Learning & Participation

Orchestra of the Swan makes high quality live performance easily accessible to everyone, regardless of age, location or ability. Explorchestra® allows our friendly, approachable and lively performers to get to know you better, and for you to get to know us.

For more information call 01789 267567 or email: education@orchestraoftheswan.org




Download our educational flyer here

Bbc ten piecesBBC Ten Pieces and The Lark Ascending Project

Orchestra of the Swan taking inspiration from Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending for projects with Barrs Hill Secondary School (UK) and Trinitate Philharmonia (Mexico)



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BBC Ten Pieces and The Lark Ascending Project with Barrs Hill Secondary School. Funded by Coventry Performing Arts

During June and July 2016, musicians from Orchestra of the Swan led 4 2-hour long workshops in Barrs Hill School, Coventry. Working with 30 Year 7 and 8 pupils cellist Matthew Forbes, viola player Ruth Woolley and violinist Naomi Rump used themes from Ralph Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending to inspire young composers to develop their own creative responses through poetry and music. Working with a mixed group of instrumentalists which included cornets, saxophone, steel pans, keyboards, tuned and untuned percussion and voice OOTS musicians explored the George Meredith poem of the same name, the inspiration behind the work and the political landscape of the time the piece was written, the outbreak of World War I.

Each session began with various ice-breakers and warm ups to get the group working together and were followed with improvisations and composition practise based around the D Major pentatonic scale, as used in “The Lark”.

This project has cross-curricular appeal with relevance to the history, music, english and maths programmes of study at Key Stage 3. For this project we chose to focus on The Lark Ascending and worked with a secondary school, but each project can be tailor made to fit your Key Stage and school requirements. Click here to see a curriculum map for how you could embed a project into your curriculum.

“What an amazing experience this has been for our students. This has not only provided them the opportunity to work with professional musicians of such high calibre but has also challenged their creativity in so many ways. To produce such a fabulous final performance with the addition of profound poetry and beautiful haikus written by completely by the students themselves gives them, their parents, their teachers and the school something to be extremely proud of.” Detta Edwards, Head of Music at Barrs Hills School

I enjoyed when everyone joined in together with their instruments because it sounded great – as if it was building” year 8 pupil

“All the things we did in our session were incredible and really inspiring”  year 7 pupil

If you would like to know more about how your school can book OOTS to lead a project for you. Please contact Sue Pope, Learning & Participation Manager, by email: education@orchestraoftheswan.org

Read more about BBC Ten Pieces project here

Special Educational Needs (SEN) Schools

Orchestra of the Swan works with many SEN schools in Stratford-upon-Avon, Birmingham and Evesham and has a particularly close relationship with Brays School – Birmingham and Welcombe Hills School – Stratford-upon-Avon.

Our belief is that projects such as ‘Troy Story’ and ‘Ant and Cleo – The Musical’ enable children to reach their full creative potential, support collaboration between SEN and mainstream school and help to bring communities together, breaking down prejudice.

SEN Magazine … Reaching for the Stars
“Our pupils have complex and significant learning delay, autism and physical disability. The opera schedule seemed daunting and for our students the challenge was enormous. However, workshops, led by professional artists, allowed the pupils from the three schools to work together and grow in confidence and self-belief.
Working alongside pupils from other schools helped participants to forget differences. For our young adults, communication and social interaction are significant barriers to learning, but were overcome by friendships developed and shared experiences.
They discovered qualities needed to make the performance a success; commitment, timekeeping, self-belief, teamwork, focus, listening and hard work. Importantly, the opera brought together our local community and opened the hearts and minds of all. Our pupils are more confident, are proud of the part they played and have made new friends”.
Niki Jones, Deputy Head, Welcombe Hills School

Troy Story

Orchestra of the Swan and Talking Birds in collaboration with Welcombe Hills, Thomas Jolyffe, Wilmcote, Bray’s, St Edmund’s, and St Patrick’s schools created a unique partnership to produce: Troy Story – An intergalactic opera.

Troy Story an intergalactic opera

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Generously supported by:

Youth Music
Esmée Fairbairn Foundation
Arts Council England
Betty Baker Legacy
Alan Woodfield Trust
WED Charitable Trust
Rowlands Trust
Lainey Dickens
7 Pillars of Wisdom
Warwickshire Masonic
Baron Davenport
Sparkhill Charity
Eric W Vincent Trust

It is the year 3000 and Odysseus is with his wife, son and electronic goldfish when he is summoned to war on planet Troy, the far side of the Galaxy. He might be the cleverest of Earth’s Generals but has he got enough horse sense to defeat the Trojans? Can he get home through hyperspace – which is packed with Sirens, nine headed monsters and giant one eyed sheep farmers? Will he be back before his wife gets fed up knitting duvet covers and marries somebody else?

