Working with Deaf & Hearing Impaired young people

From 2002-2004 BCMG worked with Deaf and Hearing Impaired young people from Hawthorn Junior and Infant School, Braidwood School and College High School in Kingstanding, Birmingham as part of Sound Futures, the Birmingham Youth Music Action Zone. Each year a different piece of BCMG repertoire was used as the inspiration for the project. The project was led by composer/workshop leader Duncan Chapman and workshop leader Ros Hawley (musician in residence at the Royal School for the Deaf in Manchester), BCMG musicians and other artists.

In 2002, inspired by Mark Anthony Turnage’s Bass Inventions (featuring Jazz bassist Dave Holland, which BCMG premièred in February 2002), the young people built instruments and composed their own music culminating in a a special performance at the College High School in February 2002 for the launch of Sound Futures.

In 2003, the project was inspired by The Theatre of Magical Beings by Indian composer Param Vir premièred by BCMG in May 2003. Each movement of the piece is a musically theatricalised setting of a narrative or image of four mythical creatures: Garuda (Hindu) Air; Urobus (Greek & Christian) Water; The Elephant that foretold the Birth of Buddha (Buddhist) Earth; and The Simurgh (Sufi/Islam) Fire/Light. This provided the inspiration for the young people’s own music. Artist Ana Rutter joined the artistic team to create artwork and animations to accompany the music for a performance at CBSO Centre.

In 2004, BCMG’s performance of The Torn Fields by Mark-Anthony Turnage provided the inspiration for a music and sign language poetry project. Throughout two months of workshops , the young people created their own music and sign language poetry inspired by the new work for a performance at the CBSO Centre. Sign language poet John Wilson, Deaf Arts Officer for SHAPE joined the artistic team and a further dimension was added through working with video artist Jonathan Lee who recorded images from the workshops and mixed them with images by the young people and archive war footage. The project marked the end of a three-year extraordinary journey with the schools and was featured in the Guardian Newspaper Education section.

It was a very powerful composition and performance which captured the emotions and atmosphere of war. I particularly enjoyed the relationship between the sound, visuals, both live and projected. The young people that signed and acted added a completely new dimension to the music. It was a challenging, moving and inspiring piece which I shall remember for a long time.

Pepita Hanna – Ex- Arts Education Director, Birmingham Advisory and Support Service