Author Archives: Karen Dickman

Group A 28th June 2015

Tractors, traffic lights and the A12. A new singing initiative in Lowestoft

It has become a running joke in the office, my frequent trips up the A12 to Lowestoft. I know things are getting out of hand because I am finding entertainment in achieving an mpg of 50 or above and the Jeremy Vine show on Radio 2. I also get lost a lot when I actually get to Lowestoft. It does add excitement to the day but is it time efficient? Not really.


There is a point to all this though. I am working on a new singing initiative, Aldeburgh Sings, which is going to increase and embed music provision in Lowestoft. The town has some of the most deprived neighbourhoods in the county and some of the most vulnerable children too. Our initiative has created a community-based singing group, called Group A, to get children and young people involved in singing.


image3Group A is for 8 – 18 year olds, you don’t have to audition to join and it is free for everyone who takes part too. At the moment we have around 20 members but over the next 3 years we would like to grow this to be 100. The group will represent a breadth of young people from across the town. Group A explores a huge variety of genres, from Classical to Pop and works with a brilliant team of musicians. They are enjoying really creative projects that require them to improvise, compose and develop strong performance skills. Most importantly a Group A session is really fun. There is much silliness that has some serious benefits: building confidence, teamwork, opening up new ideas, raising aspirations and creating a sense of well-being. We wrote our own Group A song last week, which is just a small part of helping to create that sense of ‘belonging’ to a group too.


The project also involves work with schools and other community groups. At Ormiston Denes Academy we have created a choir. After two great sessions it is sounding brilliant and shows huge promise for expanding and establishing itself as an important group within the school. We are also running workshops with local primary schools. The latest workshop, with 60 year 5 and 6s from Red Oak Primary School, was very (extremely) energetic (chaotic) but great fun. We learnt a song written by one of our artists, Aga, about a fish before composing a song of our own based on an underwater party, from the perspective of the fish attending. “We could eat fish fingers”, said a year 5 in my group…”but that would be cannibalism”, said a year 6.


Group A 28th June 2015In summary, we are at the start of a really exciting initiative in the town and beginning to build great relationships with the organisations, schools and most importantly young people there. I might grumble about the traffic light that only lets two cars through at a time (and believe me, I do) but the travelling is definitely worth it. All this time spent networking, meeting people and working with Lowestoft’s young people is ensuring that there are strong foundations upon which to build this project, which will undoubtedly have a hugely positive impact on those who are involved in the next 3 years and beyond.

Did I mention getting stuck behind thousands of tractors?


A Celebration of Schools’ Music 2015

We had a very busy week between 9th -14th March running our Celebration of Schools’ Music event here at Snape. In a nutshell, we hosted 44 Suffolk schools – approximately 1600 children from local authority primary, high and special schools – to come and perform here at Snape Maltings Concert Hall between Monday and Saturday. Each school was involved in technical rehearsals on stage, working with a professional lighting, sound and stage crew, and a workshop, in which they learnt a piece especially composed for them by Ken Burton to perform as the concert Finale.


For me, it was a very special six days for so many reasons. It was great to see properly for the first time the quality and breadth of music-making that goes on in Suffolk schools. Sometimes, particularly with all the doom and gloom about cuts to the Arts in the news, I think we forget to recognise the amazing singing and playing that is going on within music education and so it was brilliant to ‘celebrate’ this last week. We heard some really confident and beautiful singing and a huge variety of instrumental playing each night, from symphony orchestras to jazz bands. Not to mention the fantastic finale piece written by Ken Burton (best known for conducting the London Adventist Chorale) which all the groups came together to sing at the end of each night. It was based on this year’s theme of Suffolk and is so good we can’t stop singing it…
The week was also a chance to work alongside different people, such as the backstage crew, a fantastic group of musicians who ran our Finale workshops and the visual artists from a company called Butch Auntie, who created some amazing photo and video footage to show the audience of the day. Team Education took it upon ourselves to track our steps throughout the week with pedometers. I felt it was quite revealing as to who was working the hardest (me) though my two colleagues, Phillipa and Lizzie, think I was cheating. The accuracy of our devices was brought in to question on the Wednesday morning though, when Lizzie had done 15 steps before getting out of bed.