All these questions are answered in an intergalactic opera featuring lots of singers, a bit of fighting and a few tricks. Troy Story takes two epic yarns from ancient Greece, puts them into the future, re-telling them in a fun filled production.

“It was all systems go, Orchestra of the Swan returned to its triumphantly successful Space Odyssey of a few years ago, prequeling it this time with Space Iliad.
Troy Story was the result, and what a joyous piece of work it proved.
David Curtis directing his musicians so relaxedly as youngsters from six schools provided such a professional backdrop to the remarkable solo performances of David Colvin, Sam Fox, Louise Weyman, Jake Oldershaw and narrator and insistent suitor Rob Swinton.”
4**** Birmingham Post

Peter Cann Director
Derek Nisbet Composer & Joint Artistic Director
David Curtis Conductor & Joint Artistic Director
Nick Walker Writer
Cast: Rob Swinton, Jake Oldershaw and Louise Weyman
Narrators: Sam Fox – Penelope and David Colvin – Odysseus
164 pupils from Welcombe Hills, Thomas Jolyffe, Wilmcote Primary School in Stratford-upon-Avon, and Bray’s, St Edmund’s, and St Patrick’s schools from Birmingham.

“Space Odyssey made hairs tingle Orchestra of the Swan has worked at Welcombe Hills. David Curtis had the idea to bring schools together in this new opera.
The result was stunning, audience enthralled as Odysseus and his crew journeyed, children sang and acted with immense professionalism, and Mathew Sharp, Georgia Ginsberg, and David Bradley performed with a commitment totally respectful of their young colleagues.”
Birmingham Post 2010

Click here to see project report and click here to view images which support the project report

Troy Story for your own school/youth group? 
Troy Story is available for workshops and performances for primary-age children in main stream and SEN sector. Contact louise@orchestraoftheswan.org for more information

Ant and Cleo – The Musical!

Our third collaboration with Talking Birds and with Welcombe Hills – Stratford-upon-Avon; and Brays – Birmingham SEN schools and Bridgetown Primary School, Stratford-upon-Avon.

Ant & Cleo at Stratford ArtsHouse

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Generously supported by:
ITV’s The People’s Millions

Premiered at Stratford ArtsHouse on 7 and 8 November 2014

He was Rome’s greatest general. She was Egypt’s rich and beautiful queen. Together, they were the world’s most famous couple. Luckily, all the icky love stuff has been written about by Plutarch and Shakespeare, so this brand new family-friendly musical can concentrate on Antony and Cleopatra’s lesser known ice cream eating competition, noodle-fishing and games of knock-and-run. But there’s still an empire to conquer, and ships to sink, and a poisonous snake to avoid. Can Antony and Cleopatra turn back time? Or will that annoy the God of Time, who really hates people doing that?

Ant & Cleo is a re-telling of the classic story using a sweeping orchestral score, stunning design, and even more cheap gags than the epic Troy Story which shook the rafters of the Civic Hall in 2013. Performed with pupils from three schools alongside professional actor/singers and musicians.

The production features 100 extraordinary young people drawn from two schools for children with special needs (Welcombe Hills and Brays) and Bridgetown Primary School, alongsidep Orchestra of the Swan and four brilliant soloists from Talking Birds’; Sam Fox of Kiln Theatre, Jake Oldershaw of Untied Artists, Louise Wayman and Themba Mvula.

“Children from Brays School, Bridgetown Primary, and Welcombe Hills were stars throughout, being cued and conducted by chorus director Suzzie Vango. Swords were drawn, battles fought with lovers’ trysts given full support from wide-eyed young onlookers. More stage business with fun songs and inventive lighting. Battles were brought to life with boats and huge siege engines trundling importantly with wheel-chair owners. All of these very special children were involved throughout in one way or another. A magical evening for all concerned.” 4**** Birmingham Post

Peter Cann  Director
Derek Nisbet  Composer & Joint Artistic Director
David Curtis  Conductor & Joint Artistic Director
Nick Walker  Writer

Cast: Sam Fox, Jake Oldershaw, Louise Weyman and Themba Mvula
100 pupils from Welcombe Hills School and Bridgetown Primary School in Stratford-upon-Avon; and Brays School Birmingham.

