Nigel HidrethNigel Hildreth  reflects on the impact of his Finzi Scholarship in 2005.

I travelled to Sweden and Estonia to examine the different standpoints towards music in the culture of these two countries , and to reflect on aspects that might be transferred to this country.  In Sweden I was struck by the impact of folk music on musical culture and how it seemed entirely natural for young and old to use folk music playing and singing as part of music education.  I was able to visit a number of folk music groups, particularly notable amongst them was the Rättvik Spelmanslag who were very welcoming and their membership which seemed to encompass all ages allowed me to rehearse alongside them.  I also looked at musikskolan (music schools) in Mora and Falun which demonstrated the way folk tunes were a staple part of the teaching of instruments (particularly violin) and indeed for some of the young players was theri motivation to learn in that they then stood a chance to be chosen as the violinist to play for the Midsommar celebtrations.

In Estonia the emphasis in music education was all about singing; using the Kodaly method meant that all students in Estonia’s schools could read music and sight sing.  The standard of the choirs in schools was exceptional and the place of singing within the culture of this country was very important. This importance is emphasised by the huge “singing fileds” were thousands come together both to hear and to perform choral pieces.  Some of these works were traditional but many were composed by local composers such as Tormis.

On my return to the UK I was determined to integrate some of what I had seen into my teaching.  I used folk songs (some English some Swedish and some Irish) into instrumental pieces for the ensembles I direct with very positive results; freeing up some of the players and encouraging them to listen to and to perform folk music.  I organise a large scale annual event for the local secondary schools and when it was set up in 2000 there were no singers put forward by the schools and last year a joint choir of 200 young voices came together to sing in harmony. I invited groups from Estonia and Sweden to perform at this event giving it an international flavour.