Creating music accessible for deaf children

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The National Orchestra of Wales has staged a series of workshops and concerts for deaf people, many of them children, to explore how it is possible to experience music without being able to hear it fully.

This project is one of the first of this nature in the UK that uses a full symphony orchestra.

Andrew Bomford reports.

For more on this story, go to the BBC's Ouch! Blog.

Video transcript:

It could easily be a regular rehearsal for the National Orchestra of Wales, but if you look closer, these children aren't just listening or watching. They're part of the orchestra.

They're feeling the music... and they're making the music.

But many of these children are profoundly deaf, or have serious hearing problems. So how is it they're appreciating the music?

Andy Everton, Outreach Assistant National Orchestra of Wales: "Music can just affect people. There's an emotional connection, and I really don't think you have to hear it purely to appreciate that. I think there is an emotional connection that just happens."

So orchestra members came up with a clever idea - let the children use some of their other senses, like touch.

Even if you can't hear the music, the vibrations through this soundbox let people like Ethan feel it through his hands, through his feet, through any part of his body really.

(boys rapping)

The orchestra has also composed its own pieces, the result of improvisation with the children during workshops.

Paul Whittaker, Music and the Deaf charity: "This is the only occasion that I know where an orchestra has done a fully integrated project for deaf children. Normally an orchestra might go into a deaf school, or work with a group of deaf children. And they might go to a concert where they sit and watch what goes on. But here it is fully participatory."

And it's not just at the rehearsals - the children get to perform for a real audience. They have speakers underneath those seats too and many of the popular classic crescendos can be seen visually on screen.

(singing - ....what do you see when I sing?)

Ethan's even got his own song - sung by his mother and written specially for the two of them - a celebration of how music means something to everyone, whether you can hear it or not.

(singing - ... where we belong)

Andrew Bomford BBC News Cardiff

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