Arts Council England’s Coronavirus Emergency Response

Arts Council funding

Pro Corda has been awarded a full grant within Arts Council England’s Coronavirus Emergency Response stream. This represents the 3rd Arts Council grant for Pro Corda in recent times (ACE were also exclusive sponsors of our 50th Anniversary series.)

This new and very significant grant will not only be pivotal as we enter the transition phase back to course delivery, but is also wonderful national recognition of Pro Corda’s current and immediate response to the national crisis via the digital delivery we are putting out across all our programmes – from the Virtual Theatres for our participants with additional needs to Pro Corda@home for our Core course students through to the podcasts.

To find out more about these incredible programs click the links below:

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Pro Corda's Rainbow

Pro Corda's Rainbow - a must watch for all!

With the NHS Rainbow such a poignant symbol during these times – a symbol both of thanks to those who give so much on our behalf and of hope for all of society –  Pro Corda are very proud of a selection of our participants with additional needs who have come together to produce this incredible film.

Do find a moment to watch it
– you won’t regret it!

And do please share it on your social media platforms. All those featured have permission for their performance to be seen.

Those who came together to make this film are taking part in Pro Corda’s extensive weekly provision for our young people with additional needs “Create Together Wherever” which we launched immediately back in March when the crisis began and when it was clear that these vulnerable children and young adults would be ever more vulnerable during lockdown.

As well as creative and instrumental workshops each week, together with daily Pro Corda digital resources for them, these participants come together each Sunday for a Virtual Theatre rehearsal and performance. The show last week was “The Wizard of Oz” featuring of course the ever famous “Over the rainbow!”

Please enjoy Pro Corda’s incredible aural NHS Rainbow……

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Pro Corda@home Launch

PRO CORDA@home launched!

Pro Corda@home, directed by Annabel Thwaite, is the perfect tool to inspire your own personal practice, both on solo and chamber music repertoire. It is also the ideal place for you to complement all your studies by exploring the benefits of Yoga, Mindfulness, Warm ups, Practice techniques, Creative improvisation and much more.

Every week there will be new content to explore and a chance to really develop yourself both as a player and Chamber musician. Click through to each of the three content areas below, each week, to discover brand new videos, lessons, meditations, new ideas and materials!

  • Yoga for musicians
  • Breathing exercises
  • Mindfulness
  • Meditations
  • Yoga Nidra
  • Practice techniques

  • Listen to core chamber works
  • Compare
  • Study

  • Backing tracks and top tips so you can enjoy and develop improvisation and creative skills – vital for chamber music – at home!

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Leiston Abbey

The still Abbey whose energy has never been more vibrant!

When I drive to work each day right now and I arrive at an empty Abbey House and Guesten Hall, I am reminded of my first personal memory of Pro Corda’s magical site. I was 12 and was walking through what we now all know as the coded door to Abbey house for the first time as a young pianist, apprehensive yet so excited about what lay ahead on the Junior course.

I remember the smell of mashed potato as I walked in! (In those days the Guesten Hall hadn’t quite been built and we used to eat our meals in what are now the common room and the library – some particularly strict course matrons at the time dividing girls and boys in each eating space much to our polite disdain…. )

And, of course, by that first evening on my first ever Pro Corda course, my memories are of an excited mosaic of people coming together in a uniquely beautiful space, new lifelong friendships forming, new incredible music discovered, and creativity oozing out of every beam, crevice (and rabbit hole…..) That was the evening I discovered what chamber music was.

Andrew Quartermain
CEO & Artistic Director

And so it was that up to mid March 2020 the same hustle and bustle of artistry and friendship bound together by Pro Corda’s unique education characterised each and every week at Leiston Abbey. Our most recent course season this year had been one I didn’t know back then as a child – our term time courses and weekends for children and young adults with additional needs and disabilities. We had just hosted one of our longest standing partner schools – the Shrubberies from Gloucestershire – who had staged a sparkling performance of “Mulan” in the Upper Guesten and had had their week full of friendship, discovery and creativity (and on at least one day that same smell of mash I remember walking into that very first day all those years ago!)

Our activity immediately before the national crisis was in fact off site – the biggest Pro Corda schools festival to date had run it semi – final rounds across the UK during the first 2 weeks of March and Laura, Katy and I were in Brighton on 14th March ready to go with the National Finals day on the 15th which then had to be cancelled at the last minute. The last actual Pro Corda live event pre-crisis was the Friday prior, a memorable reception at the 1901 Arts Club in London.

