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Trish Wheatley looks forward to the Channel 4 film about the Great British Paraorchestra / 8 September 2012

photo of disabled musicians on stage at Glastonbury

The Britsh Paraorchestra on stage at Glastonbury. Photo by Trish Wheatley

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Showing on Channel 4 at 5.25pm on Sunday 9th September 2012 is a documentary tracking the development of the Great British Paraorchestra. The idea for it was conceived by internationally renowned conductor Charles Hazlewood, inspired by his disabled daughter and the Paralympics. The initiative is described as "a global movement to recognise and showcase disabled musicians with extraordinary abilities. Its mission is to end the limitations placed on them, not by their physical ability but by lack of opportunity." The documentary will plot the formation of the orchestra, its members and their relationship to music. 
One of the points of interest in this orchestra is that the range of instruments do not reflect that of a traditional classical orchestra. Some of the instruments have been developed specially for the musicians and others play instruments from all over the world. Combined, the Great British Paraorchestra is developing its own musical aesthetic that is fresh, interesting and original. Lloyd Coleman, Clarinettist explained: "Musically I'm really excited about it because of the range of cultures and musical styles that we have in this group and it's a group of musicians that you will never have seen together before.... I think people will appreciate the different elements that come to the fore during any one performance. We do anything from Indian Raga to Western Classical Music to electronic sounds. These elements all in one big mix is very exciting." 

After seeing the orchestra perform at Glastonbury earlier this year I will be interested to see how they've developed following a summer of performances including a very well received concert as part of the Unlimited Festival at the Southbank Centre last week.

It would be easy to suspect there's probably a reason that Channel 4 have programmed this on the same evening as the Paralympic Closing Ceremony. The 65 minute documentary might not be the only time we see the Great British Paraorchestra on TV this Sunday!


liz Porter

11 September 2012

I heard about this project earlier in the year. A great idea that sounded as though there was a 'real' attempt to showcase and uplift the profile of disabled musicians and explroe new territory around inclusion of musical technology.

I wathced the documentary the other day there's a fantastic mix of accuplished musicans some known to me such as Baluji and Lynn Lavett some new and interesting developments with music technology with support from the well known Drake Music project. However, for all this I couldn't help feeling a tadd frustrated with the way the documentary was put together it seemed to focus on the medical conditions far more than necessary and I didn't even get to hear from some of the musicans involved - noticably the programme centred more on those with a physical impairment. just felt unballanced and not a true reflection of all people's musical journeys. Yet it is an important project and with huge potential - really pleased it's happened and that the musicians were featured (if fairly breifly) in the closing ceremony and I hope such initiatives will push boundaries forwards. Be interested to know what Attitude is Everything made of it.