Chetham’s Symphony Orchestra has become the UK’s first youth orchestra to perform in front of a live concert audience since the pandemic began.

The event – the culmination of a two-week music festival at Chetham’s School of Music – featured all 328 students from the UK’s largest specialist music school.

Chetham’s is home to many of the country’s finest young musicians, aged 8-18. Their performance, in front of socially distanced audiences, took place at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester on Friday 9 July.

The event is a watershed moment for music education, following the devastating impact of the pandemic on music teaching in schools across the UK.

Covid-19 caused extracurricular musical activities to be discontinued in nearly three-quarters (72%) of UK primaries and two-thirds (66%) of secondaries, according to report by the Incorporated Society of Musicians.

More than two-thirds (68%) of primary school teachers and more than a third (39%) of secondary school teachers reported a reduction in music provision as a direct result of the pandemic.

Tom Redmond, Joint Principal at Chetham’s School of Music, said:

“Performance opportunities for developing young musicians across the UK have been decimated by the pandemic. Even the traditional school carol concerts were cancelled across the nation for the class of 2020/21.

“Students at Chetham’s and other specialist music schools in the UK have been lucky, by comparison. We’ve been able to continue to offer our young people a specialist musical education, the chance to make music regularly with others in their Covid bubbles, and the chance to perform to audiences via live streams.

“It is a long time since any young person in this country has performed in a youth orchestra in front of a live audience though. These are the experiences which really shape a young musician. It’s an emotional moment for all of us!”

On Twitter, audience member Dr Sarah Croke, said: “A truly incredible concert. Nothing can replace the energy and experience of live music. Bravo @Chetham’s for finding a way to let us in!”

The day of concerts featured works by composers from Beethoven and Tchaikovsky to Brahms and Resphigi.


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