Some of the amazing performers at this year’s Pro Corda festival

Over a month on there is of course a sadness to the Abbey’s stillness I drive into each day. We should by now have had the annual joy of the Easter Primary and Junior courses, further schools bookings, SEN weekends, and an archaeological group from Cambridge University coming to stay with us to discover yet more about our site’s rich history.

All of this will return. As readers know there is a firm mitigation plan in place, all courses are to be rescheduled (not cancelled,) and I am already working proactively on our route back to “normal” delivery via the revisions we, like everyone, will need to make in our daily practices – from social distancing to aspects of course structure to ensure everyone’s safety and good health. And it goes without saying we will not press play on all of this until it is absolutely safe to do so. Some aspects of our programmes will take longer than others. Our dinner concerts for our ever growing local public audiences may take longer to bring back for example, but they too will be re-programmed at the earliest opportunity.

But meanwhile, I notice two other important things about the Abbey right now.

Its unique energy, while its walls have indeed temporarily fallen silent, is in fact buzzing more than ever to inspire the Pro Corda team to rise to the challenge of delivering the Pro Corda magic to those who need it the most (and in fact a growing number of users.)

Laura Feeney has been busy each week preparing our Virtual Theatre performances each Sunday for our students with additional needs (plus weekly instrumental, vocal and creative workshops.)

Annabel Thwaite has been preparing “Pro Corda@home” which launches on May 1 st for our core course students.

“YSE@home” also launches next month for our London Saturday school young string players.

The concert and chat podcasts coming out of the Guesten Hall are reaching many who are completely isolated (including the elderly) and – like all the above – are in fact growing our audience of each Pro Corda stream we currently put out in this way.

And then there is something else rather special that I feel from our beloved Abbey right now. That it is itself, as well as inspiring us to do more than ever, charging its own batteries of therapeutic energy within the flints of the ruins, the beams of Abbey house, and the rafters of the Barn, Chapel, and Guesten Hall; so that it is ready to welcome back the larger-than-ever Pro Corda family through its caring gates once again as soon as we are able to all come back together – and for the very best version of Pro Corda and Leiston Abbey we have ever known.

I wish you and your families good health and safety, and I look forward to seeing you soon


Create Together, Wherever! Launch

Create Together, Wherever! launched

To all of the amazing young people we work with, we want you to know that we are thinking about you at this difficult time and that we miss you! Social distancing is essential, but that does not mean that there needs to be creative distance between you and Pro Corda.

We want to ensure that you keep creating and enjoying our shared love of music! We know you are all fabulous performers – anyone who’s witnessed a talent show in Tudor Room knows just how spectacular your talents are!

Create Together, Wherever! Is a way for us to connect with our Pro Corda family and to support each other through the challenges that the Corona Virus may bring. Please stay home and keep safe and we look forward to sharing online videos, workshops, creative tasks and so much more with you over the next few weeks.

You can find out about our exciting new programmes by clicking through to the Create Together, Whenever! page. There’s brand new content for you to watch and join in with, live interactive shows every Thursday and Sunday online, with loads more coming over the next few days and weeks.

Click the image below to find out more.

Now is the time for us all to Create Together, Wherever we are!

We look forward to seeing and hearing you all in action as you practise your performances and share them with us.

Take care and stay safe – we can’t wait to see you all soon!

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"Live at the Abbey" Launch

"Live at the Abbey" Concert Broadcasts launch!

As part of Pro Corda’s and Leiston Abbey “Pro Corda Forever!” plan to keep the magic of Pro Corda and Leiston Abbey alive during difficult and different times, we are launching a new twice weekly podcast called “Live at the Abbey” broadcast from the 14th Century Guesten Hall.

Pro Corda’s CEO Andrew Quartermain will be joined by violinist and radio presenter Noel Vine for “real time” live concerts (featuring many guest artists and Pro Corda’s core team such as Concert Pianist Annabel Thwaite.) There will also be chat, requests, specially written new music (and even prizes!)

“Live at the Abbey” will go out at 7pm every Wednesday and Saturday.

To find out more, how to listen live, and to find all the earlier recordings you missed, head to https://procorda.com/pro-corda/leiston-abbey/live-at-the-abbey/

And for those of you close to the Abbey, you can even enjoy our famous delicious Abbey cuisine (which accompanies all our concerts in the Guesten Hall during normal times.)

