the future.
We always evaluate the success of each children’s concert with the participants and our partners and we ensure that the findings are applied to future projects.