A look back at Attune 2024

Over four Sundays in January and February, a group of Award winners took part in our Attune Chamber Music project; an intensive four-day project where young musicians have the opportunity to immerse themselves in selected chamber music repertoire under the guidance of Artistic Lead Paul Sherman. They work on musicianship skills, developing a variety of ensemble skills and their communication and programme presentation.   

Every Attune project is unique; this project was particularly so as Paul describes: 

For all our young musicians this project was a journey into the unknown. We explored a selection of pieces from the series Music For Young Players published by Universal Edition in the 1960s and early 1970s and written for school-age musicians. The chosen pieces challenge conventional ideas of notation and encourage each musician to re-evaluate their idea of how sound is organised to create music.

This project featured seven musicians on our Awards programme: Alex (12), Danielle (17), Hugo (12), Jacob (14), Kutay (13), Maisie (15) and Shiloh (11). They were supported by musicians and composers from Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (BCMG), a professional ensemble who commission and perform music by the world’s finest composers and emerging international talent. Percussionist Simon Limbrick, vocalist Suzie Perkis and BCMG NEXT conductor and erhu player Xinjie Jang contributed their specialist knowledge and inspiring insights as the project progressed.  

Two composers worked with Award winners. Duncan Chapman, composer and sound artist who curated the collection of Music for Young Players co-led the first and last sessions, working in depth on some of the repertoire in small groups. He said of the Attune process: 

The pieces are very quirky and interesting and they use kind of open set so you can play them with lots of different kinds of instruments. What’s so nice about working with this group of young musicians is they’re all very accomplished players – the refinement and the precision with which they’re able to approach these is really impressive. The pieces really come alive. 
Duncan Chapman

Later in the project, Howard Skempton, who himself composed one of the Music for Young Players pieces, visited to chat with the Award winners about the composing process, his inspiration and ideas behind Caves. Paul recalled that ‘during his visit, the group were able to achieve a sound world of intense stillness with magically quiet interactions between the players. This moment encapsulated the ethos of the whole project; when the quality of listening, the depth of creativity with full concentration combined with a fine control of each instrument came together to create a uniquely special and profoundly moving musical experience.’ This was a really memorable part of the project for some of the young musicians! 

It was really interesting and informative playing in a small chamber group and doing lots of different contemporary style pieces. I really enjoyed meeting Howard Skempton and getting his opinion on how to play Caves so that we could adjust our interpretation. Maisie, Award winner 

The project ended with a sharing for family and friends of three of the pieces the participants had been working on – Caves by Howard Skempton, Dashing Away by Alan Brett and Black Cat by Christopher Small. These were preceded by a prepared improvisation devised by the Award winners which they led themselves. The scores were projected onto a screen so the audience could see what the players were interpreting. 

The impact of these projects on our Award winners is huge – from spending time in with professional musicians and composers to learning about different styles of music and different ways of working, Attune gives young musicians opportunities they often don’t get elsewhere. 

I thought that it was an amazing opportunity to explore the way music can be shaped in many different forms. I really enjoyed the improvisation and pictorial music scores. 

Jacob, Award winner 

I was introduced to a whole new world of music. 

Kutay, Award winner 

Through fun musical games, a lot of improvising and reflecting on our discoveries each week the young musicians allowed themselves to go way beyond their comfort zone. The culminating performance in the inspiring Birmingham Conservatoire Jazz Club, entirely shaped and led by the young musicians, was captivating.

Paul Sherman, Artistic Lead

Funded by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation, Attune was hosted by Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and special thanks go to the Learning, Participation and Outreach team for their support this year. 

If you are, or know, a young musician aged 5-17 with bags of musical potential in need of musical opportunities and support for musical costs, AYM could help!

You can help us deliver more projects like this by supporting us during our Arts for Impact campaign! Any donation made to AYM from 12 noon on Tuesday 19 March to 12 noon on Tuesday 26 March will be doubled until we reach our fundraising target of £10,000.  

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