All good parties get better with music and the Gallery’s bicentennial celebrations will have music of every kind.
It is not often that African drums are heard in the centuries old Chapel next to the Gallery, but on 9 January the African Drumming Ensemble from Kingsdale Foundation School will do its best to raise the temperature. The Ensemble has had a very exciting year. In 2010 they toured Namibia, and, although that might be like taking coals to Newcastle, they were a great success during their two-week tour. The Namibians were delighted to see the London children of mixed background getting it so right. “Their conductor Sandra Dyer is a phenomenal teacher and a brilliant drummer herself,” says Mary Graham, Director of Performing Arts at Kingsdale.
The school is famous for its music and has ten different music groups and its own recording studio. “We have only had our fantastic facilities for the last two years but our reputation for good music has been established over the last forty years and it is all due to our great pupils- and to our thirty five enthusiastic music teachers,” Mary Graham adds quickly.
The African Drumming Ensemble has been playing at Dulwich Picture Gallery several times and they are not worried about the competition from the other three schools performing, “the only thing we worry about is the weather, but then our African drums might bring a bit of sunshine even if it snows.”
The girls in the well-known Gospel Choir from St. Martin-in-the-Fields in Tulse Hill are equally excited about taking part in the Big Bang celebrations. “It is a first for us sharing the concert with other local schools,” says Lesley Morrison, head of the school. The Choir has sung at prestigious venues before like the Royal Albert Hall and St Paul’s Cathedral and in 2010 they were semi-finalists in the BBC Junior Choir Competition. “And we are aiming higher for next year,” says Lesley Morrison.
The Choir was set up in 1998 and consists of roughly forty singers of all ages. The school itself is actually older than the Gallery and was the country’s first school for girls. It was founded in 1699 and was initially linked to the famous church St. Martin-in-the-Field in Trafalgar Square. Need for more space led the school to relocate to Tulse Hill in 1928. Today St. Martins is identified as an Ambassador School for gifted youth with singing being only one of the talents which has given the school that very special accolade.
The Bands will start playing in the Chapel from 1 pm on 9 January. Doors open at 12 noon. There will also be a selection international music performed in the Gallery. Afternoon entertainment includes falconry, art play and guided tours of the Gallery. The day finishes with fireworks at 5.15pm. Entrance is free.