43 of Camden’s young musicians tour Flanders the week before the centenary of the Third Battle of Ypres, courtesy of Camden Music Service and the Philological Foundation.
Camden’s Music Service provides a broad music education programme that aims to develop young talent and offer young musicians the opportunity to perform in inspiring venues across England and beyond. On 24th July, representatives from the service took 43 young musicians on a music tour to Flanders the week before the centenary of the Third Battle of Ypres.
The tour was a great success allowing the children to make new friends, build their confidence performing and explore the area including fun things like water parks, chocolate shops, art galleries “It gave us a chance to bond as an orchestra, and I was able to become friends with people that I hadn’t talked to before. This trip gave us a chance to explore Belgium and I enjoyed it so very much” commented one of the young people.
The tour also provided an opportunity to reflect on a range of issues alongside music. The group visited many historical sites; In Flanders Field museum, cemeteries and battlefields with the Year 8 students, most of whom had studied the Great War in history this year, particularly fascinated and readily identified with the war poet John McCrae, when they visited the field dressing station where he worked in 1915. The group also learned about Private Charles Henry Biggs, a resident of College Lane in what is now Camden, who died in August 1917, and is listed on the Menin Gate memorial, having no grave of his own and laid a wreath of poppies in memory of Private Biggs at the Menin Gate Ceremony. The young people made the connection between deaths like his, where there was no body to bury, and those of the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire, understanding how difficult this must be for the families.
The Camden Youth Orchestra and Camden Concert Band performances were thrilling and well received by the Belgian audiences, including a concert at the Musee de Plein Air, just outside Lille, the English Church of St George in Ieper in St Piet Church in the village of Lo-Reninge. The performance at the English Church of St George in Ieper was very poignant as it was built by subscription from English families and schools, and almost everything in it, every chair, book and kneeler, was dedicated to the memory of someone lost in the war. “Through music, we are able to express parts of British culture that are not present in foreign cultures. Spending the week playing the music that I love and being able to share that with my best friends has been absolutely fantastic”