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DMU Orchestra hit the right note at historic Leicester Prison Concert

Prisoners have been inspired by the beauty of live classical music, thanks to a special De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) String Orchestra concert.

The historic performance took place within the walls of Her Majesty’s Prison (HMP) Leicester and it is believed to be one of the first concerts of this kind to be performed in the UK.

Sam Burstin

The event was made possible thanks to a partnership between the prison and the university’s #DMUlocal scheme, which brings university skills and experience into the community.

Featuring classical numbers from composers such as Mozart and Corelli, the bill also featured special rock renditions of Sweet Child of Mine, Don’t Look Back in Anger, and Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody with the iconic Match of the Day theme tune even making an appearance.

Musicians from DMU’s String Orchestra were joined by members of the Philharmonia Orchestra for the event as a result of the recently signed partnership the university has with the internationally renowned orchestra. The partnership will see them collaborate on a number of further projects over the next two years.

The concert was conducted by DMU Orchestra Musical Director and Philharmonia Violist Samuel Burstin, who teamed up with Adrian Varela and Gijs Kramers, also of the Philharmonia to arrange pieces for the one off concert.

Adrian a conductor and composer, said: “It was such an amazing moment at the end of the concert to be approached by the inmates and say how much they enjoyed our work.

“They felt comfortable enough to tell us their life story and said they would consider playing an instrument because of our performance. It was deeply moving.

“It was great to perform for them, you feel a connection with the music, you feel the energy coming from the inmates and it is extremely rewarding. DMU have done a great job to ensure that this event could go ahead.”

Varala 2

The concert took place within the prison chapel at the HMP on Welford Road and is one of the first performances that DMU’s orchestra have given.

Samuel said: “People come to concerts all the time and listen to the work that we do, but this time the audience was very different and it is such an unusual place to perform. We are so glad it had such a big impact.

“We tried to create something which inspires people to think, offering something for those people who have no freedom which in time will hopefully have an impact on them mentally, giving them a lift.

“It is great to be able to challenge yourself and work on fresh and different arrangements. I am enjoying working with DMU as they are so supportive and I am thankful for the opportunities they are providing as a result of my involvement.”

Sam is an international award-winning conductor and has made appearances conducting the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and in Russia with the Taterstan National Symphony Orchestra.

He has also played viola with the Philharmonia and the BBC National Orchestras of Wales, New Zealand Symphony plus many more before joining DMU in 2016.

The performance was not the first time DMU has worked within the prison. The partnership #DMUlocal has with HMP has seen Interior Design BA (Hons) students present visions for a new prison visitor centre and garden in recent months.

Staff have also delivered interactive workshops to inmates to further their skills and reduce re-offending, while health students are re-vamping the healthy eating initiative throughout the prison.

Prison 2

Head of Public Engagement at DMU, Mark Charlton said: “It was a superb atmosphere at HMP for the concert and the orchestra responded.

“One prisoner said to me that he really enjoyed the concert and it was a welcome break from their normal regime.

“Sam (the conductor) also got one of the inmates to conduct the Match of the Day theme; it was one of the best things I’ve seen.”

Mark and #DMUlocal will be working with HMP to arrange for more students to give students real-life employment opportunities.

Philharmonia Violist Gijs said: “It has been very special to perform with everyone here today for this unique concert.

“Everyone has a right to listen to music and it’s a great opportunity for the DMU Orchestra and Philharmonia to play something from their world in our language.”

Unfortunately, recording couldn’t take place within the prison itself, but footage was captured from a rehearsal of Bohemian Rhapsody prior to the event at Leicester’s Curve Theatre,

It can be viewed here: Video on YouTube.

Prison concert

Adrian added: “This was not the normal audience we would play for and that’s what made it so special.

“The concert was about connecting with the audience and breaking the boundaries not just for music, but for who we are.

“I am extremely delighted that the concert was a success and that we could make a real difference.”

There will be for more exciting initiatives from DMU Music in the coming months, including the Chancellors Concert with the Philharmonia at De Montfort Hall on Wednesday 15 February.

Posted on Friday 27th January 2017

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