More than 600 students from 33 Ark schools came together for a celebration of music at the famous Barbican Centre on Monday 27 June.
The tenth Ark Music Gala had a packed audience of nearly 1300 guests, including teachers, support staff, families and donors, who were treated to impressive performances by children of all ages and musical abilities.
The theme 'A Night of Hope and Celebration' recognised the current climate and situations we have been living through the past few years.
You can watch the highlights video here:
Guests were treated to pre-Gala performances by several schools before the main event, which kicked off with a rousing rendition of Revival by Gregory Porter. The night featured performances ranging from a jazz quintet, comprising some of the network's most talented instrumentalists, to a spectacular Year 3 djembe and dance showcase, as well as crowd-pleasing renditions of songs such as You Gotta Be by Des'ree and Eurovision-winning song Love Shine a Light by Katrina and the Waves. Other standout pieces included a medley of New Orleans jazz, Bollywood music and K-Pop by Ark Isaac Newton students, and a breathtaking solo by Ark All Saints student Erin Moir.
Pupils also performed Te Vaka's Loimata e Magili, a moving tribute to 19 young girls whose lives were tragically lost in a fire in Vaitupu in the Pacific Islands.
The Gala ended with all children performing We Will Rise, sung initially by Ndlovu Youth Choir from South Africa, an anthem about hope, inner strength and overcoming obstacles.
Primary and secondary pupils from Ark Blacklands, Ark John Archer, Ark Elvin, and Ark Victoria compered the Gala and entertained the audience.
Addressing the audience, Margaret O'Shea, Ark's Head of Creative and Extended Curriculum, said:
"For over 15 years, we, at Ark Schools, in our non-selective, state schools, and in some of the toughest wards in the country, have been raising our voices for change – and we are only getting going.
"We believe artistic excellence can inspire a better and more equitable world. We also believe music is uniquely placed in fostering empathy, compassion and a deep understanding of the world around us.
"We have on the stage this evening a driving force in society, clearly demonstrated by how these pupils have brought us together and how they have carefully and skilfully considered what they want to communicate through their performance. Not all of them will go on to be musicians, but if we have anything to do with it, they will be engaged and compassionate citizens, tolerant and respectful of each other, through their similarities and differences, exactly what our world needs.
"Through our programmes, we have empowered thousands of young people nationwide to embrace their potential, express themselves boldly, and strive for excellence – both on stage and off. I can't wait to see what the future holds with the changemakers behind me leading the charge."
Glenn Prior, Vice Principal of Ark John Archer, said:
"We are so, so proud of our students. They gave a breathtaking performance, and their talents shone through.
"Music plays an extraordinary part in our students' lives here at AJA. It allows them to develop skills and attributes that will set them up for future success. It has also given them newfound confidence to sing in front of an audience and to be brave. After a few tough years, being together was so special. We celebrated how far we have come, what we have achieved, and we can't wait to see what the future will bring!"
Usmaan Ali from Ark Victoria, one of the student comperes, said:
"The Gala was ethereal!!! I'm so grateful I had the opportunity to be a compere. I felt so much love and warmth from the awesome crowd and the whole music team who created such a monumental event. I hope I am blessed to take part in another opportunity like this. Performing at the Barbican made my heart whole. Thank you, Ark Music, for everything."
The Music Gala showcased many parts of the Ark Schools Music Programme:
This ensemble brings singers, instrumentalists, dancers and other performers from Ark's primary schools. They showcased a new composition called Light the Night!
This group welcomes singers with varied experiences and explores a broader repertoire over time. The choir performed a world premiere of Rhona Clarke's It Matters, encompassing body percussion and spoken tones.
The One Voice Choir
This programme nurtures singers and school choir leaders by providing training, choir resources, workshops with visiting artists, and introducing them to music from different genres and cultures. As all schools on the Ark Music programme have a One Voice choir, they performed several pieces as one massed choir of 400 singers.
This orchestra brings students from all musical cultures and styles to create and play music that has been written and arranged especially for them.
Thank you to everyone who made the Gala an incredible night to remember.