Classical music festival takes over Sheffield days after local school shuts down GCSE Music programme

Sheffield’s hills came alive with the sound of music this past weekend, as a festival celebrating classical music returned to the city for the third time.

Sheffield Classical Weekend hosted over fifty events, including a range of free pop-up concerts.

The festival took place days after the Tapton School in Crosspool announced it will be shutting down its GCSE music programme next year.

It centred around three themes – women in music, beyond borders, and future makers.

Sheffield Classical Weekend Marketing Officer Chloe Ward said: “Classical music isn’t how it’s previously been seen, it isn’t just people at a certain age in stuffy concert halls listening to specific types of composers.

“There’s so much other stuff going on.

“Some of our much loved films wouldn’t be as loved as they are if it wasn’t for their soundtracks and a lot of that is classical music.”

The Vivacity choir performing at Kelham Island Museum – one of the venues hosting Sheffield Classical Weekend

Festivals celebrating music are increasingly important at a time when school music programmes appear to be in crisis.

Events like these allow school children to get involved with music both by attending and participating.

Most performances at the festival cost £5, and were free to attend for anyone under 18.

Ms Ward said: “We want Classical Weekend to be an opportunity for everyone to perform if they want to.

“So, you know, giving the opportunity to schools to perform.”

The festival included a number of events by school aged performers, including a choir concert by Greenhill Primary School who covered a range of iconic songs such as David Bowie’s Space Oddity.

Ms Ward added: “Classical Sheffield probably got started to try and tackle people’s perceptions of classical music and it’s certainly done a lot to change people’s perceptions and encourage them to get involved.”

The festival took place days after the Tapton School in Crosspool , a specialist college for science and the arts, announced that it will not be offering GCSE music next year due to lack of funding and little interest.

Kathryn Rhodes, Co Headteacher at the school, said: “Music is a key part of our curriculum at Tapton. However, this year we have had a number of really difficult decisions to make due to reduced funding.

“Music and the Arts continues to be a core part of our KS3 curriculum at Tapton.

“In 19/20, too few students have chosen to take music at GCSE which means it is not financially viable in the current climate of educational cuts.

“A-Level music will run in 19/20 and we will offer Music again at both KS4 and KS5, as well as a universal entitlement in KS3, in coming years.”

A BPI survey found that state schools have suffered a 21% decrease in music provision over the last five years.

This is in contrast to a net increase of 7% in music provision in independent schools over the same period.

Additionally, 1 in 4 schools serving disadvantaged communities offer no music instrument lessons to students that want them.

Kate Griffin, a music student from the University of Sheffield, was one of the performers at the festival.

When asked what she thought about schools shutting down their music programmes, she said: “I wouldn’t have all these friends around me, I wouldn’t be doing the career I’m doing… I don’t know what I’d be doing if I didn’t have music.

“Secondary school is when that needs to start because you’re then starting to take things seriously… and it’s a good place to try things out.”

Sheffield Classical Weekend sold over 200 day passes before the event, and had long queues for on-the-door tickets to many of its performances.

Although schools often need to make difficult decisions regarding their music programmes, festivals like this one are working to keep music alive.

Queue outside Upper Chapel before concert