Talented youngsters from two North Wales counties banged the drum for music at a gala concert.
North Music Cooperative, which runs two sister organisations in Denbighshire and Wrexham, staged the show at the prestigious William Aston Hall on the Wrexham Glyndwr University campus in Mold Road.
The hall was packed with family, friends and music lovers who were treated to a programme of bands, ensembles and soloists playing music ranging from classical pieces by favourite composers to pop songs and a roof-raising performance by a Samba band.
The group, from Victoria CP School, Wrexham was only established this term as part of the National Music Plan to inspire pupils to play music and to give them the opportunity to perform.
The Year 4 pupils were taught how to bang the drum by their tutor Johnny Baxter.
Pupils Eli Winter and Solin Caviliber said they had only had four practice sessions before taking to the stage.
Nine-year-old Eli said: “We meet every Friday with Mr Baxter. Learning to play the drums is quite hard, especially keeping to the beat but it’s great fun too.”
Eli and Solin were waiting for the concert to start and all their instruments were laid out on the floor outside the hall.
Solin, also nine years old, added: “The drums are different sizes and types and there are other instruments as well like tambourines and whistles. I’ve loved playing them.”
Victoria CP School headteacher Debbie Eccles said 60 youngsters at the school, which has over 460 pupils, had taken part in the First Experience project and 35 of them were taking part in the concert.
Meanwhile, a group of talented youngsters from Ysgol Brynhyfryd, Ruthin, played a key role in the concert.
The Ambrose Band, which comprises of eight Year 8 pupils, were part of the team distributing programmes and Music Co-operative newsletters to the audience as they arrived before closing the first half of the concert.
Guitarists Meilir Rogers and Lucca Tardivel were joined on stage by drummer Tyler Chown with Mason Powell playing the saxophone and Llion Dafydd Barker on trombone.
Meilir said the rock and pop group was set up at the beginning of year 7 and have already played at numerous concerts.
He said: “The best one was when we got third place at the Urdd National Eisteddfod at Denbigh last year. We were close to home and there were a lot of our friends in the audience.”
Mason added: “We were third again at this year’s Eisteddfod.”
He said the band get together every Thursday lunchtime to meet with their tutor, Teleri Sian.
Tyler said they all enjoy playing music. “We play some jazz, some pop and some rock. It’s a lot of fun,” he said.
During the concert they played Henry Mancini’s Pink Panther and an arrangement of the Lord of the Dance.
North Wales Music Cooperative chair Cllr Mark Young said: “It was an exceptional concert. Tonight the musical stars of North Wales have shone very brightly indeed and it is heartwarming to see that there is so much talent in our midst.
“Such an achievement has been made possible with the support of national and local Government we are working hard to inspire and develop future generations of musicians across all our schools and from September this programme will be significantly extended.
“So when we stage another concert next year we hope to share with you the musical successes of another year’s endeavour.”
He singled out how brave and talented the Signing Sensations choir were at the concert.
The sign-language choir are based within Dynamic Wrexham which provides term-time activity for young people as well as school holiday activity programmes.
The choir has members aged between 14 and 25 and have performed widely in the past two years including before matches at Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground. They have even taken part in ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent programme and got through the first two stages.
“Every one of those taking part tonight was enjoying themselves and their enthusiasm was infectious. But the performance of the Signing Sensations brought tears to my eyes. It underlined to me the inclusive nature of the concert. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” said Mr Young.
The co-operative’s music education manager Geraint Parry said the concert was an opportunity to showcase the youngsters talents and celebrate their success.
“We’re also trying to inspire them to take this talent and success to higher levels and hope to draw in more youngsters. We want them to say “I want to learn how to play an instrument” and perform on a stage such as this one here.”
Formerly headteacher at Ysgol Brynhyfryd until his retirement earlier this year, Geraint Parry said during the Covid-19 pandemic young people got out of the habit of participating in extra-curricular activities including music.
“Where we were before (the pandemic) is not going to come back by accident. With the financial backing available from the Welsh Government we are hoping to reverse that trend. From September we will be able to expand the service and we’ll launch it with a series of concerts at every secondary school in the two counties. Working with the two education authorities we want to inspire the next generation of young musicians,” he said.
The Welsh Government have pledged to increase funding for music tuition in schools and present at the concert was Mari Lloyd Pritchard, the National Music Service Co-ordinator.
She told the audience: “It is an honour and real pleasure to be here tonight. It is an exciting time for music education in Wales with Welsh Government investment in music. Massive energy has gone in from the team in Wrexham and Denbighshire in delivering this plan and they have done excellent work from the word go and there is evidence of that here tonight.
“It is a partnership between the tutors and the schools.
“Don’t ever underestimate the first notes. It’s those first notes that are difficult and it takes patience and practice to go further and join an ensemble, go on stage to perform in a concert like this and that can lead to performances at an Eisteddfod, on television, in films or at big football matches. So give loads of encouragement to the young people who are taking their first steps in music.
Launching the National Plan for Music Education earlier this year Welsh Government Education Minister Jeremy Miles confirmed £13.5m will be invested over the next three years.
He said the plan will make access to music education fairer and more consistent across Wales, with a particular focus on learners from low-income households and those with Additional Learning Needs. Support will be available for children and young people to access and progress with music tuition, with learners from disadvantaged and under-represented groups supported to join music ensembles.
The North Wales Music Cooperative is an award-winning, not-for-profit organisation providing quality music provision in the two counties. It was set up eight years ago, initially to serve Denbighshire, with Wrexham Council becoming involved five years ago.
The constantly growing team of musicians and classroom teachers can help deliver a vast range of instrumental, vocal and theory lessons to pupils all across the county. We are also able to provide whole-class sessions for schools.
The service matches potential students to freelance music tutors registered to deliver instrumental and singing lessons across the region.
Lessons are offered through a combination of in-school and after-school lessons, but the co-operative also runs a number of ensembles and choirs, plus well-being courses during the school summer holidays.
North Music Cooperative Head of Service Heather Powell said: “We’re proud to be back on stage. This is our first major concert since the Covid pandemic which really impacted music and the arts. But we’re back and the youngsters are back where they belong, on stage and performing.
“Music is proven to improve numeracy, literacy, confidence and well-being in children. It should not just be seen as an add-on lesson, it is a core subject beneficial to all.
“Our plan is to continue to expand the service with more concerts, more events for the pupils, more opportunities to perform.
Siwan Meirion, Education Effectiveness manager at Wrexham Council, said: “The council have been working in partnership with the music co-operative since 2018 and through this young people in the county have been given opportunities to enjoy musical experiences beyond simple lessons.
“They have been making music together and experiencing music in its widest forms from beat boxing to drumming. As an authority we are keen to expand the experiences offered to young people.”
Geraint Davies, Head of Education Service at Denbighshire County Council, said: “We are very supportive of the work carried out by the music co-operative and appreciate the hard work undertaken by the tutors and staff.
“The musical opportunities they offer our young people are excellent and we are very fortunate to have such talented tutors and that is evident in this gala concert.”