Four Shorts – Bringing world class composers and musicians to your school

Four Shorts is part of Orchestra of the Swan’s annual commissioning programme and developed from the ‘Composer in the House’ programme – a two-year residency awarded to Orchestra of the Swan by the Royal Philharmonic Society & PRS for Music Foundation.

Four Shorts is open to students studying composition at all levels including BTEC, GCSE and A Level programmes of study.

Four Shorts aims to:

  • allow each composer to write a short work for Orchestra of the Swan

  • provide each composer with the valuable experience of working with and mentoring music students

  • give school/college students the opportunity of peer support and to have their own work rehearsed, performed and recorded for submission as part of their exam portfolio

  • present all new works resulting in public pre-concert events which may be filmed for composer archive and promotional use

  • offer all participants a richer understanding of compositional and performing techniques

  • provide students with access to world class practising composers and performers

  • provide students with information as to progression in studies, the arts and the world of work

Our resident composer for 2016-17 is Lucia Caruso and in October Lucia and her husband, composer Pedro da Silva, visited Malvern College and led a day of lectures, masterclasses and workshops linked to the development of students own work. It is hoped Lucia will make a return visit in the spring.

To find out how your school or college can take part in this or other OOTS projects linked to composition, improvisation and performance skills or to book a one-off masterclass on any of these topics, please contact our Learning & Participation Manager Sue Pope on: education@orchestraoftheswan.org

For information on the Four Shorts Projects, please follow this link.
If you are a teacher and would like to discuss any element of this project, please click here to download information



Adult & Community Projects

Music for Life – A Programme for People with Dementia

Download our dementia flyer here

The programme is generously supported by:OOTS-Adult

  • Stratford Town Trust
  • An anonymous private trust
  • Friends of Orchestra of the Swan
  • Baron Davenport’s Charity
  • The Betty Baker Legacy
  • City of Birmingham Orchestra Endowment Fund
  • D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust
  • Dumbreck Charity
  • EH Smith Charitable Trust
  • Elmley Foundation
  • George Fentham Birmingham Charity
  • Henry James Sayer Charitable Trust
  • The John Martin’s Charity
  • The Lapid Trust
  • Laslett’s Charity
  • Misses Barrie Charitable Trust
  • Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council
  • Saintbury Trust
  • Steel Charitable Trust
  • William A Cadbury Charitable Trust
  • WE Dunne Charitable Trust
  • Wilmcote Charitable Trust
  • Other private donations

Orchestra of the Swan is delivering an extensive programme of workshops, player training and support for people with dementia, their families and carers.

  • One in six people over 80 has dementia*
  • The population over 75 in Warwickshire and Worcestershire will increase by 40% by 2020**
  • 70% of care home residents have dementia or significant memory loss*
  • People living with mid to late-stage dementia are isolated and deprived of life-enriching creativity and the ability to participate in any meaningful way*

*The Alzheimer’s Society **Local Govt data

A pilot partnership between OOTS, Mindsong and Three Choirs Festival in 2014 provided interactive music sessions for people with mid to late stage dementia in Worcestershire care homes.  The success of this project, which was subject to rigorous external evaluation, provided the model for our projects in Stratford, Pershore and other locations in the West Midlands. If you would like to find out more contact Learning & Participation Manager Sue Pope at: education@orchestraoftheswan.org 

Orchestra of the Swan – continuing programme of workshops for people living with dementia.

Throughout 2016, OOTS have delivered over 90 workshops for over 200 care home residents. Sessions involve various combinations of instruments such as oboe and viola and include renditions of classical pieces, hymns, folk songs and plenty of well-known songs for people to join in with. All performances are very well received and supported by residents, care staff and relatives alike. Performances generally take place for all residents in main lounge areas but also on a 1-2-1 basis in residents’ rooms if the resident is unable to leave their bed.

Throughout October and November OOTs’ musicians are continuing to deliver their highly successful dementia sessions in a series of care homes in Birmingham. Players are visiting Barchester Edgbaston Beaumont, Holmpark Care Home, Clare Court Care Centre, Gracewell of Edgbaston, Kerria Court, Sunrise of Edgbaston and Albion Court Care centre to bring interactive music and enjoyment to people at whatever stage of their dementia journey.

Our players delivering this project are soprano April Frederick, violinist Dominka Feher, oboist Louise Brathwaite, trombonist Martha-Ann Brookes, cellists Matthew Forbes and Anna Joubert and bassoonist Maria Mealey.

