Glyndebourne is a beautiful English country house, set in the Sussex Downs, it's been an opera house since1934, and is possibly one of the most well regarded opera companies in the UK.
Perhaps less well known, although equally important is their work within the local communities. Engagements with schools and musicians from a wide range of backgrounds, including some of those who've come to the UK as refugees, are a regular part of life within the organisation.
Howard Moody is a composer, conductor and keyboard player, who works with arts organisations around the World.
Bashir Al Gamar is a poet, composer and songwriter originally from Sudan and an expert on Sudanese music. Bashir uses his music to support the school in his childhood village, an area affected by conflict.
We've been lucky enough to work with the Glyndebourne Learning & Engagement team on a few projects now, and it's always an enjoyable experience.
In Autumn 2021, working with Glyndebourne, Howard Moody collaborated with school children in Canterbury, to create a piece of music called "Song for Amal' as a response to the Walk for Amal project, raising awareness of the situations of people affected by forced migration. Bashir, who has been through the experience of being a refugee was invited to contribute to the project.
The music was performed live at Canterbury Cathedral on the 4th November 2021.
Some of the children involved in the project had themselves arrived recently in the UK, from war torn areas of the World, and had contributed melodies and ideas to the music.
Bashir had had a Zoom meet with Howard a few days prior to the performance to work out melodies with his Oud as part of the composition. We traveled from Brighton, up to Canterbury early on Thursday morning, to arrive for a rehearsal session in the Cathedral at 9.00. Neither of us had been to the cathedral before, so we were both excited. Before the actual performance, Bashir and his music were introduced to the school children.
The concert also included the Glyndebourne Chorus with musicians from their orchestra and a performance of parts of Handels Messiah.
Altogether, a welcoming team of people, the setting of the building itself, the high quality of all the musicians involved and the magic of hearing musical sounds fill the navel of the cathedral made for a memorable experience.
As we headed back to Brighton, Bashir shared sandwiches he'd made earlier, filled with one of his favourite Sudanese recipes, which were a delicious end to the day.
Thanks to Howard Moody and the Learning & Engagement team at Glyndebourne for including Bashir in this project, and for making us both so welcome on the day.
Thanks to Bashir for his musical expertise (as always) and getting up so early to drive us safely on what was quite a cold dark morning!
Below is a link to the Glyndebourne website article on the project.
Photo Images courtesy of Glyndebourne Productions Ltd. Photo: Richard Hubert Smith