Encountering Wordsworth: Composition Project 2020-21


Encountering Wordsworth celebrates the 250th anniversary of the birth of William Wordsworth through an inclusive large-scale music, poetry and multi-media partnership project, bringing together primary schools and young composers to create a new composition inspired by Wordsworth and his relationship with nature.

The Project

Encountering Wordsworth is the fourth in the annual Cumbria Calling projects produced in collaboration with Cumbria Music Hub and Manchester Camerata, which have been developing a cohort of local young composers to create new music inspired by their local community.

The project began life as a series of discussions between Wordsworth Grasmere, Cumbria Music Hub< and Orchestras Live about how to involve the wider community in Cumbria in an exploration of Wordsworth’s work and philosophy through music and visual arts, before settling on the final concept in early 2019.

It’s really been a great experience for me. I love the feeling that you get when you can hear your ideas in this beautiful piece of music played by a professional orchestra.

~ Young composer

What we did

Creative work began with inspiration days with Wordsworth Grasmere during Autumn 2019. The young composers and schools explored Dove cottage, learnt about Wordsworth’s life and poetry, wrote their own poems, went on a soundwalk to take field recordings of the environment in Grasmere and began to create their own music with Manchester Camerata. A series of workshops with each group followed focusing on different aspects of the creative work. These different elements would be brought together to form a large-scale piece by composer and arranger Laura Bowler, sound artist Dan Fox and musicians from Manchester Camerata.

  • Cumbria Calling young composers explored the Duddon Sonnets (first published 200 years ago) and ideas about the river as well as the environmental field recordings to begin to create their central ideas. You can listen to a field recording of the Wordsworth drinking fountain by Dan Fox here. They were also joined by students from Sandgate School where they shared their musical ideas and improvised together, listening and learning about how to respond to each other musically in the moment.
  • Students at Sandgate School and music therapist Annie Ruscillo worked with Dan Fox and staff from Cumbria Music Hub in creative sessions exploring the responses of young people with profound and multiple learning difficulties to the environmental field recordings.
  • Primary schools from Cockermouth, Windermere and Grasmere created their own poetry with poet Polly Atkins. They also explored their responses to and how to think about the environment they live in with Cumbria Development Education Centre.

The final creative workshop and performance in March/April 2020 were postponed due to the Covid 19 pandemic. Project partners moved the final creative workshop online so that the new piece could be completed. As part of this process, the team worked with the Cumbria Calling Young Composers to plan and produce a short film, edited by Dan Fox, to showcase their work. The young people contributed to the film storyboard, identified creative content to use and recorded their own contributions.

A group of musicians sat in a circle playing instruments

Creative workshops with the Cumbria Calling young composers.

Credit: Becky West

Composer Laura Bowler and Manchester Camerata musicians in workshops with Sandgate School.

Credit: Becky West

The project has helped me improve my confidence and make new friends.

~ Young composer

Outcomes

  • A new composition created collaboratively, bringing together creative input from young composers, SEND students and primary school students, engaging 205 participants in total.
  • A short film produced to celebrate Wordsworth’s birthday and showcase the music and poetry created by the young people during the project.
  • An extended interview with BBC Radio Cumbria reached a new audience for the project. The broadcast included excerpts from the short film and explored the project with the creative team, resulting in a significant increase in views of the film that week.
  • A performance film was recorded at Ambleside Parish Church in April 2021 to enable the young composers’ new piece, Reflections on Wordsworth, to be premiered online.

                 

 

In addition to our regular partners Manchester Camerata and Orchestras Live we’re really pleased to join with the Wordsworth Trust based in Grasmere, Cumbria Development Education Centre and Dan Fox from Sound Intervention to work with young composers from our previous project plus new ones from South Lakeland schools to create a collaborative composition for performance in 2021.

We have also worked with local primary schools and Sandgate School to provide inspiration and input to this composition.

Our thanks to Arts Council England projects grants for a significant contribution towards this project.