Cory Band has just completed an exciting and innovative project in collaboration with Rhymney Comprehensive School, supported by Arts Council Wales.
For three months, key personnel from the World’s Number One Ranked Brass Band have been making weekly visits to the school, to teach students in Year 7 and Year 8 the basics of brass and percussion playing as well as how to compose music. Principal Euphonium Glyn Williams, recently crowned as Best Soloist at the European Championships, instructed over 100 students to play brass, using a large set of P-Buzzes in the classroom. This fun, funky and innovative product has revolutionised accessibility to young players’ first contact with a brass instrument, and Glyn’s weekly sessions consisted of whole-class buzzing and pitching, as well as brass music appreciation and Q and As, about which he commented: “This has been a real eye-opener, both for the students and me! The P-Buzzes have been brilliant in providing a first contact with brass for so many students here in Rhymney and we’ve had some really lively sessions.”
Cory percussionist Steve Jones led similar sessions focusing on the techniques of drumming, and Cory Band’s Composer in Residence Christopher Bond led workshops on composition. Head of Music at Rhymney Comprehensive School Michelle Diamond enthused: “The weekly sessions were brilliant, as they gave the students expert brass and percussion tuition with instruments provided for all involved. The majority of students would never usually have the opportunity to participate on a practical level in this sort of music making. Now the project has finished we will really miss the visits! ”
At the outset of the project, the students attended a rehearsal of the Cory Band at its base in Cwmparc, when Musical Director Philip Harper presented a short concert designed to inspire and impress the students, as well as to begin to highlight some of the connections between this form of music-making and the dramatic Welsh landscape, particularly through its industrial past, which was also an ongoing strand throughout the collaboration.
After a busy three months of tuition, the current Welsh, British Open, National and Brass in Concert Champion made the exchange visit to the school, performing a concert in the school hall which showcased the collaborative work in a number of ways and was open to all members of the school community – students, parents and teachers. Pupils from the art department had provided landscape-inspired artwork which was on display throughout the evening, and a quartet of talented students Jack, Hollie, Liam, and Chloe acted as narrators for the evening, as the story of the local area was laid out in dramatic fashion. The newly-minted student percussionists joined the Cory Band in a performance of Men of Harlech, and the centre-piece of the evening was a new composition by Christopher Bond especially for this project entitled Fanfare Rocks Rhymney. This exciting new piece featured the full force of Cory Band as well as call and response passages for the P-Buzzes, the combination of which produced a splendid sound for this Rhymney World Première. The composer commented: “Every pupil involved in the project got something out of it, whether it was an increased musical awareness, practical knowledge of instruments or performance skills at the final concert. It was particularly refreshing to team the band up with the school brass ensemble for the final performance, whom I know were inspired and engaged from start to finish!”
Cory also performed Kenneth Downie’s arrangement of Myfanwy, composed by Merthyr-born composer Joseph Parry, another subject of the young people’s study over the course of the project. As the band completed the evening with a knock-out performance of its Brass in Concert finale The World’s Greatest Storyteller, it was left to Philip Harper to reflect: “This has been a very worthwhile project which we have very much enjoyed delivering. We are passionate about our music, and it has been great to have the opportunity to involve so many pupils in the project, the vast majority of whom have never experienced anything like this before in their lives. Performing in front of an audience is a nerve-wracking thing if you haven’t done it before (and even if you have!) so the students showed great amounts of courage and, we hope, felt a great sense of achievement and improved self-confidence as a result.”
The Cory Band would like to thank the staff at Rhymney Comprehensive for their support of this project, and also Arts Council Wales for facilitating this creative collaboration.
In their own words – what the students said
“It was amazing, epic, brilliant! I loved it. When can we do it all again?” – Tai
“I didn’t want the concert to end!” – Regan
“I can’t believe I actually got to play with the actual Cory Band. The sound was amazing!” – Jake
“We were so lucky to have the project in our school. I’ve learnt so much. When the project first started I’d thought about giving up playing my tenor horn but having Mr Williams come into our lessons and then the whole band come to school I realised this is an amazing hobby to have and now I want to play in a band like them one day.” – Hollie
“Our family was so proud to see us up there playing with the Cory Band. We thought our Mam was going to cry!” – Matthew and James
“It was great to have the team, The Cory Band, playing with us on the night. The whole experience taught us to not be afraid to try something new. It didn’t matter if we made a mistake because we were a team together. We had lots of support. In the end we didn’t make any mistakes when we played. I was so happy!” – Kira
“The concert was brilliant. When we started the project I didn’t think I liked this sort of music, but it didn’t matter what they played in the concert, I loved everything.” – Ben
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