Syrian refugee crisis inspires Gwynedd pupils to compose new musical work February 19, 2016

The unfolding tragedy in Syria has inspired schoolchildren in Gwynedd to write a piece of music that will be performed as part of a top music festival

The pupils from Ysgol Gynradd Talysarn and Ysgol Brynaerau, in Pontllyfni, are being helped by talented harpist and composer Mared Emlyn.

The educational project is part of the outreach programme of Bangor Music Festival.

Their brief is to create a new group composition focusing on the Syrian civil war and the consequent refugee crisis in Europe.

They will be performing the new work on Bangor High Street on Friday, March 4, before attending a concert by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales at the university.

The festival will also feature a hat-trick of world premieres and concerts by Britain’s Got Talent finalists, Cȏr Glanaethwy and the critically acclaimed vocal ensemble, The Swingles

The music of Welsh female composers will take centre stage during and the festival will include a performance by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, featuring soloist soprano Ruby Hughes, in a concert of music penned by Welsh women, which will include three world premieres.

Other highlights include concerts featuring distinguished soprano Elin Manahan Thomas, experimental music by the Bangor New Music Ensemble and oriental improvisation by The Fusion Ensemble, the acclaimed Russian pianist Xenia Pestova who’ll be joined by Electroacoustic Wales,  along with a gig by Welsh indie band Sŵnami.

Mared, 27, from Eglwys Bach, in the Conwy Valley, who studied composition and performance at Bangor University, where she gained a Phd in 2014, was excited to have been asked to lead the project which will used some instruments as well as the children’s voices.

She said: “We are taking the work of composer, Hilary Tann, who wrote a piece called The Open Field which was inspired by the student uprising and the events in Tiananmen Square as a base and developing our own ideas to describe the terrible events and the tragedy of the Syrian civil war.

“I hope we can describe, musically, the plight of the refugees and their journey to a better place.”

“It’s so important children learn to create music inspired by current events and hopefully, we will encourage them to look at what is happening in the world so the project isn’t just about music.

“This is just one of a number of Bangor Music Festival educational projects which I think are really important and inspire young people to make new music, learn new instruments and learn how to use their own voices.

“This year’s Bangor Music festival has a voice/voices theme and I intend to get the children to really work with their voices to make new sounds and music.

“It’s so exciting working together and creating new music and sounds and I’m sure the children are going to come up with a wonderful new composition that people will really enjoy.”

According to Glenda Evans, head teacher of both Ysgol Gynradd Talysarn and Ysgol Brynaerau, this is the fifth year her schools have been involved in Bangor Music Festival educational projects.

She said: “It’s an amazing opportunity for our children to work with professional musicians and composers and to be able to perform what they write and learn.

“I have seen with past projects how important is for children to get the chance to perform their own work. It really is a massive boost to their confidence and self esteem. And children and their parents are encouraged to attend Bangor Music Festival concerts.

She added: “The subject matter for the composition, being based on the Syrian Civil War and the refugee crisis, may seem a little serious and deep but I’m never surprised how easily they cope and it’s great to get them thinking about the world in which they are growing up.”

Ysgol Gynradd Talysarn pupils Osian Williams, nine and Elan Williams, 10, were really looking forward to completing their composition and performing it in Bangor.

Osian said: “It’s great learning about different instruments and I like singing a lot. It’s amazing we are working together to write a whole new piece of music. I’m really enjoying it.”

Elan added: “It’s going to be amazing and something we will remember for a long time. I also like working with the composer to make new and different sounds.”

Ysgol Brynaerau pupils Grisial Morus  and Dafydd Jones, both nine, are equally excited about the project.

Grisial said: “I play the tenor horn and have been learning for more than two years so I’m hoping I can play my instrument in the music we compose.

“It’s fantastic being involved and I’m also really looking forward to performing in Bangor and seeing the orchestra in concert.”

Dafydd said: “I love being involved and am really looking forward to going to Bangor to perform with all the other children. It’s going to be amazing.”