Have you ever heard of the Friday Afternoons project? Friday Afternoons started in November 2011, initially to engage Suffolk school children by providing 12 songs to be sung. The songs were intended to be for children, written by Benjamin Britten, composer and founder of Aldeburgh Music. Friday Afternoons were meant to be part of the Centenary celebrations.
The songs were put on a website where you could also find all the resources necessary to teach children to sing. The site was free and easy to use. One might find scores, recordings, and other interactive, engaging resources intended to stimulate young minds. The resources were available in a range of formats like Braille scores and signed videos (provided by Prima Vista Braille Music Services and Music by the Deaf) ensuring that anyone could take part in this project, regardless of their circumstances or location!
Suddenly others wanted to support Benjamin Britten in his efforts. Boosey & Hawkes music publishers, Arts Council England, and Pears Foundation and Charanga all got on board. Some of UK’s most active art organizations and music educators helped this project become National. Schools, music groups, and youth choirs around the UK and other parts of the world were downloading these free resources to learn the songs and perform at a finale event.
The first finale took place on November 22, 2013, on Britten’s 100th Birthday. The Friday Afternoons website became a world-stage and participants uploaded their performances for everyone to watch. Thousands of people across the UK have watched these events.
In years to come, Aldeburgh Music has commissioned more songs, from a mix of songwriters and composers. This is a wonderful project and its growth is indicative of that; it would not be so heavily supported if it did not deliver so much pleasure. It is a beautiful thing to see young people all over the world sing high quality, new music. We have 11 more months until the next virtual performance.