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Tuning Up:Britten Sinfonia making music with

the Men and Staff of HMP Whitemoor

Tuning Up is a collaborative project between Britten Sinfonia, Orchestras Live, HMP Whitemoor and Lemos&Crane funded by Arts Council England.

In May 2018 50 HMP Whitemoor residents viewed a screening of Britten Sinfonia’s Rhapsody in Blue concert, filmed at The Apex in Bury St Edmunds. Following this, 30 of these men signed up to take part in further sessions exploring live classical music and how it can combine with a range of other genres. The residents were split into two groups of 15 and each group has taken part in three 2 hour music making sessions, delivered by leader Jason Rowland and six Britten Sinfonia musicians. The sessions focused on developing their musical skills, creating new pieces in response to Gershwin’s masterpiece, combining classical music with genres the participants are interested in, breaking down preconceptions from both sides…and having fun. 

In June 2018 an audience of 80 prisoners and members of the public heard their creative responses. Although supported and led by Jason and the Britten Sinfonia musicians, the musical ideas all came from the participants. Some residents have qualifications in music production or have been playing an instrument for a long time, but the majority are new to playing instruments. The task of composing and giving a performance is hard work. It tests the determination of the participants, giving a great sense of achievement. 

"It was abundantly clear from the atmosphere in the room on Tuesday what a wonderful experience it was for the men, the orchestra and everyone else too." Matthew Gunner, Horn, Britten Sinfonia  

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