As the London Symphony Orchestra helps to boost the provision of musical opportunities for young people with special needs across east London, we look at the MCF’s role and why former Lord Mayor Sir Andrew Parmley is lending his support

At LSO St Luke’s, an 18th-century Grade I listed church in London designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, it’s Make Music Day. The restored building is home to the expansive community and music education programme run by the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO). Young people with learning difficulties or disabilities have come with their families to the centre in east London to explore different types of music-making. They play the drums, the violin and other instruments alongside musicians from the LSO, clearly enjoying the accessibility of the day and being able to share an activity specifically designed for them to take part in as a family – free of anxiety. 

Make Music Day is part of the LSO’s On Track Special Schools project, which encourages creative music-making, devising models for working and nurturing the talent of the teachers and young people. 

‘It’s great to have something that all of them as a family can come to – it’s not just about the young person who happens to have a learning disability,’ says David Nunn, project manager for LSO On Track. ‘For the family to have activities that they really feel are for them, that they can feel comfortable in, has been really significant.’

Through the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF), London Freemasons have awarded £100,000 to LSO On Track to help produce inclusive ensembles, which will enable young people with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) to develop their musical skills alongside young people without SEND, using a combination of assistive music technology and traditional and electronic instruments. Ensembles will come together in autumn 2019 for a major performance.

‘This particular project will involve LSO musicians and specialist workshop leaders visiting schools within the boroughs, delivering exploratory music-making workshops to the pupils,’ says MCF chief executive David Innes. ‘Pupils who show an interest or an aptitude will be able to have further sessions to develop new skills and explore new instruments, sounds and composition techniques. There will be the chance for them to develop and grow, culminating in a performance for friends and family.’

APPEAL FROM THE LORD MAYOR

The proposal to contribute to the LSO On Track Special Schools project was submitted to the MCF’s grant-making programme via the Lord Mayor’s Appeal charity on behalf of the outgoing Lord Mayor of London Sir Andrew Parmley, who was recognised with a knighthood in this year’s New Year Honours for his lifelong services to music, education and civic engagement.  

‘The LSO is the best orchestra in the world, and its outreach programme sees musicians working with young people, particularly those with learning difficulties. These young people, who wouldn’t ordinarily encounter professional musicians and real instruments, are able to have a go – composing and playing together and experiencing the joy that making music together can bring to a person,’ says Parmley, whose background is in music education. 

‘The MCF has seen the benefit of this work and dug deep to find £100,000. We’re so grateful to them. As I owe most of my life to music, it’s very important to me that a large part of last year’s Lord Mayor’s Appeal was about making music and giving young people that advantage.’ 

The idea for LSO On Track came about in 2005, when London won the bid to stage the 2012 Olympics. ‘The LSO started thinking about the position of culture and what it could do in that area of east London, which was considered to be on our doorstep,’ explains the LSO’s Nunn. 

‘From the beginning, there was an ambition to ensure that there was provision for young people with disabilities, particularly learning disabilities,’ Nunn says. ‘There are various barriers that young people with learning disabilities might have to learning an instrument in a traditional way or being able to do things in a group setting. So, there was a desire to find ways to make sure they were included and to engage with them.’

The top-level musicians who work with LSO On Track have experienced first-hand the effects of Make Music Days. Violinist Naoko Keatley has been playing with the LSO for four years, taking an active role in its outreach work, playing to and with adults and children with learning difficulties and disabilities. She’s found that music provides an alternative means of communication for some individuals. 

‘You really feel the impact it has. Sometimes someone may not be able to speak, but they find a way of showing their appreciation through the music or start singing or dancing. And sometimes someone will pick up a random instrument and show a real talent for it. It also lets participants interact with each other, meet new kids and develop the social side of things.’

The project is not exclusively focused on classical instruments and makes use of digital technology. ‘It means that kids who don’t have the capacity to hold instruments are able to participate,’ says Keatley. ‘It really brings out this talent that would otherwise be hidden.’ 