The “Taste of the Abbey” take-out service will be available on Wednesdays and Saturdays via “drive through” collection at the main office. Menus will be posted on the “Live at the Abbey” page and orders can be texted up to 4pm on the day you wish to order for.

For more details and how to order go to https://procorda.com/pro-corda/leiston-abbey/live-at-the-abbey/

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Pro Corda Forever - a statement about the current times

A statement about the current times from the CEO

I wanted to write a brief note to our whole Pro Corda community. We are indeed at a difficult point for the country and the world.

Pro Corda’s founding ethos goes to the heart and excitement of the very principles and way of human living that we are now all having to temporarily put on pause – coming together.

But as our beautiful home at Leiston Abbey stands a little quieter than normal, this is I believe the moment we must say we need Pro Corda Forever!

Andrew Quartermain
CEO & Artistic Director

Leiston Abbey has seen off many challenges over the centuries. Once upon a time a certain King Henry, who didn’t much like Abbeys, really did come close to destroying it forever….

But its ruins stood proud, later becoming home to retreat and worship groups, and for the last 40 years (of Pro Corda’s 50 years) becoming the home to an extraordinary music school that now serves  – through the universal powers and magic of chamber music education – so many hundreds from all sections of society, including those most deprived and vulnerable.

Leiston Abbey has a history of resilience, fighting back, and getting back on its feet to march further through history and to be the place that inspires so many new people each year; and now again both Leiston Abbey and the music school it provides such a unique home to will do exactly the same.

We will ensure Pro Corda Forever!

So when we all get through this period, which we will, Pro Corda’s work will be needed more than ever in the wider society we inherit.

Meanwhile it is vital we act now to ensure Pro Corda Forever.

Behind the scenes, there is a mitigation plan to ensure this, and please be assured I am throwing everything at this. We will get through this.

But this won’t be goodbye for the coming months either. Leiston Abbey and Pro Corda will draw people together as never before right here, right now.

Like everyone, we have spent the last five days rewriting everything – coming up with a new version of Pro Corda for the coming months (not least to ensure the “Pro Corda Forever!” plan)

As of this coming week we will be launching:

  • Twice weekly “Live at the Abbey” podcasts going out at 7pm every Wednesday and Saturday on soundcloud.com/liveattheabbey
  • A new film service, via our Youtube channel, to serve our Outreach students
  • Both these will also, within a few weeks, have films and audio for our Core Chamber Music participants, and also a special series for our Adult Course participants.

We will not be separated for long, but the above will form a great way for the Pro Corda family to stay together while we are.

Meanwhile, and until we are all back together soon, I wish you and your families good health and please stay in contact.

Best wishes,


2020 Festival Finalists announced

Pro Corda Festival

2020 National Finalists announced:

Congratulations to the following school groups who have made it to the National Finals of the Pro Corda Festival

  • U19 Sherborne Girls Cantilena Trio
  • U14 City of London Free School Vivace Quartet
  • U16 Sevenoaks Stravinsky Trio
  • U16 Charterhouse School Violin Ensemble
  • U19 Queen Elizabeth School Saxophone Ensemble
  • U12 Ipswich School Lower School String Quartet
  • U12 The Perse School Year 7 Violin Quartet
  • U19 The Perse School Sixth Form Quartet
  • U16 Highgate School Schubert Piano Trio
  • U19 Highgate School Mendelssohn Piano Trio
  • U19 Nottingham High School Saxophone Quartet

  • U19 Junior Royal Academy of Music Dvorak piano Quintet
  • U12 Brighton College Flute Trio
  • U14 Brighton College Shostakovich Trio
  • U16 Brighton College Cello Quartet
  • U16 Kings College School Cheng Trio
  • U16 Wimbledon High School Flute Quartet
  • U12 Beckenham Chamber Music Group Il Trio Vivace
  • U19 Westminster School Schubert Piano Trio
  • U19 Westminster School Schubert String Quartet
  • U14 St Helen and St Katharine School Salvi Harp Trio
  • U16 Downe House Trio Sempre Giocando

Some of the amazing performers at this year's festival

Please be aware we have moved the National Finals venue from Brighton to Sevenoaks School. There will be further information to publish, together with the Finals schedule (which will be sent to all schools with groups in the Finals).

We will also need to ask all attending Finals day to sign that they have not recently travelled back from listed countries of current concern. As with all schools and education providers, we are working within an intense and evolving situation and we want to assure all finalists that we are working hard to make the Finals day a wonderful day of celebration that runs as far as is possible to its usual format.

