Summer School 2017

SUMMER SCHOOL 2017 - a resounding success!
This year's annual Grand Union Orchestra Summer School took place from July 31st to August 3rd at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Grand Union's Shanti Jayasinha, the course director, sums up the experience:

This year's summer school was another great success. We had some fabulous teaching sessions from musicians from Ghana, South Africa, India, Chile, Colombia and the UK!

On the first day we always break the ice with a free improvisation, and this year we were led by one of our Second Generation stars, Evan Cryer. The rest of the day was African day, with workshops in singing from South African drmmmer Brian Abrahams, an old friend who was visiting from his new base in Australia, and Ghanaian Abass Dodoo, who supplied us all with panlogo drums and taught us some rhythms and songs from his home country.

On the second day I started the group off with some konokol exercises (rhythmic syllables in South Indian music) in a 7 beat cycle, and Baluji Shrivastav taught us the raga Bhairavi with a composition in 7 (rupak in North Indian music). The afternoon began with the ‘Big Blow’, with Tony Haynes creating a couple of large ensemble pieces. Reflecting the earlier work of Abass and Balu, these explored a Yoruba chant and African 12/8 rhythm, and a brassy bhangra approach to raga Bhairavi.

The last session of the day was for the students to begin make their own music in smaller groups. They too were asked to use ideas or influences from the workshops they had had so far, and the three groups came up with very different and interesting compositions.

Day three started off with more konokol in 7, and then a session from Colombian percussionist Emeris Solis. Emeris comes from the south west of Colombia, on the Pacific coast, where the music has strong roots from Africa. He taught us two songs, in the Currulao and Bunde rhythms. Everyone had a great time learning the rhythms, the songs and improvising. In the afternoon, long-standing member of the Grand Union Orchestra, Carlos Fuentes, from Chile, taught us the Frevo from North East Brazil. It's a fast Carnival rhythm and the kit drummers were stretched trying to play the snare pattern, but they got it in the end.

 The three small groups then completed their compositions, some adding more material inspired by that day's Latin-American sessions.

We finished the summer school with a performance to friends and family, incorporating several of the songs and pieces we learned in the workshops with the students' own compositions. It was really gratifying to see how much they had picked up from our visiting musicians and how they were able to use their new-found knowledge so creatively. The audience were thrilled with the show.

Here's to many more summer schools. We always aim to include workshops in styles new to us all, with sessions led by leading exponents of those traditions, but also to make sure that there is some kind of hidden thread that unites them – maybe a common scale or rhythmic feature.

To give you a taste of the music heard at the summer school, here are two clips from previous summer schools...


...and in this short video, students on last year's Summer School course (Oundle School, Peterborough) describe their experience:


Open to young musicians aged 12-21, this annual event is a unique opportunity to learn about world music and improvisation first hand from internationally-renowned musicians born and brought up in all major musical traditions worldwide.

Grand Union Orchestra musicians are not only acclaimed artists in their own right, they are also highly experienced teachers and workshop leaders. Under the general direction of Shanti Jayasinha and Grand Union’s founder composer/director Tony Haynes, the course is led by these musicians, who have worked together as Grand Union’s core performers for many years.

The 2017 course is described here


What’s in it for me?


Who’s it for? 

Young musicians of secondary school age and up (12-21) interested in learning about music from other parts of the world, and/or who play a non-European instrument. The cost will be £180 (£150 if booked by 26th May). Bursaries are available.

How do I apply? 

Click here for details on our last Summer School (2016).

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