Nunn adds: ‘The musicians benefit massively. We’ve got a huge pool of players who do this kind of work. Expanding the programme has allowed us to do more training for them, which has been great. They do something very specialist and they spend a lot of time on the concert platform. For them to have that individual connection with someone is hugely rewarding.’

The project’s aim to create new opportunities for young people with SEND dovetails with the MCF’s wider commitment to combatting social exclusion and isolation.‘

The masonic community is passionate about giving individuals who are facing a challenge in life a helping hand to get over that challenge and make the most of their lives,’ says Innes. ‘At the end of the two years I hope that more than 1,000 children will have been supported by this project and been able to participate in one way or another. That was an important point for us – to reach as many people as we can.’

‘The musicians benefit massively. For them to have that individual connection with someone is hugely rewarding’

Why musical inclusion is important

A growing body of research suggests that taking part in musical activities can provide a range of emotional, social and educational benefits to people with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND). Listening to and making music stimulates different areas of the brain, supporting verbal and non-verbal communication, as well as encouraging creativity, self-expression and social interaction. 

However, a lack of funding, combined with a lack of local expertise, means that access to musical opportunities can be limited. There are few SEND music resources available outside of the school system, posing barriers for those wishing to take their participation in musical activities further. And young people with SEND attending mainstream schools are at risk of complete musical exclusion due to lack of knowledge and experience among staff. 

‘It’s really important that organisations like the LSO make the resources they have available to people who may not otherwise be able to access them,’ says David Nunn from the LSO. ‘It can open doors for them and give them the opportunity to see what they are capable of. We work with a lot of schools and we want to offer students somewhere to go out of school time where they can pursue their own musical interests, working with the orchestra’s professional musicians.’

At almost eight-hundred years old, the Lord Mayor’s Show is a part of London’s history. In 2012, Freemasons joined the parade in full regalia

The inauguration of the Lord Mayor of the City of London and the associated public parade, known as the Lord Mayor’s Show, is a keenly anticipated annual event. In 2012, the six hundred and eighty-fifth Lord Mayor of London, Alderman Roger Gifford, took office on 9 November in the Silent Ceremony, before leaving the City of London the following morning to travel to the Royal Courts of Justice to swear loyalty to the Crown.

It’s a procession that dates back to 1215 when King John made the Mayor of London one of England’s first elected offices. Every year the newly elected mayor would have to present himself at court and swear loyalty, travelling up-river to the small town of Westminster to give his oath. The Lord Mayor has made that journey almost every year since, despite plague, fire and wars, in order to pledge loyalty to thirty-four kings and queens of England.

Freemasons have been part of the procession in the Lord Mayor’s Show for a number of years, but last year, for the first time since 1937, the brethren marched in full regalia with their own banners as well as a group banner. Each sponsoring lodge had its name and number on its banner together with an area of need supported by masonic charities in London. With a positive reception from the crowd and – reasonably – good weather for November, this was a day to remember for those marching and viewing.

Published in More News
Thursday, 15 March 2012 00:00

LONDON freeMASONS ON SHOW

For the fourth year in succession, London Freemasons supported the Lord Mayor’s Show and the installation of the 684th Lord Mayor of London, Alderman David Wootton

This year’s float theme was the Metropolitan Masonic Charity’s appeal in support of the cancer-busting CyberKnife, currently in use and saving lives at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, which London masons are enthusiastically supporting.

Freemasons feel a particular bond with the City of London, as the history of English Freemasonry has many similarities with the structures, aims and appeal of the ancient Livery Companies of the City. The first-ever Grand Lodge was also founded in the City by London masons meeting in a coffee house in St. Paul’s Churchyard in 1717.

