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Opera North launches In Harmony Leeds

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Today, Friday 7th December, saw Opera North launch In Harmony Leeds, a new large-scale community development project using music. 

In Harmony Leeds aims to help improve the social wellbeing and academic attainment of 350 children in full-time education and reach another 500 members of the wider community, through the skills gained in intensive, community-based music-making and high quality tuition. The project will be delivered at Windmill Primary School, in the Belle Isle area of South Leeds, from January 2013. 

The launch provided an opportunity for all of the children from Windmill Primary School to attend a special interactive event with the Orchestra of Opera North. It was, for many of the children, the first close encounter with the power of a full orchestra in action, playing excerpts of works by Britten, Stravinksky, Shostakovich and Saint-Saëns. During the launch, the children learned about the large-scale educational musical journey upon which they are about to embark. Each child also discovered that they will receive their own musical instrument in the New Year as well as taking part in daily music lessons, choirs and orchestras as part of In Harmony Leeds

The pioneering project, one of four new In Harmony community development projects announced in July 2012, will be funded by Arts Council England, the Department for Education and Opera North over three years between 2013 and 2015. It is the first In Harmony project in Yorkshire and the only one nationally that is delivered by an opera company.

All 350 children in Windmill Primary School will take part in transformational music activities, both within curriculum time and through free extra-curricular activities. From the outset, all Year 1-6 pupils will have the opportunity to play in an orchestra and receive their own instrument. For younger children, the focus will initially be on daily singing activities, which will develop musicianship skills. 

In Harmony is a national programme in England, based on the highly successful El Sistema programme of youth orchestras in Venezuela, which aims to inspire and transform the lives of young people in deprived communities using the power and disciplines of community-based orchestral music-making. Pilot In Harmony projects in England have previously been delivered in Liverpool, London and Norwich. The project, inspired by the huge success of El Sistema, is chaired by cellist Julian Lloyd-Webber. The desired outcomes for children, in addition to the development of musical skills, are improved wellbeing, self-confidence and social skills, and improved attainment in literacy and numeracy.

To deliver a secure and sustainable future for In Harmony Leeds, beyond the three year funding from Arts Council England and the Department for Education, Opera North is looking to secure long term investment from the private sector and individual philanthropy, as well as the local authority. The Company is delighted to announce that Land Securities and Evans Property Group have already agreed to support the project and is confident other members of the business community in Leeds, together with private donors, will want to join this transformational venture.   

Photo credit: Simon Dewhurst. 

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