Young musicians at Chulmleigh Community College have found a way to keep playing together in lockdown, whilst dedicating their performance to key workers and supporting a children’s charity. Their performance of the timeless classic Lean On Me by Bill Withers has so far had over 7000 views online and raised nearly £600 for the Teenage Cancer Trust, as Head of Music James Cookson explains. 

I chose to record the song Lean on Me as the lyrics seemed so appropriate to where we are right now. The College’s Music Department worked with Teachers Rock® founder Debbie Kent and accompanist John Bangham who prepared the bespoke arrangement and guide tracks. Then young musicians, from Years 5 to 11, learnt the song at home before listening to the guide track on headphones, whilst recording on a separate device.

The project involved vocalists from the College’s Year 7 Choir and Chulmleigh Music Academy (CMAc), Teachers Rock® Youth Choir and instrumentalists from the College Orchestra, who all recorded their individual parts in isolation and submitted them to create a collaborative virtual music video. The video was then animated by Year 8 student Cassie Colman Mee.

It was a real boost listening to each track as it came in, to hear some of my pupils again, even if I haven’t been able to see them. I’m delighted with the final piece. We have all missed our regular rehearsals and concerts and look forward to resuming when the time is right.

Students said they found it very strange to be singing out loud entirely by themselves at home. College Music staff joined in too, and there is even an unforgettable solo cameo role for enthusiastic Deputy Head Teacher, Mr Payne.

Being socially isolated for such a long time has been very difficult for everyone, and the young musicians enjoyed working together on a project again, even if it has been created individually.

We chose to dedicate the piece to NHS and key workers who have kept us all going through this difficult time and to raise money for the Teenage Cancer Trust - a charity which is very close to the heart of everyone at Chulmleigh College.

Here's the finished piece! Do share on Facebook or YouTube.

Lucy, Year 9: "When recording ‘Lean On Me’ on my trombone, it felt very different to playing together with others as I was playing on my own, in the dining room. Although it felt strange, I enjoyed doing it as it meant that a sense of normality was brought back, through playing orchestra pieces, just like we would normally do at school."


Abi, Year 6: “I have really missed singing as part of a choir during lockdown so it was exciting to take part in this project. It was very strange singing with my headphones on, and without my friends beside me. It took a few attempts to master the technique of listening to the track on one device and recording it on another, but I got there in the end and I am proud of my recording
Oliver, Year 9: “It took me a few sessions to learn the piece entirely, and to learn when to start and stop playing. Even so, it took more than a few tries to play it without any mistakes!”

Donations to the Teenage Cancer Trust are welcome.

Jul 27, 2020

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