The FORTE Ensemble are more than just your ordinary group of musicians. Formed by the charity Music and the Deaf, they are a unique ensemble who each have a level of hearing loss, featuring Danny Lane (pianist and CEO of Music and the Deaf), Sean Chandler (cornet and trumpet), Ruth Montgomery (flute) and Eloise Garland (violin and soprano).
Part of an Arts Council funded project, the FORTE Ensemble aimed to raise expectations of what deaf people can aspire and achieve in music, and develop a wider awareness of the issues surrounding deafness and music.
Music and the Deaf wanted to raise the profile of musicians with a hearing loss, and prove that deafness is not and should not be a barrier to becoming a professional musician. We wanted to challenge widely held misconceptions about musicians with a hearing loss.
Why should deaf musicians not have the same opportunities as their hearing peers? Why should hearing audiences not want to attend a deaf-led concert? Why not encourage all those who are deaf to engage with music and aspire to the highest possible standards of performance?
We want people who are deaf and hard of hearing to have the same opportunities as their hearing peers, and that’s why the FORTE concerts this year were so important.
The Ensemble gave concerts at Sage Gateshead in Newcastle and Kings Place in London, and an additional performance at the House of Lords. Featuring an exclusively deaf ensemble and entirely deaf-led, these concerts were some of the first of their kind in the UK, and have broken new ground in classical music and raised vital awareness of musicians with a hearing loss.
The project brought deafness into the hearing community, and through working closely with Sage Gateshead and Kings Place, and providing them with training, we hope this has left a lasting legacy that will encourage venues to always consider access for deaf and hard of hearing customers, and develop their deaf audiences.
Music and the Deaf hopes that this will lead to more programming of deaf and hard of hearing artists, and leads to equal opportunities for all members of the community regardless of their level of hearing.
Developments in technology have also had a profound impact on how we all access, listen to, perform and enjoy music. Music and the Deaf created our year-long project “Frequalise” to engage a greater number of deaf and hard of hearing young people in digital music-making technology, allowing them to be as much a part of the digital revolution as their hearing peers and express themselves through their own music.
The charity worked with communities and schools in Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees, leading workshops in which deaf young people explored their creativity using microphones and speakers, in addition to software such as Garage Band and Logic Pro, and apps used on tablets and phones.
We have seen a remarkable impact, with children and young people who have sometimes had little or no prior connection to music using the technology to experiment with and develop their own musical voice.
It has clearly demonstrated that deaf children and young people can easily access and benefit from making and participating in music, and we want to use this experience to inform the musical education of deaf children all around the UK.
Music and the Deaf will be speaking about this project on Wednesday 30 November at the University of Huddersfield, Heritage Quay, from 10-1. This is a free event, and we invite you to come and join us.
Free tickets can be reserved here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/music-and-the-deafs-frequalise-seminar-tickets- 28418776325
Music and the Deaf will also be giving a free concert on Saturday 10th December which will include performances by the FORTE Ensemble and the Yorkshire Music Club, a music group for deaf and hard of hearing children and young people.
A free glass of wine will be available on arrival, and some amazing raffle prizes are up for grabs! A great event for all the family. BSL interpreters and a hearing loop will be provided, and the event will be completely accessible for deaf and hard of hearing people.
Book your free tickets here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/music-and-the-deafs-winter-recital-tickets- 28764153357
Music and the Deaf is the only UK charity entirely dedicated to providing access and opportunities in music for deaf and hard of hearing children, adults and young people. Through music, we hope to reduce the sense of isolation faced by many deaf young people, build self-confidence, develop communication skills, and provide an outlet for self-expression. Please visit www.matd.org.uk for more information and how to contact us.
The Limping Chicken is the world's most popular Deaf blog, and is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne.
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