Congratulations to all who have reached the Finals, and also congratulations and thanks to all participating groups in the 2020 Festival for making it the vibrant and wonderful 6 weeks that it has been!

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Pro Corda featured in Classical Music Magazine

Pro Corda featured in Classical Music magazine

Pro Corda employees Andrew Quartermain, Katy Osborne-Palmer and Laura Feeney feature in this month’s Classical Music Magazine in a fantastic article by Coriander Stuttard.

We have reproduced the article with permission below.


Andrew Quartermain

CEO and artistic director

Pianist Andrew Quartermain has been the CEO and artistic director of Pro Corda for 12 years. When he arrived in the job, he had to work fast to expand the organisation in order to sustain the charity year-round – the benefit of this being that it could be opened up to a wider range of music-making children. ‘As a pianist, chamber musician, and educationalist (and with a strong interest in the business side of the arts world), I sometimes think I am in heaven with my job,’ he says. ‘In an average week I will have coached some of the country’s finest young instrumentalists in chamber groups on one Pro Corda programme while working with the incredible creative minds of autistic children on another of our programmes.

“Pro Corda relies on a complex mosaic of grant funding”

I get to programme our community concert series at Leiston Abbey, and see through the constant challenges and demands of making the business side of arts and education work. All these things are my daily tasks and they are all the things that excite me the most. I cannot think of another job on this planet where I would be lucky enough to have all of those things in one. The fact that so much of it takes place in the most stunningly beautiful setting of our site on the Suffolk coast is just a rich icing on an ever-enticing cake!’

Andrew studied music at Cambridge and followed his undergraduate with the advanced soloists’ course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He was originally a member of the coaching staff at Pro Corda, before founding its outreach programme in 2005. He still performs internationally with string players and singers, while running special educational needs outreach projects and developing an international film series course for adult learners. He has also written and edited a variety of music education resources, and adjudicated at many competitions.

As CEO, he is on the ‘coal face of charity running’ and has had to learn everything from accounts to HR, as well as a bit about heritage management, given the Leiston Abbey site where Pro Corda is based. There are many challenges facing charities at the moment, not least a greater demand on grant funding. ‘A charity like Pro Corda, as the national chamber music academy – but also with a cutting edge outreach programme drawing on the core principles of chamber music but serving children with disabilities and additional needs – relies on such a complex mosaic of grant funding,’ he explains. ‘Our score card with grant applications is good but it is my job at all times to ensure we always remain at the top of that game.


Katy Osborne-Palmer

Administrator

Katy works as Andrew’s PA as well as the administrator for the Pro Corda Chamber Music Festival for Schools, working from the office in Leiston Abbey, where she moved from Essex a few years ago. It is a very small core team, so her role involves answering new enquires about hiring the site and upcoming courses and events, organising the float for events and paying in takings and cheques for the onsite courses.

She also organises the site bookings for anything from family parties to whole site residentials for retreats, produces the Pro Corda course contracts, and oversees the DBS checks for the tutors and staff who come on site with the core courses as well as organising the CEO’s schedule, meetings and general diary.

The Pro Corda Chamber Music Festival for Schools takes place annually across the whole country and usually involves around 35 schools with around 200 different groups taking part. Katy liaises with all the schools involved, working with the information they give in order to produce very detailed timed schedules for all the qualifying and semi-final rounds and then helping to organise the final. Katy has the opportunity to work closely with the performers, helping SEN students and those who stay residentially on site as part of the Next Step and Concert Apprentice schemes.

Katy has always loved music but has not come from a classical music background; although it is helpful to know a bit about it for her job, it is certainly not essential. She started working at Pro Corda as part of the housekeeping team, but before that, gained some valuable administrative experience working as a veterinary nurse and clinic administrator for practices in Norfolk and Essex. From there she worked for education provider Kidscience as a children’s science instructor and party co-ordinator, where she presented after-school clubs, all-day science camps, Saturday Morning Clubs, School Science days and assemblies for children in a school-based environment
all around Essex and London. She was originally working as PA just one day a week but her role has evolved and she now works four days a week.


Laura Feeney

Director of schools and outreach programmes

Laura first visited Leiston Abbey during a viola ‘bootcamp’ in the final year of her undergraduate degree, and as many do, instantly fell in love with it. She soon found a way to return, first as a helper on the preparatory course and then as one of the first Leverhulme Fellows, spending two years developing her chamber music coaching skills on that programme, continuing to help on the pastoral side and also working on the SEND programme. After finishing her Masters, Laura became part of the official team as maternity cover for the outreach coordinator and she regularly coached on both the outreach and core chamber music courses. She has been in her current role since September 2018.

