In the dramatic setting of a converted church on the fringe of the City of London, a group of pupils drawn from schools in inner London boroughs is rehearsing a new work by leading contemporary composer James MacMillan, accompanied by members of the London Symphony Orchestra and coached by the LSO's animateur, Richard McNicol.
The rehearsal is going ahead at St Luke's, the new home of the LSO's pioneering music education and community programme, LSO Discovery. As one of the singers runs through a vocal line, McNicol explains that he wants them to add their own instrumental ornamentation.
"Did you hear the Arabic influence in that?" he asks. "I talked to the composer about this and he said he was specifically looking for a Middle Eastern ornamentation."
The specially commissioned work, A Deep But Dazzling Darkness , is based on the Old Testament story of Job. "But you'll find a version of almost the same story in the Koran, and the work tries to reflect Jewish and Islamic traditions," he says.
Then he plays them a piece of traditional Yemeni vocal music and they discuss the similarities between the two pieces. To McNicol's obvious delight, a teenage Muslim girl from Elizabeth Garret Anderson school in the London borough of Islington offers an unexpected bonus: a translation of the Arabic lyrics...
Read the full article in this week's TES Friday magazine
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