Bringing music to St Thomas Children's Centre

You know that your week is off to a good start when you have a visit to St Thomas Children’s Centre pop up on your calendar! But one sunny Monday morning was extra special as the Education & Community, Programming and Marketing teams collaborated to take some talented young musicians out to play for families.

Plans for the session had been in the pipe line since the end of last year with the Rising Stars concert series. Programme Coordinator, Toks Dada co-ordinates the series of recitals which showcases the talents of outstanding young artists who are handpicked by the directors of Europe’s leading concert halls, which includes Symphony Hall. Rising Stars is presented in association with the European Concert Hall organisation with the support of the Culture Programme of the European Union.

As part of the series there are education opportunities for the young artists to organise sessions from pop up performances in unusual spaces to audiences who do not usually engage and leading vocal and composition master classes as well as lectures. It’s an opportunity for the visiting musicians to develop their skills and work with new audiences, but equally an opportunity to share their talents with some of our audiences too!

Our programming and education team have regular internal catch ups to look at opportunities to work together and this seemed like the ideal opportunity for our Community Engagement Manger, Fay Todd to get in touch with our long term partners at St Thomas Children’s Centre to offer them a free session for their families. Since 2009, the team have been working with the centre creating and delivering a range of bespoke Early Years programmes with participants, staff and artists. The work has always been well supported by staff and families attending the centre, especially when it comes to supporting emerging talented artists who are new to early years work.

At the session we were joined by Nilmini, Surinder, Jackie and Gemma, who all hold roles within the Family Support Team at St Thomas. Ahead of the visit session they advertised the activities session to families and made all of the arrangements in house ahead of our visit with the Rising Stars string quartet Quatuor Zaïde.

Once families had arrived, parked up buggies and settled in amongst the soft cushions and the baby sensory area that the staff had created for families with tiny babies, it was a morning of learning for us all!

We learnt 3 traditional French nursery rhymes and had a sneak peek at a couple of extracts from the pieces the Quartet were going to perform in their concert that evening. We all know how difficult it is to keep toddlers still for long periods of time, but we were amazed to see that the little ones were captivated for 20 minutes before we had a little break. The second half saw the Quartet sitting amongst groups of parents and children which was clearly the highlight of the session for everyone. The musicians encouraged the both the toddlers and adults to touch, pluck strings and even move the bow.

One of the parents Rucha shared her thoughts about the session:

Thanks for arranging this music session. It was a nice experience and we enjoyed it a lot. It was great to learn and sing French rhymes to the sound of music. It was pretty much an interactive session and we would love to have more of such events that the kids can be a part of and learn from.

Whilst another parent said:

Today was a great music session. Aztem enjoyed it. Thanks for French musicians. We really enjoyed singing in French songs.

Jackie Malin from the Family Support Team at St Thomas’ said

Thanks for a fantastic interactive session enjoyed by children , families and staff. It’s great to have live music from such talented musicians, something many of our families have not experienced before. Thanks to everyone at THSH

After a few rounds of applause for the musicians, families continued to mingle with the musicians and staff from THSH, before we all set off to head back to Symphony Hall and the Quartet went back to rehearse ahead of their performance at Town Hall that evening. Along the way we exchanged stories of ladybirds, sparked by our Musical Picnic ladybird cushions that we had taken with us to decorate the space, how the quartet met; best places to visit in Paris including the Pompidou Centre, the Birmingham landmarks that we passed and food!

But most importantly of all we all spent most of our walk reflecting upon the session and all of our individual observations and interactions with the families in such a whistle stop visit, leaving us all wanting to spend more time with the families, explore more ideas and future collaborations internally and externally.

Written by Fay Todd, Community Engagement Manager & Toks Dada, Programme Coordinator

And thank you to Mica Warner, Marketing & Communications Assistant for joining us and taking the super pictures!