Singing songs for Friday afternoons

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Composer Benjamin Britten wrote his famous Friday Afternoons songs in the 1930s – for pupils at the Prestatyn school where his brother was a teacher to sing during their Friday afternoon music lessons. Last month, 80 years later, 100,000 children around t

Composer Benjamin Britten wrote his famous Friday Afternoons songs in the 1930s – for pupils at the Prestatyn school where his brother was a teacher to sing during their Friday afternoon music lessons. 

Last month, 80 years later, 100,000 children around the world helped to mark the centenary of Britten’s birth by performing those 12 songs.

The day-long celebration was launched with the aim of getting young people in Suffolk to sing Britten’s songs, but the idea spread to the rest of the UK and beyond.

The first performance took place in Melbourne, Australia, at 3am GMT and the last was at a beach party in Santa Monica, California, at 10pm GMT. A total of 700 schools took part, including schools in Singapore, Thailand, Sweden, German, Italy and Canada.

Schools came up with a variety of ideas, including streaming their events live to other schools, creating new versions of the songs, and adapting them for different genres, including hip-hop and reggae.

“The interest we have had is fantastic and embraces what Britten’s work is all about,” said Ann Barkway, project manager of Aldeburgh Music, a world-renowned performance centre in Suffolk which led the event. “It started as a small-scale Suffolk project and somehow mushroomed into an international event.”

Aldeburgh Music also organised the Britten Young Songwriter Competition as part of the celebrations. Songwriters aged 18 and under were asked to compose the music for new songs, with lyrics written by novelist and screenwriter Anthony Horowitz.

The two overall winners were Abigail Caveney, 13, who attends Upper Shirley High School in Southampton, and Zoe Dixon, a 13-year-old pupil at New College Worcester, a school for children and young people who are blind or partially sighted. For more about the Friday Afternoons project, see www.fridayafternoonsmusic.co.uk

CAPTIONS: United voices: (From top) Pupils sing by The Scallop, a sculpture in Aldeburgh dedicated to Britten (photo Anna McCarthy); pupils join in at Aldeburgh Music’s Snape Maltings Concert Hall (photo Tony Pick); pupils from Suffolk schools at the launch event (photo Eamonn McCabe)
 


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