The revamped Glasgow City Halls complex is not just a concert venue, it offers a broad education programme too, Kenny Mathieson reports
The opening of the refurbished City Halls complex in Glasgow yesterday shone a spotlight not only on a major concert venue, but also on a new centre of excellence in music education.
The City Halls Learning Programme is headed by Jacqui Sharples, the education manager of Glasgow Cultural Enterprises. She will work in partnership with Jennifer Martin, the learning manager of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, which will be based in the building.
Other partners include the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Celtic Connections, the Scottish Music Centre (which will also move into the premises) and Glasgow City Council, particularly the educational services and cultural and leisure services.
Ms Sharples is committed to partnership working and intends to welcome organisations such as the Scottish Ensemble, the National Youth Choir of Scotland and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.
"We have planned a diverse music education programme at the heart of the new complex from the outset," she explains.
"It makes sense to work with various partners who are already involved in delivering education and draw their contributions into the overall programme. My thinking is that we can achieve a lot more by working with others and pooling our resources.
"We'll be looking at all genres of music, not just classical. We hope that some of the projects will help with delivering the curriculum, but we will also be working with other groups in the community and putting on events for the general public."
The City Halls' commitment to education was reflected in the complex officially reopening with an education day, including a hip-hop project and performers from Glasgow Education Services. The centrepiece was a performance of "Casting", a new work by the BBC SSO's young resident composer, Anna Meredith.
"We commissioned the piece from Anna to be the first piece performed in the hall," Ms Martin explains. "It is a spatial piece reflecting the industrial heritage of the area. It involved musicians from the orchestra with 250 kids from nursery, primary and secondary schools in Bridgeton and Dennistoun."
Provision for education has been designed into the fabric of the revamped City Halls, which encompasses the original City Halls auditorium and the adjoining Old Fruitmarket, which has been used as a venue for jazz, folk and world music in recent years. The new backroom facilities include a rehearsal room, practice rooms, workshop spaces and an information technology suite, as well as interactive exhibits and installations.
The availability of technological resources, backed up by the BBC's broadcasting facilities, will help to take the educational activities instigated at the City Halls to a broader constituency, as Ms Martin explained.
"Our learning work will be based here, but we still have a national remit and we will be looking at ways to disseminate our work through webcasts, the Scottish Schools Digital Network and distance learning, as ways of developing relationships with more remote communities and schools."
"We are looking forward to finding out just what we can do with the technology we now have," Ms Sharples says.
"This really is a multi-purpose complex. One enormous benefit for schools is that they will have the chance to work with many different partners on very different kinds of projects, and when they come in here they will find a very exciting space to work in."
In addition to yesterday's education showcase, which is being followed by an open day for the public tomorrow, the learning events scheduled for January and February include l a musical bear hunt with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra for 5-to 7-year-olds (tomorrow)l sessions in the BBC SSO's Discovering Music series with conductor Charles Hazelwood,l a composers' workshop with Robert Saxton (February 6),l events using OptiMusic, a computerised instrument played by breaking light beamsl introductory workshops in traditional instruments and samba drumming, and l a series of parent-and-child Mini Music Makers classes.