The Lord Mayor’s Show is the world’s oldest civic procession, reflecting nearly 800 years of London’s history and marching unscathed through everything from the Black Death to the Blitz. It is a day out for half a million people, with millions more watching on television. The modern procession is more than three miles long.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011 10:22

City stories

Take a minute to look up from the pavement in the City of London and you will find historic gems that reveal a great deal about the founding of Freemasonry. Yasha Beresiner is your guide

Hello and welcome to this tour of three of the historic masonic sites in the City of London that are inextricably linked with Freemasonry and its development. We start our journey on the spot where once stood the entrance to the Goose and Gridiron Ale-house, some fifty metres north of the last step leading to St. Paul’s Cathedral. It is here that the foundation of the undisputed first Grand Lodge in the world took place on 24 June 1717.

Unfortunately, and rather surprisingly, there appear to be no mementos of this historic tavern situated in what was St. Paul’s Church Yard and the only surviving item, now in the Museum of London, is the pub sign. Up until the Great Fire of London in 1666, the Goose and Gridiron was known as the Mitre. After being devastated in the blaze, it was rebuilt and renamed The Lyre, on account of the tavern’s musical associations (a musical society met on its premises), and took as its sign Apollo’s lyre surmounted by a swan. However, this image was often unrecognised and misinterpreted and a new name was born from the error: Goose and Gridiron.

battle for the blue plaque
It was in this tavern that four London lodges came together to launch Freemasonry, electing Anthony Sayer (1672-1741/2) – the ‘oldest Master Mason and then Master of a Lodge’ – as its Grand Master. It must be noted here, however, that the only source for all the information we have about the premier Grand Lodge in 1717 is from James Anderson’s reports that were published more than two decades later in 1738.

Moving on now, if you look to your right you will see, on the last column of the building you are facing, the official blue plaque commemorating the foundation of the Grand Lodge. It simply states:
 
Near This Site
The Grand Lodge
Of English
FREEMASONS
First Met in 1717   
              
However, obtaining it was anything but simple. Persuading the City of London Corporation to place an official plaque within the City boundaries is no easy task. Our efforts began in 1995 with the formation of the Goose and Gridiron Society, and within twelve months the society had submitted a well-supported request to the City authorities for a plaque to commemorate the foundation of Freemasonry. Although the request was accepted, it then transpired that the building on which the plaque was to be placed was due for demolition.

Nonetheless, after eight years of perseverance, on 15 June 2005, the then Lord Mayor, Alderman Very Worshipful Brother Michael Savory, finally unveiled the blue plaque that we are now so proud of.

foundations of freemasonry
It is interesting to consider how amazed our founding forefathers would no doubt be at the spread of Freemasonry through the four quarters of the globe. You see, the four lodges did not originally meet with the aim of forming a Grand Lodge. Rather, their decision to unite stemmed from a need to strengthen each individual lodge’s membership. Indeed, in unity they found this strength and it was at the initiative of other lodges wishing to join the group that a Grand Lodge was declared and formed as a controlling body. Freemasonry has never looked back.

Follow me now please, past Paternoster Square, Goldsmiths, The Saddlers’ Hall and Guildhall Yard, and let us make our way into the passage entrance of Mason’s Avenue. Now, once we move twenty metres into the alleyway, we are standing in front of the Select Trust Building.

Let me first point out that the whole of this two- hundred-yard-long avenue has not changed in four centuries. The imitation Tudor-style buildings are recent, of course, but the shape and size of the alley has remained identical and right here, on what is now 12-15 Mason’s Avenue, stood the Hall of the Worshipful Company of Masons, one of the City of London Livery Companies with which our society is closely, and at times quite wrongly, identified.

The Masons Company has its earliest record dating to 1356 and received its Grant of Arms in 1472. By then the building on this site was already functional and it was only demolished in 1865, some four hundred years later. As a reminder of the old days, the present building, which was completed in 1980, has the beautiful stained-glass windows with masonic emblems incorporated into the design. A gilded inscription embedded into the wall serves as a further reminder. It reads:
  
On This Site Stood
The Hall Of The
Worshipful
Company
Of Masons
A 1463 – 1865 D  
        
While the Masons Company has no connection with our Craft, it is notable that twenty-one of the City of London Livery Companies have an associated masonic lodge consisting exclusively of members from that particular livery.

