In Spring 2012, the London Philharmonic Orchestra began piloting a new area of work in partnership with Crisis homeless charity. This project is part of a wider collaborative initiative between the LPO, the Royal Academy of Arts, Crisis, and Leonard Cheshire Disability, generously made possible by funding from JTI, which supports of all four organisations.
The aim was to explore music-making between orchestral musicians and Crisis members – adults who are homeless or have recently experienced homelessness. Taking Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet for inspiration, the ensemble spent a week creating their own suite of music based on Prokofiev’s distinctive melodies, and shared this in a collective performance at Crisis’s Skylight Centre on Commercial Street.
As a completely new area of work for the LPO musicians involved, the project offered them a chance to build some new skills as well as sharing their joy of music with a dedicated and enthusiastic group of participants.
Katie Bicknell (flautist) shares her thoughts on the project in her own words below.
I am so lucky
I am so lucky to play music every day, to travel the world and work with amazing people. This week I have been working with people who aren’t so lucky.
I have just finished a project for the LPO at the Crisis Skylight Centre in London’s Commercial Street. The centre helps homeless and vulnerably housed people, through training and workshops, to gain qualifications leading to employment. They have an excellent café providing opportunities for catering (I can highly recommend the frittata if you are that end of town!), an opticians, and studios for music and art.
As I leave the centre the rain is torrential and I wonder where the people I have met over the past week will shelter tonight. I’m swept into the usual grey sea of suits and laptop bags and golfing umbrellas, but my head is still ringing from the last jubilant piece of our workshop. Music transcends boundaries of class and background and mental health. It touches everyone emotionally in its own special way; individual problems are forgotten, if only for a brief moment.
Before embarking on this project I was apprehensive. I have often felt uncomfortable when encountering people living on the streets; held my breath when walking through a subway with the inevitable sleeping bag, giving the bedraggled man a wide berth, though sometimes dropping a few coins into his hand – which we are all told is the wrong thing to do. So how do we make a difference? I learnt this week that by sharing our talent we could nurture their creative potential, bringing a huge amount of joy not only to the participants but also our audience.
The group of members on the project were kind, gentle, generous, intelligent and perfectly normal. Well, apart from a few eccentric personalities, but every orchestra has those! They had strong musical ideas and such enthusiasm we could have composed a piece as long as Wagner’s Ring! Any one of us could end up in a situation like theirs, through a wrong turn in life or a devastating family breakdown.
I have never been so profoundly affected by a project. Those members, those wonderful people have changed my perspectives and deeply moved me. I will never look away in disgust or ignore or judge. I am emotionally exhausted, but I feel an overriding sense of hope that our music has touched their lives.
I hope they feel luckier today.
You can find out more about the work Crisis do by visiting their website www.crisis.org.uk
Photography by Jeff Hubbard
"InstantEncore made launching a mobile app seem effortless."