Round-up of SW17

It’s fair to say that 2017 has been Seren Winds’ busiest year yet!

After our successful audition for ‘Live Music Now’ in April, a celebratory curry was followed by training days in May, June and July with the five other acts joining the scheme. It was good to see both familiar and new faces and to see such a diverse range of musicians. Training was delivered by Dan Perkin who gave us an overview of what to expect, Julian West who raised our awareness of Dementia and Ros Hawley who gave us practical guidance on how to work with SEND pupils. The sessions were insightful and interesting and we were very grateful for their guidance and expertise.

We played our first LMN gigs on July 18th, traveling to Trinity Fields Special School in Ystrad Mynach where we gave our concert during the school’s morning break time. Despite the challenge of playing outdoors, lots of the pupils participated with some good conducting and chanting along, even in 7/8 time. We then gave an afternoon performance in a care home in Caerphilly, where we received a very warm welcome, in both senses of the word!

September 21st and 22nd saw two school performances. A very lively audience at Court Special School made for lots of participation from both children and adults alike, and it was lovely to see parents joining in too. The Hollies School in Pentwyn provided us with one of our largest audiences of autistic children to date, comprising around 90 children and 50 carers. We had an amazing response from them: the children were significantly more engaged than a usual assembly, and despite noise levels in the hall being fairly loud, it was the quietest the staff had heard them! We were very impressed by their participation; one pupil knew all the instrument names and did a great job conducting, particularly enjoying controlling the dynamics of the quintet. It was lovely to have such positive feedback and we are hoping to make a return visit to the school in the future.

October 11th was our first visit to The Grand Pavilion in Porthcawl. We enjoyed playing an exciting and varied programme, including firm favourites Poulenc Novelette in C, Calvin Kleztet and also premiered Michael’s arrangement of Bernstein’s Overture to Candide.

October also saw National Egg Day – who knew?! A year in the life of Seren Winds wouldn’t be complete without some bizarre experience, so we accepted Classic FM’s invitation of doing a photoshoot on a chicken farm in Haverfordwest. A photo of Michael accompanied the story of farmers playing classical music to their chickens to increase productivity, which remarkably proved worthwhile!

Our next stop after Haverfordwest was Morriston Hospital in Swansea, where our concert opened their annual music festival. We performed an hour programme in the busy main foyer, and patients were brought down from their wards to enjoy the live music.

Aside from our work with Live Music Now, we continue to enjoy putting together fun and challenging recital programmes, and on Sunday 26th November we travelled up to Aberystwyth to perform for the music club. The concert was in a circular recital room in the university, with a rather unusual acoustic. We had fun working out where to position ourselves in relation to the centre of the room, but concluded that everyone in the audience was going to have a different experience of the concert depending on their distance from us and from the centre of the room. The concert went down a treat, some saying it was the best concert they’d heard in the music club! Our varied programme was well received; fast becoming our most popular favourite is Jean-Philippe Calvin’s Kleztet, of which we play the first movement, Gefilte Fish. Time to learn the other movements now… catch them in a 2018 recital!

By Thursday 7th December Christmas was in full swing for us as we took a festive programme to Ty Hapus care home in Barry, where our music was very well received. We had positive feedback from the residents, who were in fine voice and alighting their festive spirit with some rhythmic percussion playing and conducting along! Following that we were joined by Katherine from the LMN Wales office team for the Crossroads Christmas party in Penarth, where we played an array of carols with Katherine leading the singing.

Even after a busy year we still had a first in December when we played for a wedding. Many congratulations to Zoe and Patrick, who tied the knot in an art gallery at the National Museum in Cardiff on Saturday 9th December. We were privileged to play as Zoe walked down the aisle, for the signing of the register, and the wedding party exit, and then provided a couple of sets of background music during the drinks reception and meal.

To round off the year we performed a selection of Christmas favourites in the reception and cafe area of Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital in Cardiff on 14th December. Sadly Bart was unable to join us on this occasion, so lots of quartet arranging ensued! It was a lovely atmosphere and one girl enjoyed it so much she pulled up a chair for a front row seat.

In summary, what a year! We are so thankful and fortunate to be able to do what we love and continue performing live music to such diverse audiences. Here’s to more adventures in 2018!