CONCERTGOERS in Stratford are having to forgo their usual autumn season in the name of education.
Stratford Music Festival was founded in 1996 and has brought the likes of Cleo Laine, Julian Lloyd Webber, Humphrey Lyttleton, the Academy of Ancient Music, and the Choir of Kings College Cambridge to the town.
But this year there will be no concert.
Members of the festival management were quick to stress this was not the result of a failure in organisation but as a proactive stand again the government’s recent cuts to school music provision.
A decision was made earlier in the year to concentrate all the festival’s resources into their educational work instead.
Victoria Wilson, who recently took over as festival chairman, explained: “The festival directors are all very concerned about the lack of music teaching in schools. Exposure to and participation in music has been proved to have beneficial effects on children’s general education, so it is a national crisis that very few schools are able to deliver this opportunity.”
Tim Raistrick, vice chariman and founder of the festival, continued: “We have always had an educational programme running alongside our public concerts and we feel that for this year our local audience will realise that it is worth sacrificing their own concert-going pleasure to enable us to help young people enjoy live music.”
The festival’s aim is to offer every primary and secondary school in Stratford and the surrounding villages a termly visit from professional musicians who will work with as many of the children as possible. It already has the support of the leading Midland’s chamber choir, Ex Cathedra, and instrumentalists from the Orchestra of the Swan.
Victoria and Tim added that, as well as seeming the right thing to do for local children, this move is also a provocative stand to emphasise the need for politicians to reverse the recent cuts to the school music provision.
They also said that there are already plans to resume festival concerts next autumn, while still maintaining the educational work.