Pupils at Springfield School in Sunbury discovered a whole new way of learning history recently when members of the school choir were invited to perform at the Royal Albert Hall in a specially-written opera to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta at nearby Runnymede.
The piece, entitled ‘Magna Carta: The Freedom Game’, was written by Sir Richard Stilgoe and Hannah Conway, and 24 children from Springfield were invited by Surrey Arts to be part of a massed choir, also featuring pupils from other local schools, for the performance at the prestigious west London venue.
“It was a huge undertaking by the children and they put in loads of effort, so they really deserved their moment in the spotlight,” said Springfield music teacher Hannah Gregson. “We rehearsed it every Tuesday from February to the end of May, then they had two full days rehearsing with the larger choir and an additional two Sundays with the orchestra and the rest of the cast before they were ready to perform."
It was not just those pupils taking part who benefitted from the experience, however. “Year Three history classes looked at Magna Carta, and what actually happened, and the themes of the piece – about rights and responsibilities – were used as discussion topics in other classes too,” Ms Gregson explained.
“Whilst the whole experience of being involved was great for those who were part of the performance, it was also really good for the rest of the school that they got to benefit from the experience as well. It made the whole topic really come alive for the children – and the fact that the key events all took place so close to where they live made it all the more meaningful to them.”
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