Festivals and Exchanges

The Arco Festival is an annual, immersive musical experience in South Africa, building on and solidifying skills learnt throughout the year.

The festivals of 2016 - 2019 have been enormously successful - truly life changing experiences for all involved. Plans for future festivals are constantly underway.

By all accounts the first summer festival, held in June 2016, was a real success. Building on this, Louise and Lucy, chamber music coaches at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, visited the centre in April 2017. They worked in detail with the individual students, with the six quartets and with the Arco string orchestras and there were numerous performances across the week. 

During the 2017 summer festival, the students had two daily lessons with their ZOOM teacher. The remainder of the day was divided into several classes including full orchestra, technique classes, aural lessons, listening sessions and quartet coaching. This intensity of working meant a huge amount of progress was made by the end of the festival week. 

Repertoire for the orchestra sessions this year ranged from traditional Kwela music to Baroque and Classical. In addition to the tutti rehearsals, there were also sectionals, which focused on the basics of orchestral playing; being able to follow the conductor or leader, choosing bowings and ensemble skills within a section. 

2017 saw the introduction of a teacher-training program at the festival, ran by Jan Repko. Jan focussed on a range of subjects from tension issues to exercises for both left hand and right hand set up. The teachers from both Birmingham and MICM benefited greatly from these sessions. In addition to this Jan also gave several individual lessons to the students at the centre, including side-by-side lessons with the teachers.

Since 2017, the ARCO Festivals have been focussed more on development of understanding from both sides of the project. Now ARCO Festivals are held every 3 - 4 months with smaller groups of teachers from RBC, but still keeping all of our ARCO MICM Students in attendance. We have found with the higher frequency of visits with a smaller group of teachers brings fresh ideas and a new flavour of learning for our students to experience.

Alongside the ARCO Festival is an ongoing exchange programme for our most hard working and diligent MICM ARCO Students. The project has recently facilitated the inaugural national exchange which enabled all Morris Isaacson Centre for Music ARCO students to partake in an exchange trip to Rustenburg Girls High School in Cape Town with performances at the world famous V&A Waterfront. Prior to this a select group of 8 of the most senior students performed at the famous Voorkamerfest in September 2019, performing their own programme based of a combination of quotes and repertoire reflecting their ARCO education and experience so far.

Recent opportunities to our ARCO exchangee's have included:

  • Attendance at the Lionel Tertis International Viola Competition, Port Erin, Isle of Man
  • Attendance at the Cecil Aronowitz International Viola Competition and Festival, Birmingham
  • Attendance and performance with the National Youth String Orchestra of Great Britain
  • Attendance and inclusion at the annual Pro Corda North Course, Ampleforth, Yorkshire
  • Attendance at the Chetham's School of Music
  • Attendance at the Young Grittleton Course, Wiltshire
  • Attendance at the ESTA Chichester Summer Conference
  • Performance at the Darling Voorkamerfest 2019
  • Collaborative exchange with Rustenburg Girls High School string ensemble for performance at V&A Waterfront 2019.