Last year, outside of her Pro Corda appointment, Laura was selected to be a member of the 2019 Global Leader Programme cohort – a course in social entrepreneurship, civic agency and teaching artistry which involved nine months reflecting on the role and social responsibilities musicians have, learning essential business skills and undertaking fieldwork assignments to Chile, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Suriname to experience how powerful socially motivated music programmes are at impacting their local communities.
Laura now combines her role at Pro Corda with teaching violin, viola and coaching chamber music in London, as well as studying for a PhD.

“Watching the development in students is the most rewarding part of my work”

In her role as director of schools and outreach programmes, there is no typical day. ‘This week I am co-ordinating the final logistics for an upcoming SEND school residential course at Leiston Abbey; working on the schedule and artistic planning,’ she explains. ‘The artistic planning includes learning the Makaton signs for a selection of songs from Disney’s Mulan Score, I have a meeting with the BBC to plan future media collaborations for the 2020 Children in Need appeal and I also have a meeting to discuss new workshop collaborations with a SEND School.’ She also adjudicates the Pro Corda Festival. ‘It’s a nice balance of artistic and administrative work.’

When working in a SEND music environment, Laura says that it is essential to be flexible to adapt to the environment
– much of the communication is non- verbal and it is vital to be open and aware of the student’s reactions. ‘Thinking on your feet and being reactive to student-led learning is beyond rewarding but it can be an intense process for the facilitator! The main challenge is that social mobility is such an overlooked issue. Music has such a transformative power, particularly for young people with additional needs, however the disparity between exposure and access to music in society is colossal.’

When talking about the most rewarding aspects of her job, Laura cherishes having opportunities to raise aspirations and help young people to build confidence. ‘Watching the development in students is the most rewarding part of my work. I am so proud that the work I do can help grow the confidence of an individual, allowing their personality to blossom as they develop social skills.’


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Special Pro Corda concert at London’s Piccadilly

Pro Corda staging special concert
at London’s Piccadilly

Pro Corda : The Human Story of Chamber Music will tell the real and transformative story behind chamber music education, and everything Pro Corda has believed in for 50 years.

Taking place on 6th March at 7.30pm in the beautiful St James’ Church Piccadilly, and showcasing 3 generations of Pro Cordians, the concert will start with Primary Course star Aki Blendis and also the Pro Corda Schools Festival 2019 Chamber Champions.

Taking to the stage next will be one of Pro Corda’s gifted young professional Leverhulme Chamber Music Fellows, cellist Corinna Boylan. She will be joined by Pro Corda CEO and Artistic Director Andrew Quartermain performing Brahms’ iconic E minor Cello and Piano Sonata.

Andrew will then be joined by fellow Pro Corda Alumnus and international violinist Dominic Moore. Dominic, as well as attending Pro Corda courses from a young age, was taught by Pro Corda’s co-founder Pamela Spofforth. His career now takes him across the world, leading major orchestras, running his own Concert Festival (not to mention being leader of the orchestra for the West End’s Phantom of the Opera!) Together with Corinna, Dominic and Andrew will continue the ongoing marking of the Beethoven 250th year with the famous Op 1 no 1 C Minor Piano Trio.

This truly will be a Pro Corda evening to remember, and to add an extra special touch the whole concert will be by candlelight!

With such a universal mission to bring chamber music directly to people’s lives across all sections of society, Pro Corda is ever more reliant on its scholarship fund. All proceeds from this showcase will go directly to the Pro Corda scholarship fund to enable those who cannot afford course fees to access this unique and exceptional training.

Artists:

Corrina Boylan (cello)
Aki Blendis (12) (violin)
Dominic Moore (violin)
Andrew Quartermain (piano)
Pro Corda National Chamber Music Festival For Schools:
Chamber Champions 2019 (Brighton College)

Programme:

De Beriot: Scene de Ballet
Bartok: Romanian Dances
Bach G major Prelude “Fusion”
Piazzolla: Oblivion
Grutzmacher: Hymn
Brahms: E minor Sonata for cello and piano
Debussy: Sonata for violin and piano
Beethoven: Piano Trio op 1 no 3

Tickets:

Tickets are selling fast, so click to book now!

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