Creative: Strengthen Your Spirit
Creative endeavors cannot be contained by boundaries. Human creativity can reach beyond our preconceived limits. A truly awe-inspiring work of art never ceases to astonish its audience.
Today while listening to one of my favorite radio programs, The Ted Radio Hour, I heard a story on the topic of trust, told by British conductor, Charles Hazelwood. He related his experience in learning to trust the musicians who share their talents under his direction. At the end of the segment, the host of the show, Guy Raz, mentioned that Charles Hazelwood began an orchestra for disabled people called, The British Paraorchestra.
I had never heard of this orchestra! I looked them up and found out that they performed at the Paralympic Closing Ceremony in 2012 in London. Here’s some of what I learned on their website:
The British Paraorchestra is the world's first professional ensemble for disabled musicians.
As Artistic Director of the British Paraorchestra, Charles Hazlewood occupies a unique position in the musical world. His fresh reinventions of classical music break new ground and excite audiences wherever he performs, but his goal is always the same: to impart a deep, always-modern joy of orchestral music. We are pioneering a global movement to recognise and showcase disabled musicians with extraordinary abilities. Just as the Paralympics have achieved so effectively in sport, the British Paraorchestra is shifting perceptions of disability by creating a visible platform for gifted disabled musicians to perform and excel at the highest level.
‘Whilst the idea to form Paraorchestra was his, Hazlewood’s ensemble is very much a collective, very much ‘about us and with us.’
Disability Now, May 2012
Here is an excerpt from a blog post by Stephanie West, a Paraorchestra member:
One of the unique opportunities of this orchestra its melting pot of many different musical cultures: western classical music, early music, folk and world music for many different places, a variety of contemporary styles from blues to rock to reggae. Often players often gel along similar types of rhythm.
I particularly enjoy playing with Matt Wadsworth, who plays the Lute, another early music player, and Balu and Ziad clearly thrive together. Although many miles apart in origin, their music shares a similar kind of bounce and groove and a similar rhythmic complexity. They enjoy singing together: Ziad’s Lebanese song came out at our musical visit to the Souq Waqif on Thursday night. Ziad starts the song, knowing Balu will join in at all the right places.
Changing your working practise is always a challenge. As a sighted musician working with non-sighted musicians, I miss the few seconds of eye contact before an entry. I have to become adept at a new way of judging cues. This doesn’t always work: one cue stubbornly refuses to settle. We find a simple fix: I start and with Balu’s lightning reflex, he is in by the second beat.
And here’s another post which tells more about the character of this extraordinary orchestra:
My name is Simon Cross and I came to Qatar with The British Paraorchestra as a carer for my son Oliver who is 17, and is, in his words, “ The Paraorchestra’s principal harmonica player.”
As a parent I know that social isolation is a reality for many children and adults with a disability and their families in the UK and I can only guess at what it is like in Qatar. This experience showed me that music is a powerful weapon in breaking this isolation down.
Fast-forward 8 hours. We have had a lengthy transfer through the centre of Doha in the dark having left the opulence of the Katara Opera House behind. We are now at Souq Waqif, dark but interesting with smells of food and coffee wafting gently towards us on the warm wind, beckoning tired musicians and carers in.
In front of the Police Station, the assembled musicians strike up a tune, urged on by the Hyatt crew and a crowd begins to form. I have been told that Qataris don’t really approve of music but as the Paraorchestra hit their groove, a crowd begins to form, and I see groups of men and women form around them.
The Paraorchestra model is designed to produce world-class music, but it offers lessons to the business world or any organisation which relies on team work. Charles sets the orchestra a musical question and sends the musicians off in small groups to devise a solution.
The solutions are then played to the whole group and the ideas are then refined and developed before being combined as a whole piece. This way it is possible for everyone to have their ideas heard and presented in the final piece. It makes all the musicians feel equal, ensures that they have a 100% buy-in to the concept and that you get 100% commitment in the performance.
I can’t think of any other musical organization that would allow a 17-year-old with autism to play an equal part in developing music of this standard. It’s another reason why The British Paraorchestra is world-class.
I have watched my son Oliver progress with his music with the Paraorchestra, where the staff and the musicians are focused on what he can do, rather than what he can’t do. As an organisation they are more like a family, looking after each other, and their collective energy, which bursts out in their performances, is amazing. It was really heartening to see the power of music and the spontaneous happiness it brought at the Al Noor School and the Souq Waqif.
If you want to see their performance at the Olympics in London, there's a You Tube video on this page.
You can learn more on their website and find out how you can support the Paraorchestra.