For our third and sadly last stop on this tour, let us walk the short distance to the Royal Exchange. From this vantage point you have a particularly good view of the main entrance to the Bank of England, which is popularly known as ‘The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street’.

The Bank of England has been situated in this area since its inception in 1694, with three bank buildings rising on this same site since 1734. As an interesting aside, did you know that the Bank of England was the first purpose-built bank in the British Isles? Another notable, and quite surprising fact is that the Bank of England remained a private entity until the Parliament Act of 1946, after which it was finally nationalised.

soane’s speedy advancement
Returning to the building, Sir John Soane (1753-1837) was the bank’s third architect and worked on it for forty-five years (1788-1833). However, the only part of his work that still remains is ‘the curtain wall’, which is the elongated windowless screen wall that you can see along the front. This wall encloses the whole of the block, which consists of an area of three and a half acres containing the premises of the bank.

The Duke of Sussex, who was elected as the new Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England in 1813, favoured Soane’s architectural work. As such, when the Duke of Sussex directed the extension of the Grand Lodge premises in Great Queen Street, one of his many dynamic and innovative activities, it was Soane who undertook and completed the task.

On 25 November 1813, an emergency meeting of the Grand Master’s Lodge, No. 1, under the Grand Lodge of the Antients, was held at the Crown and Anchor Tavern in the Strand. At this meeting Soane was initiated as an Entered Apprentice, passed to the degree of a Fellowcraft and raised to the degree of a Master Mason. In addition, following the inauguration of the United Grand Lodge of England, Soane was formally appointed President of the Board of Works and given the appropriate high masonic rank of Grand Superintendent of Works – both a well-deserved and speedy advancement by any standard.

This brings us to the end of our tour in which I hope to have shown you the significance of the City of London to the history of Freemasonry, along the way unearthing a few masonic gems that you may not have known existed. Thank you very much for joining me – I hope you have enjoyed your trip and I wish you a safe journey home.
Published in Features
Wednesday, 14 December 2011 09:07

Holding court in Devon

Freemasons and their families gathered on the Devon coast, together with local dignitaries and members of the public, to attend the largest ever Annual General Meeting and General Court held by the RMTGB.

In recent years, the RMTGB has held its AGM in various Provinces away from London. As a result, an increasing number of Freemasons and members of the public have been able to hear about the life-changing charitable support that the RMTGB is able to provide.

This year’s meeting was held at the Langstone Cliff Hotel in Dawlish under the chairmanship of Michael Penny, Provincial Grand Master for Devonshire. The RMTGB’s President and Chief Executive, together with members of Council and staff, explained the work of the charity to over 200 guests, including the Lord Lieutenant of Devon and the Lord Mayor of Exeter.

The presentations highlighted how the RMTGB’s annual expenditure, which this year amounted to over £9 million, makes a positive and lasting difference to more than 1,800 children and grandchildren of masonic families, all of whom have suffered a distress such as the death of a parent or have been adversely affected by unemployment or redundancy.

Talking about Talent
The RMTGB’s TalentAid scheme, which this year celebrates a decade of providing support to those who are exceptionally gifted in music, sport and the performing arts, was also highlighted at the meeting.

During an interlude in proceedings, Clio Williams, a former beneficiary of the scheme, delivered an operatic performance to demonstrate the very high level of ability that TalentAid encourages and supports.

The RMTGB’s ongoing support for those with no connection to the Craft was also promoted at the meeting, including the Choral Bursary and Stepping Stones schemes, as well as the in-kind support provided to the separate charity Lifelites. This charitable organisation supplies valuable entertainment and educational technology to children’s hospices.

Published in RMTGB

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