Orchestra's plans will make Holst's Planets accessible to families with additional needs

FRANK SINATRA thought New York was so good, he’d had to sing about it twice. But a local orchestral group thinks Holst’s The Planets are so good they have to perform it thrice.

On Saturday, February 1, The Great Hall at the University of Reading’s London Road campus will be transformed into a planetarium to perform the famous piece of music and Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra.

All three concerts will feature original performance poetry between each movement, courtesy of the winners of a competition that the Aldworth Philharmonic Orchestra launched.

And thanks to grant funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England, the 2pm and 4.30pm concerts will be relaxed performances at 2pm and 4.30pm.

Aldworth Philharmonic Orchestra rehearsals for January 2020 concert at Waingels College, Woodley

These are more informal performances, and the APO are promising a relaxed attitude towards noise and movement during the music, with the aim to make the concert format more accessible to children and those with autism, sensory and communication impairments, learning and physical disabilities, who are deaf or hard of hearing, blind or partially sighted.

As part of this, the APO is promising a heated and furnished ‘chill out’ tent outside the hall with a live link to the concert.

This will be a safe haven for anyone feeling overwhelmed.

And also available, thanks to the funding, there will be British Sign Language interpreters, a deaf poet, large print programmes and the installation of raked seating are among the other features that have been made possible by the extra funding.

Audience members may bring ear defenders, if they wish, as well as a toy or device – as long as they are set to silent mode.

The concerts will last one hour, without an interval.

Andrew Taylor conducts during a rehearsal Picture: Phil Creighton

For those who enjoy a full orchestral experience, unfortunately tickets for the 8pm performance have now sold out, but the group of amateur musicians, who take part in intensive rehearsals at Waingel’s College in Woodley in the run-up to the concert, are excited about the prospect of opening up the music to families.

APO’s Chair, Emily Bushby, said: “We’re delighted to have received this support for the relaxed performances.

“We want to understand how we can meet the needs of families who have children with special educational needs and disability, so they can experience amazing live music.

“We can then share our learnings other local arts organisations.”

Aldworth Philharmonic Orchestra rehearsals for January 2020 concert at Waingels College, Woodley

Tickets are £12 for 18+, £8 for under 18s. A waiting list is open for the evening concert.

For more details or to book tickets, log on to www.aldworthphilharmonic.org.uk

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