Read more about this project

Sue Pope, Learning & Participation Manager and Dementia Champion OOTS:

“Music has such a powerful role in supporting people at whatever stage of their dementia journey. It is such an amazing experience to see people come alive with the music; join in, tap their feet, sing along and really get involved with the sessions. We are so pleased to be able to bring our professional musicians to these homes and know that our players are gaining a great deal from the experience too.”

These projects form part of Orchestra of the Swan’s ongoing commitment to champion the role of music and the arts in helping people to live well with dementia. Future programmes will see us continue our work in Worcestershire and Warwickshire and for the first time, visit venues in Birmingham.

If you would like to find out more about our projects and activities for older people contact Learning & Participation Manager Sue Pope at: education@orchestraoftheswan.org 

Your support helps Orchestra of the Swan bring music back into the lives of people living with dementia



Family Focused Projects

The Relaxed Performance in partnership with THSH and Autism West Midlands

The project was generously supported by:

  • Birmingham Bodenham Trust
  • Boshier-Hinton Foundation
  • D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust
  • Eric W Vincent Trust
  • Edward & Dorothy Cadbury Trust
  • George Fentham Birmingham Charity
  • Grantham Yorke Trust
  • Henry James Sayer Charity
  • Mrs Wingfield’s Charitable Trust – confirmed
  • Eveson Charitable Trust
  • W E Dunn Trust
  • Other private donations

Project BackgroundOOTS Relaxed Concert at Town Hall Birmingham 2015

Orchestra of the Swan believes that children with Autism, learning disabilities and sensory and communication disorders, should have access to the same life-enhancing opportunities as their peers and was delighted to partner Performances Birmingham Limited (PBL) and Autism West Midlands in a recent ‘relaxed performance’ in Town Hall Birmingham.

“Having an autistic son I was over the moon to hear you created a relaxed performance of the show.  I am sure you can appreciate it’s extremely difficult finding somewhere to take your child that doesn’t cause them unimaginable stress.  We utterly enjoyed the performance and my son was entertained throughout.  The changes made to the environment lived up to all expectations, and your staff were more than helpful and appreciated the needs of my son.” Audience member

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Project Need

Although many music organisations deliver education programmes for schools specifically targeted at children with Special Educational Needs, there are few organisations that offer relaxed concerts to the public. As a result many children do not have the opportunity to experience the enjoyment of a live orchestra.

For most young children, a trip to see a show or a concert would be an exciting adventure but for children with Autism it can be sensory overload. The challenges Autism brings make it difficult for children to enjoy activities that many people take for granted. Many aspects of a production can cause difficulties such as busy foyers, unexpected music, lights going up and down and applause. Even the interval can be confusing because it seems strange to leave the auditorium in the middle of an event.

This means that many parents fear taking their children to see a performance; they worry about the negativity that may be directed at them from the audience or musicians, and they don’t want their children to have a stressful experience.

The performance was presented by James Rowney, a ventriloquist who is himself autistic, and his puppet, Little Jim, who has never been to a concert before and is excited by the prospect of seeing an orchestra perform live music. At the end of the performance, Little Jim led a Q&A session taking questions from the audience and the orchestra joined families for a chat and blow and scrape.

The performance included:

  • A video guide with introductions to the concert, interviews, and musical excerpts;
  • A story book with information on the concert and musicians with images;
  • Video and hard copy venue guides
  • Changes to the regular set up of the venues
  • Creating ‘chill out’ areas with soft bean bags, dimmed lighting, and sensory toys
  • Autism Awareness training to musicians and staff

Project Outcomes

This relaxed family concert:

  • Enabled children who may never otherwise have had the opportunity, to experience the inspiring and exciting world of live orchestral music;
  • Enabled parents to relax in the knowledge that they are in a supportive and non-judgmental environment, and all steps have been taken to reduce the anxiety their child may experience;
  • Ensured families living with the challenge of Autism have the opportunity to go and see a live performance together, possibly for the first time; something many people take for granted;
  • PBL, participating tour partners, and Orchestra of the Swan develop a better understanding of Autistic Spectrum
  • Conditions, which will inform the development of future concert programmes;
  • Raised awareness of the need for more relaxed concerts across the wider sector, ensuring more children and young people with an Autistic Spectrum Condition, a learning disability or sensory and communication disorder are able to experience live music.


Stratford Box Office
Book tickets via the ArtsHouse Box Office on 01789 207100 or online at stratfordartshouse.co.uk

Birmingham Box Office
Book tickets via the THSH Box Office on 0121 345 0600 or online at www.thsh.co.uk