London 2012 Festival: A Stirling start from Scottish kids
Tomorrow night the curtain will go up on the London 2012 Festival, a three-month celebration of the arts and the culmination of the four-year Cultural Olympiad.
This midsummer evening promises to be one to remember, with a host of cultural festivities planned the length and breadth of the country – from pyrotechnic extravaganzas at Lake Windermere to a life-size inflatable Stonehenge, designed by artist Jeremy Deller, in Carmarthenshire. The festival will officially launch, however, in the Raploch district of Stirling, with the iconic castle providing a breathtaking backdrop.
It will be an evening of classical music, with the 200-strong world-renowned Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra laying on what promises to be an incredible show. The Venezuelan maestros will also be collaborating on stage with the much celebrated Big Noise orchestra, a musical ensemble made up of local school children.
Staged by Sistema Scotland, the charity which runs the Big Noise orchestra, The Big Concert will not only be a celebration of the arts, but also an exhibition of real social change and development. The Big Noise Raploch initiative, established in 2008, takes primary school children as young as four and introduces them to the world of orchestral music.
Following a period of practicing with handmade paper instruments, the children move on to the real thing. The programme has proved a great success, and shown how involvement in music can bring profound benefits to children’s lives.
The super-star Venezuelan orchestra themselves derive from a similar music education initiative, named El Sistema, and have since garnered universal plaudits.
At their reins is high-profile conductor Gustavo Dudamel. A product of El Sistema himself and the patron of Sistema Scotland, he is regarded as one of the world’s most exciting contemporary conductors, having led the Bolívar orchestra to wide acclaim.
A mammoth concert venue has been built in the shadow of Stirling Castle, designed to accommodate hundreds of musicians and the anticipated 8,000 spectators.
Following in the footsteps of the Games themselves, the concert is a complete sell-out, in part thanks to the admirably reasonable ticket price, allowing viewers to gain access to the arena for as little as £12, a fraction of the cost to see the orchestra under normal circumstances.
Those unable to get their hands on a ticket will be able to enjoy proceedings on BBC4 and BBC Radio Scotland.
By Alasdair Lane