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Tuesday 3rd March 2020

Sinfonia Viva Energised by Derby’s Young Performers

On Tuesday 25 February 2020, 420 young people aged 7 – 20 from across Derby joined with Sinfonia Viva for a special performance of Energy at Derby Theatre.

We were bowled over by the quality of all the music the young people performed and the orchestra was proud to perform alongside them. The performances were electric!


“What a powerful way of engaging young people in climate change.” Sue James, Headteacher – Becket Primary School


The project started in January with an inspiration day, held at Derby Museums, where Science Director Emma Murphy created brilliant experiments for 70 participants from Becket Primary, Firs Primary, The Bemrose School and Derby College.


Experiments included jenga coal mining, exploring whether it is possible to mine coal without effecting the earth; cleaning up an oil spill and trying to save the (rubber) ducks; a greenhouse gas temperature experiment; and a mixed energy model of a town, with a series of street lights that needed to be powered using fully working solar panels, wind turbines and coal.  Emma shared the story of energy with us all, and composer James Redwood shared the four new songs that he had written with writer Hazel Gould.  We all soaked up as much information as possible about energy consumption and climate change and explored some of the changes we can make as individuals.


“I loved working with all the students, diving head first into the difficult issues of pollution and climate change.  I was so impressed by how quickly they grasped the concepts and their passion to understand more.” Emma Murphy

During January and February the young people worked closely with James Redwood, music leader Jessie Grimes and Deirdre Bencsik (cello) Andrew Cook (trumpet) and Marianne Barraclough from Sinfonia Viva to create their own songs and instrumental pieces inspired by renewable energy, as well as rehearsing the four new songs which were written by James.  Participants wrote lyrics, melody lines and arrangements as a group, and led the creative process.


“The musicians at Bemrose and the College have been brilliant collaborators.  Their two new songs are so different to what I was expecting and I love the way they made the brief their own, imprinting their musical stamp whilst also being open to suggestions we brought to the process.” James Redwood


Alongside these sessions Rachel Wilkes from Derby and Derbyshire Music Partnership led singing; signing sessions with an additional 350 young people from Cavendish Close, Portway Junior, Becket, Firs, Reigate, Repton and Springfield Primary schools to help them learn the four new songs.  Emma and Jessie also created a learning pack of STEAM activities for teachers of the students, including a pack to build a working wind turbine.


“I have absolutely loved getting to know Firs and Becket’s young people.  It’s inspiring to see how much passion they have for this planet and powerful to hear from them about the importance of investing in clean energy, for our future and theirs.” Jessie Grimes


The young performers were joined for the final rehearsals and performances by their very own professional orchestra for the week, Sinfonia Viva!  The performances included music by Michael Tippett, Cheryl Frances-Hoad and world premiere performances of:

  • Dani Howard’s arrangement of Beethoven’s Bagatelles no. 3
  • James Redwood’s Story of Energy
  • Derby College’s Can’t Quit You
  • Firs’ Too Much Fuel
  • Bemrose’s Climate Emergency
  • Becket’s Change Your Ways


As well as singing every word, the young people joined with Sarah Gatford in BSL signing throughout the performance.


The evening performance was met with a standing ovation from the audience who were visibly joyous and emotional. The young people gave everyone food for thought about how we can change our energy consumption for the better.  A total inspiration for us all!


“This wonderful experience will develop their confidence, resilience and aspiration. It was a very moving and rewarding event that will stay with me, their parents and most importantly themselves for the rest of their lives.” Neil Wilkinson, Executive Headteacher – The Bemrose School




Marianne Barraclough, Sinfonia Viva. All images by Chris Webb