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Friday, 15 June, 2001, 00:22 GMT 01:22 UK
Church restored for music education
Pupils at Prior Weston Primary School, Islington
Local pupils hope to make use of the music centre
Restoration work has begun to transform a redundant 18th Century church in London into a state-of-the-art music education centre.

Designed by the baroque architect Nicholas Hawksmoor, St Luke's Church in Islington's Old Street was declared unsafe in 1959, after many decades of structural problems - its roof was removed and it was abandoned.

St Luke's Church
Restoration of St Luke's should be completed by December 2002
But, once restored, the Grade 1 listed building will become home to the London Symphony Orchestra's (LSO) education programme, Discovery, which aims to bring music to people of all ages and from all walks of life.

The centre will have facilities for interactive web-casting and video conferencing, a recording studio - even a cafe.

It is hoped the technology will help the LSO extend the work it already does in local schools across the UK and across the globe.

Rose says music lessons should be available to all
The restoration work, costing 14.6m, has been funded largely by the Arts Council Lottery Fund, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the financial services group, UBS.

Chairman of the LSO and double bass player in the orchestra, Jonathan Vaughan, said he hoped the centre would make their work accessible to as many people as possible.

"We're not a museum piece or something from the 19th Century that just plays Beethoven symphonies.

Jonathan Vaughan
Mr Vaughan wants to widen access to music
"We're looking to use the orchestra as a resource for educational purposes wherever possible," Mr Vaughan said.

The acoustics in St Luke's were excellent and would help.

"If you're working in a dingy school hall, you're not going to get the quality, but this will have huge advantage for everyone."


Head of education for the LSO, Karen Irwin, said St Luke's - which is on a 175-year lease from the London diocese - would provide an intimate setting to bring people together through music.

Linda Irwin
Ms Irwin says St Luke's offers a stable base for the LSO's educational work
"We'll be using a creative approach, getting people involved, not just playing at them!

"We want to encourage people to try out music, to have fun with it and participate in it," Miss Irwin said.

Venues and spaces for workshops, rehearsals and recitals were often hard to find.

"But this gives us a definite base for strategic local work, with local residents and young people coming into the building, taking part in music making with the orchestra and putting their own concerts together and so on."

The LSO works in schools, hoping to inspire musicians of the future
Children from Prior Weston Primary School in Islington said they hoped to make use of the music centre at St Luke's.

"It lets out all your emotions - if you're angry you can play loud music," 11-year-old Charlotte said.

"If you've had a bad day you can listen to relaxing music and it calms you down," said Rose , 10.

'An enjoyment'

"I think music should be part of the curriculum and everyone should have the chance to learn to play a musical instrument," she said.

Georgina says she finds music moving
"If you've not got enough money, then someone else should pay for it because it's such an enjoyment."

"I enjoy doing music, it's moving. But I'd like to do it as a hobby, not as a profession," said 10-year-old Georgina.

The local MP and former Culture Secretary, Chris Smith, also took a look at the restoration work.

"The London Symphony Orchestra already does a lot of good work with local schools, but what this site will do is take that up a gear," Mr Smith said.

Chris Smith
Chris Smith is glad to see an historic building "at risk" rescued
"It will be an excellent base for adults, students and pupils to share in the work of the orchestra

He said he welcomed the use of lottery funds in the restoration work.

It was also positive to see an historic building "at risk" being put to good use, he added.

The music education centre is due to open in December 2002, with a world premiere of a new work by the Scottish composer James MacMillan.

See also:

12 Dec 00 | Education
Folk music degree launched
07 Aug 00 | Education
Pop gets its first professor
17 Nov 00 | Education
Squeeze on primary music lessons
10 Oct 00 | Education
School music plays second fiddle
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