Since 2016, BlueJam, in partnership with ‘Heathlands Project Carlisle’ and ‘More Music Morecambe’ has been playing, exploring, delivering workshops and composing for, and generally celebrating, this amazing set of gamelan instruments from Java.
“The term gamelan – derived from the Javanese word “gamel” meaning to strike or to handle – refers to the ensemble of predominantly percussion instruments on which the traditional gamelan music of Java and Bali is played. Vocal music has also had a significant role in the development of gamelan music, alongside the addition of the rebab – a stringed fiddle, the siter (a plucked zither) and the bamboo flute called suling.” South Bank Centre Gamelan Resources
We started working with our Gamelan in June 2016 with a training idea which involved asking the BlueJam team to write music for the Gamelan, which we performed at Morecambe Kite Festival. This was a lovely event, with families watching and engaging in the workshops we delivered between performances.
We then felt energised and excited about finding out more about our new instrument and developing our skills and knowledge about it. This was facilitated by our new partnership with Heathlands Project in Carlisle where immediately the opportunities became apparent to trade their knowledge of the Gamelan and working with groups of young people with learning differences with our musical expertise and experience.
Over the summer of 2016 we ran two week-long learning and performance projects which involved National Citizenship students working alongside members of Heathlands Project.
In the Autumn Term our core activity involved training 12 young leaders from James Rennie School to learn, create and pass on knowledge and skills about the Gamelan as an accessible and fun musical instrument.
In Spring we took the Gamelan out to James Rennie School for an in-depth, hands-on opportunity for those leaders to actually deliver the skills they have learned, with younger students from the school.
During the course of the project, we are offering monthly open sessions to all members of the community to come to Heathlands and explore the gamelan. These have been instructive and inspirational and have led to a series of ideas about how we can integrate the gamelan into musical performances and community events and use the resource fully. Composers, singers, improvisors, folk musicians, youth workers and artists have all come and had a go.
We delivered a packed outdoor gamelan workshop for young children and their families during May Day Festival in Penrith.
A resource for composers to explore the sounds and musical traditions of the Gamelan to enhance and develop their work.
First composition project of BlueJam Composers Group culminated at a performance at Morecambe Kite Festival in July 2016 where 6 composers created 8 pieces for gamelan, bass, cello, guitar, trumpet and voice.
The gamelan is centre stage for our Big Sing at the Big Screen event at Rheged on October 17th.
Schools that have had taster sessions, and players from our community and training sessions will play an introductory piece on the gamelan to 200 children from local primary schools. They will also accompany the singing for the specially composed cantata and film “A Musical Journey in the Land of Shadows” which incorporates the musical genres BlueJam is currently focussing on – gamelan, jazz improvisation and electronic soundtracks.