So from July to November 2016 I was involved in an amazing project that cumulated in myself and ten of my pupils performing at the Royal Albert Hall in the Music for Youth Proms.
Working with Gwent Music Service we gained funding so that I could take young people to perform within a traditional orchestra but using the mediums of Rap, Beatbox and Music Technology.
First stop for me was Llanwern High, Newport.
I had already been working closely with Andy Newell and the music department there so it was easy to start building the project with a group of boys who I already knew well.
The brief I had been given was that we were to have 2 minutes in the 3rd movement of Dan Bickerton’s #Connect ensemble. The tempo had to be 120bpm and to be in the key of D.
The whole theme of connect was technology so myself and Llanwern pupil Addison wrote the track in after school club I run there. It was loosely based on the Nokia theme tune.
Next stage was using this track I auditioned some of my rap pupils. The final 5 chosen to go to London were Preston, Devante, Lewis, Raph and Addison. We had a few writing sessions until their lyrics were complete.
Second stop was Lewis Boys School, Pengam and working with Beth Jenkin’s music department.
After meeting with Beth and Rosie I was given 5 pupils to work with. Aaron, Huw, Joseff, Adil and Connor.
Using Ableton Live and Midi instruments (Keyboards, launch pads and a loopstation) we broke down the track into parts and reconstructed it into a live performance piece.
This was the biggest challenge for me. I taught myself how to use Ableton Live in the matter of a weeks and got my head around the equipment setup. The boys were already great musicans and had great timing so once we got the tech part out of the way and sorted out each part they had to play the rest of our time was spent just drilling our routine.
Bit of technical carnage that I finally managed to get my head around.. running 5 midi devices at the same time off ableton live for Lewis boys School Pengam Royal Albert Hall performance next month #ableton #midi #practice #practicemakesperfect #gwentmusic #beattechnique #royalalberthall #musicforyouthproms #musicforyouth
Aly Jones at Gwent Music organised 2 practice days at the Riverfront theatre in Newport which went really well and ironed out any technical problems for us. The biggest was making sure we had enough stage monitoring so that the boys could hear themselves when performing.
— Damian Pugh (@DamianPugh) November 10, 2016
So Wednesday 16th November was finally upon us. I had spent the night before double checking all of my equipment and packing it into my flightcase ready for the bus journey to London.
We finally got to the Royal Albert Hall and I was completely overwhelmed.
2nd soundcheck and run through complete
Took a walk around London to check out the National History Museum and to kill some time.
And so it begins… All ready to go on stage, I have another quick chat with the boys and tell them to be confident with their performance and just to enjoy the whole experience.
My laptop decides to crash as were on stage setting up!!!!! This is the worse thing that could happen and Im completely under pressure to try and sort it out. In the end I go for the turn on and off option and it decides to work fine and nows reads all of the midi signals perfectly PHEWWW!!!
Here we go
Half way through technology moment, get out your phones everyone!
ITS OUR TIME TO SHINE!!
— Damian Pugh (@DamianPugh) November 16, 2016
The boys smashed their performance, time to pack up and wind down.
Guess who made the front page of the South Wales Argus
— South Wales Argus (@southwalesargus) November 17, 2016