Spotlight On: Withington Girls’ School’s Manchester Sings project
Gilly Sargent, director of music at Withington Girls’ School, explains how a music partnership is bringing people together and supporting children’s wellbeing.
Manchester Sings: Everyone has a Voice, Every Voice has a Song
At Withington Girls’ School music is not only a key part of our curriculum but very much at the heart of the school. We recognise just how powerful music can be - helping to bring people together; breaking down barriers; building confidence and engendering a real sense of community. Through the Manchester Sings partnership, the benefit of music is extended beyond Withington to several maintained primary schools. Weeks of rehearsals and multiple school visits culminate in a celebration of the joy of music with a performance by the schools as a massed choir at the historic Manchester Cathedral.
First taking place in November 2019, Manchester Sings is now approaching its third year after a poignant return in 2021. Over 600 children from seven primary schools across Greater Manchester have benefited from the initiative and there is a growing level of interest from schools across the region to participate due to the undoubted positive impact of the project.
At several of the schools, the choir has been requested to perform in assemblies and at other school events; for others, this project has led to the establishment of the school’s first choir. The schools have also seen an increase in pupil engagement in music lessons and staff have commented that the project has helped their own development as they have adopted a repertoire of strategies for the teaching of singing.
Taking part in Manchester Sings has also benefited the children’s wellbeing through developing in confidence and self-belief. One pupil remarked that Manchester Sings was “the best moment of my life, so far!”, and another said: “My favourite part of the concert was how all of the harmonies came together and made beautiful music. I will always remember my parents’ faces when they saw me and all my class singing. It was the bravest thing I’ve ever done and I loved it!”
The schools have said that Manchester Sings gave their pupils a sense of purpose, with one teacher commenting after the concert: “The children continue to talk about the experience of singing at Manchester Sings - taking them to a huge venue and joining others to make a large choir was a truly special experience.”
The project has wider implications as for some pupils and parents this was their first visit to Manchester City Centre and Manchester Cathedral, and many of the participating schools have seen their profiles in the local community positively raised.
The songs selected for Manchester Sings tell a story, a story which relates to the issues of today’s society and the importance of community. A story with a message of hope: Everyone has a Voice, Every Voice has a Song. The concert medley is interwoven with words written by pupils. The poetry and creative writing give a voice to pupils who share their own reflections on support, friendship, togetherness and unity.
The theme of community runs deeply through the event which also serves as a fundraiser for two long-term partner organisations, The Booth Centre, a local charity working with people affected by homelessness, and Wood Street Mission, a children’s charity.
Manchester Sings is taking place on Tuesday 29 November at Manchester Cathedral.