Come and Play

Come and Play with the Hallé is a unique series of concerts specially designed to offer thousands of children on the Whole Class Ensemble Teaching programme (previously called the Wider Opportunities Scheme) the opportunity to play and sing with an international symphony orchestra, both at The Bridgewater Hall in Manchester and in other national centres.

This government programme was set up to give pupils in all primary schools the opportunity of learning to play a musical instrument as part of their weekly curriculum.

The concerts present specially composed works which enable collaboration between the world-class musicians of the Hallé and young instrumentalists at the start of their musical journey. In any one concert as many as 1,000 children play, and a further 1,200 sing, with the Hallé. Local authority music service staff are directly involved in preparing and presenting the concerts, both in helping the children prepare their parts in advance of the concert and by facilitating the event itself.

Original and arranged material, specially composed by the Hallé’s Education Director, Steve Pickett, for the professional players and young people to share, is presented alongside orchestral blockbusters, ranging from film scores to famous classics. The children, therefore, experience the power of a symphony orchestra at first hand, as well as being a part of it.

Come and Play is generously supported by PZ Cussons, Manchester Airport, Scapa, Cargill, Jacobs, Together and The Liz and Terry Bramall Foundation.

Come and Play 2016: America

This year, there were 12 Come and Play concerts, eight in The Bridgewater Hall and four further afield in Nottingham, Derby and Darlington. The concerts, which were presented by the ever-popular Tom Redmond, celebrated music from across the Atlantic and featured a range of musical genres from both North and South America.

For those children who had never experienced a live symphony orchestra before, Copland’s Variations on a Shaker Melody provided a wonderful opportunity to hear each of the different instrument families and how they work in an orchestra. Tom introduced all the instruments first, then the children listened as Copland’s theme passed from one section to another.

One of the most prolific Hollywood composers, John Williams, of course made an appearance, and Tom used the captivating music of Rea’s theme from the latest Star Wars film to introduce the children to the idea of leitmotifs, aided by his wonderful Yoda impression!

As always, the children had plenty of opportunities to join in with the Hallé, including singing Ai Caramba Samba and In New York City Streets. The latter was a brand new composition for the concerts by the Education Director, Steve Pickett, with words by Neil Bennison. This year, the two participation pieces were Bernstein’s Mambo from West Side Story and Steve Pickett’s arrangement of Jobim’s One Note Samba. The quality of the children’s playing was as brilliant as usual, particularly considering the fast-paced and complicated rhythms that make Mambo such an iconic piece and earned it its rightful spot in the BBC’s 10 pieces.

The foot-tapping rhythms of South American sambas were matched by the ragtime rhythms in an orchestral arrangement of Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag, and in Quincy Jones’ Soul Bossa Nova even the orchestra couldn’t help but join in with the dancing! This collective pulse that makes us want to tap our feet in time to a beat was explored more as Tom involved the whole audience in composing a piece of minimalism on a massive scale.

Across all 12 concerts, more than twenty thousand children will have had the opportunity to play alongside the Hallé, a feat that can only be accomplished with the continued support of the music services who not only teach the children the music prior to the concert but also lead them during the performances.

The theme for 2017 is ‘Heroes and Villains’. Stay tuned for more info.

Contact us

For more information about Come and Play or any other Education projects, please contact our Education team on

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