Sheffield 1916 Sounds: Musical Steel, Steam and Power

Sheffield 1916 Sounds: Musical Steel, Steam and Power

On Thursday 25th May 2017 Kelham Island Museum hosted a special musical performance by students from Fir Vale School, as part of its project ‘Sheffield 1916 - Steel Steam and Power’, made possible by support from National Lottery players.

Titled “Sheffield 1916 Sounds: Musical Steel, Steam and Power”, the performance was inspired by the stories of Sheffield’s role in the First World War as a ship and armament manufacturer and the sounds of the working machinery in the museum, in particular the 12,000hp River Don Engine.

Thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Scott Russell a professional musician and member of the Learning Team at Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust was able to work with the students and teachers from Fir Vale School over ten weeks to create a one-off musical experience in this unique location.

Seven students performed of a piece of music they composed with their class teachers Andy Davey, Phil Columbine and professional musician Scott Russell.  The piece was performed in front of the iconic Bessemer Converter at the entrance to the museum, after which the students led visitors through the museum to perform alongside the River Don Engine in full steam.

The composition included drum beats, riffs and melodies with students playing a mixture of instruments including tuned percussion, voice, junk instruments, and samba drums. 

Sue Ransom, Trustee for Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust said: “The performance was exceptional, the students worked so hard together to get it 'spot on'. Their concentration and teamwork shone through, they were rightly proud of themselves, they were a real credit to your school. They were supported by Scott Russell, a professional musician and their two teachers, who clearly understood how to get the best out of the students. This is a dark and sad week, great to be reminded of the enthusiasm and commitment of young people and the adults who work with them.”

This event was part of the ‘Sheffield 1916: Steel, Steam and Power’ HLF funded project. The project includes new displays explaining steam power and Sheffield’s little-known role in shipbuilding and is supported by vibrant community engagement work and new activities and resources for schools.

The project was inspired by the River Don Engine, the most powerful working steam engine in Europe, which rolled armour plate for Dreadnought warships that fought in the Battle of Jutland in 1916. Find out the fascinating story of steam power in the new ‘Power House’ viewing gallery and experience the roar of the new boiler as it fires up to power the mighty 12,000hp River Don Engine which can be seen in steam at 12pm and 2pm.

Scott Russell, Composer, Musician and Interactor at Sheffield Industrial Museums said:

“It’s been a real pleasure to work with the staff and pupils at Fir Vale school, exploring and interpreting the Sheffield 1916 story with a vibrant bunch of young musicians.  There’s a real mix of abilities and backgrounds represented in the group, and it’s been great helping them learn about Sheffield’s industrial heritage, and creating new music to celebrate that.”

“Happy moments like the performance make you reflect, at times like this. That’s one of the reasons I love music (and learning) so much - it can bring people together when so much in the world seems to want to drive us apart!”

Rebecca Walton, Community & Learning Programme Manager at SIMT says: “Music and teenagers are not things that people often associate with industrial history but this project has shown that by working creatively we can gain fresh insights into the museum collections and their stories.”

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