The COVID-19 pandemic has stopped everyone in their tracks. As a society, we have been learning to reassess how we connect with one another and the things that are important to us, as well as exploring new ways to be creative at home. Surrey based Community Orchestra, I Speak Music (ISM), normally meet regularly to provide a musical platform for people from diverse backgrounds to come together to make music. During the last few months, they have been unable to rehearse and, like countless arts organisations, have had to cancel events, including their concert as part of World Refugee Week. Thankfully, the ISM team have developed and implemented a digital music project to ensure their members are still able to connect and create music together.
Jim Pinchen, ISM Project Manager said “We met the ISM members online and who told us that they wanted to do something to say thank you and to recognize the hard work and sacrifice to those on the frontline for keeping things running and keeping us safe during the crisis.”
Over a series of online workshops ISM were supported to contribute musical ideas and lyrics, which Jim, together with ISM music leaders Raghad Haddad and songwriter Liz Ikamba, developed into a new song. The song places special attention on the dedication and sacrifice of BAME and migrant workers and was also inspired by the theme of this year’s World Refugee Week, IMAGINE.
“The main thing we wanted to reflect in the music was the diversity of those involved” said Raghad, “it was important that the music showcased many styles, representing many areas and countries and included the different languages of the people performing it and who they were saying thank you to.” Raghad’s brother, who leads a children’s choir in Syria, was keen for their voices to join with his sister’s and the rest of ISM; giving them an opportunity to sing in Arabic alongside friends and family who are living in the UK and other parts of the world.
Participants were invited to join online rehearsals via Zoom where they discussed what they imagined our world would look like in the future and where they could offer lyrical ideas for the song. “We sent out links to the music, some technical parts for the more experienced musicians as well as simpler elements to ensure it was as accessible as possible” says Jim and adds “there was a lot of support given where needed from the ISM team to help guide participants on how to film themselves and upload their footage. We are thrilled that so many people took part; we have 36 clips from Syria alone that I’ve edited into a four-minute video.”
Feedback from ISM members has been incredibly positive, one member when asked what they liked most about being involved said “Being creative and collaborative. It’s always a great experience working with ISM. There is such a variety of musical influences and camaraderie.”
So, what is next for the song Imagine, Imagine? I Speak Music Orchestra have joined forces with London based company Together Productions to deliver phase two of the project. Creative Producer, Holly Jones said “We’re a community interest company who produce arts projects with a positive social impact so when Jim mentioned that ISM were doing this project we were keen to help take it to the next level. Working with our international partners, such as Musicians Without Borders and the International Organization for Migration, will help people access the technology that they need.”
This ambitious next phase for the project has already attracted much interest and award-winning filmmaker and photographer, Leslie Knott, has joined the team along with Ben Gregor, acclaimed TV, Film and Music Video Director. The experienced team aim to create a powerful and engaging music video, unlike any seen during the lockdown, to be released later in the year.
Holly says “We’ve got this brilliant song that’s been composed and the idea is that on World Refugee Day we will send it out into the world and invite people, wherever they are, to film themselves joining in with the song, either singing the chorus or playing some of the percussion parts or dancing. Imagine: Imagine will encourage audiences to look beyond their neighbourhoods to the global community, to collaborate creatively together and to consider the voices and lives of those forcibly displaced and seeking a home.”
The IMAGINE: IMAGINE project is going live on Saturday 20 June 2020, to get involved visit http://www.imagineimagine.org
I Speak Music Community Orchestra is supported by Surrey Arts and Surrey Music Hub and is funded by Arts Council England.
If you are interested in finding out more about the I Speak Music and related activities email firstname.lastname@example.org