But the best thing about Celebration is the younger children’s responses throughout the day: their gasp of surprise when they see how big the concert hall is the first time they stepped through the stage door; their nerves and excitement as we lined them up backstage ready to perform; and their delight when they left the stage after performing. I feel very proud to have been part of a team that really nurtured and encouraged all the performers during their time here. I gave countless well done high fives, said ‘you’ll be fine…remember to smile’ more times than I can remember, tied several hair bobbles and tuned plenty of violins. I can’t wait for next year!

Parkinson's Wydenbach (KD)

Nicola Wydenbach’s Aldeburgh Residency – Parkinson’s and Singing

On Thursday and Friday last week, singer Nicola Wydenbach came to Snape for a two day residency to work on the benefits of singing for sufferers of Parkinson’s disease. She was joined by a wonderful group of health professionals, sufferers and their carers, who travelled across East Anglia to take part in two inspiring and humbling days of singing. Below are her thoughts from her time here:


Day 1

Today over twenty people with Parkinson’s and their carers and families, came to Snape at the generosity of Aldeburgh Music to make music, to sing, to use their voiceboxes and to have fun. They came to help me test out all my ideas after my travels and research, as part of my Residency at Aldeburgh. It has been the most wonderful day and I am brimming with confidence and ideas for the future but more importantly the comments from the group and the joy on all the participants faces has given me a renewed sense of vigour to try and find funding to take this valid work forwards. I can’t wait for tomorrow.

Parkinson's Wydenbach (KD)

Day 2

Another fantastic day today. I want to thank Philippa and Karen at Aldeburgh Music for all their support and help over the last two days. More is planned and I am very excited. I would also like to thank ENT Consultant Nicholas Gibbins and Margherita Baker, a Speech Therapist for their informative and motivational talks about Singing and Parkinson’s.

The two days have left me with so much to think about and digest but my lasting memory will be the spine tingling performance by the group of Senzenina, “We will Overcome”, a song from the Apartheid in South Africa. The group achieved so much over the days and I am bursting with pride.

To keep up to date with Nicola’s work on Parkinson’s, follow her blog at

My first 12 weeks at Aldeburgh

I am well into my third month working as an Education Officer at Aldeburgh. This is my first job after finishing university in the summer and it has begun to strike me how lucky I am to be working here. The breadth of experiences I have already had and number of amazing people I have been able to meet just in my first 11 weeks has been very exciting. Writing this blog is an opportunity for me to pinpoint my favourite moments and disclose some of the more ‘batty’ goings on (that they’ve all kept a secret from you).

Earlier in the week Megan Peel, who has been directing our choir in Lowestoft, wrote a blog about what the children have been up to this term. Each week I head up to Lowestoft with Megan who works alongside Kim and Alfie to run this vocal group. I have started to get to know the children really well now, who never fail to amuse, surprise and exhaust me! They are making a great musical sound but what is so brilliant about this project is that they are beginning to form new friendships, work with different people and are growing in confidence musically and socially as well. The only snag in this idyllic vision – of Lowestoft’s angelic children singing so beautifully – that I have just laid out for you, is the drive there and back in Aldeburgh Music’s 7 seater people carrier (also known as the ‘Party Bus’ – it does feel as big as a bus to me). The first time I drove it back down the A12, I thought it was going to be the last (raging winds, pitch black, torrential rain). Week on week, I too grow in confidence…with where the headlights are and how I adjust my mirrors.

If driving up to Lowestoft and back is my weekly highlight, Friday Afternoons Big Sing on November 28th has to be my top moment so far. You’ll no doubt have read about 800 children coming to Snape to sing in the Concert Hall, which was live streamed on the Guardian alongside four other events. What those posts didn’t convey for me, was quite how excited the children were as they arrived and were entering the Hall. I made a point of asking lots of children how they felt. There was a lot of bouncing around and saying they couldn’t wait. It was a really special morning. I was caught grinning on the live stream towards the end, though with hindsight, I probably enjoyed it a little too much as the grin looked slightly manic…but hey, it was a lot of fun!

I have really enjoyed working with the Education team in the office and am often amused by the slightly bizarre goings on (for example Melissa (AYM administrator) can’t deny that she has stuck the heads back on to her orchid and only wears heels on Tuesdays, while Chelsea (Opera coordinator) sits at her desk, dwarfed by the surrounding eclectic selection of opera props). I am really looking forward to 2015 and will keep you posted!