Marriage partners;Music;English Sinfonia

Michael Burnett

Ranjit Singh has been working on an English Sinfonia project in four Birmingham secondary schools. "Ranjit taught us new rhythms", says saxophonist Chris Egan from Shenley Court school. "And we learned that there are set rhythms and scales which are played at weddings in India."

Directed by the Sinfonia's associate composer David Bedford, the project is based on an Indian folk-tale, "The Goddess of Mahi River". And it has involved students in composing, and performing, the music for four scenes from the story, with Shenley Court being responsible for the celebrations of Mahi's wedding.

Also participating are pupils from four junior schools, who, aided by the South Asian dance association, Sampad, have been working on dances, and creating costumes, which help portray the scenes from Mahi's story. The schools joined together in the first public performance of the Goddess of Mahi project at Birmingham's Symphony Hall. This was followed by the premi re of Bedford's own work.

"I like the sounds of the different instruments", says 10-year-old Nazim Gire from Canterbury Cross primary. Jaimie Bacon is from Crofton junior. "I'm one of the animals", he says. "I have to pretend to be a deer."

The performance begins. Jaimie's leaps and Chris Egan's saxophone playing slot into place as parts of a surprisingly unified whole. Particularly effective are the costumes from Canterbury Cross. Imaginative vocal effects mark Waverley secondary's composition.

"It's been fantastic taking part", says Vanetta Spence from Stockland Green secondary. And Juliet Young, whose daughter is at the same school, agrees. "Being involved has given Nadine the opportunity of performing in this spectacular building. And the project has helped with her GCSE work because of composing with scales from Indian music."

As Graham Pfaff, the Sinfonia's chief executive says, "Our strategy is to link education work to the orchestra's concerts. And the outcome of this project was breath-taking."

English Sinfonia 01767 691006. Sampad 0121 440 4221 x206. Sinfonia Folklore project performance: Cottenham Village College June 7, 6.30pm followed by Sinfonia concert. Tickets: 01223 357851

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Michael Burnett

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