Deaf musicians to feel the music instead of hearing it

The Oxford Times: Paul Herrington at Oxford Town Hall Buy this photo Paul Herrington at Oxford Town Hall

PLAYING an instrument takes a certain amount of skill, but performing music when you are deaf or hard of hearing is another level of achievement.

More than 140 musicians will take to the stage at Oxford’s Town Hall on Friday, September 27 and some will be performing through feeling rather than hearing.

The concert is in celebration of the 25th anniversary of Music and the Deaf, a charity that helps people in the UK with hearing loss to enjoy music.

Its artistic director, Dr Paul Whittaker OBE, who has been deaf since birth, founded the charity after graduating with a music degree from the University of Oxford in the 1980s.

Now the Yorkshire-based charity has joined with Witney young singers group, Songscope, for two hours of songs supported with sign language performed by deaf or hard of hearing people.

Paul Herrington, co-founder of Songscope, met Dr Whittaker at St Aldate’s church in the 1980s and the pair became good friends.

Mr Herrington, 65, said: “Oxford is where it all started for him and for a deaf person to have gone on to study music is a phenomenal thing.

“We’re all really excited about the concert – it has been planned for months.

“It’s a celebration of everything the unique charity does.”

The Oxford Deaf and Hard of Hearing Centre will have 10 people signing along to music at the concert.

Around 100 pupils from Wootton Primary School, Carswell Community Primary School, Harwell Primary School, and Wood Farm Primary School will also perform sign language to music. They are not deaf but have been taught by Dr Whittaker.

Songs at the concert include The Beatles’ Ticket To Ride, Disney Toy Story’s You’ve Got A Friend In Me, and the song, Beautiful, by singer Christina Aguilera.

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One young singer performing at the concert is Katharine Wilson-Jarvis, 14, a member of Songscope, who has taught other youngsters to use sign language for the event.

The Henry Box School student from Carterton said: “Dr Whittaker made a DVD which allows you to learn sign language to a couple of songs.

“I learnt three songs and helped teach them to the group.

“It’s fun and I’ve loved it so much that I’m now really interested in following it as a career.”

Katherine’s mother, Clare Saunders, administrator at Songscope, said she is “incredibly excited” about the celebratory concert.

She said: “We want to do as much as we possibly can to let people know about Music and the Deaf. It’s not known that well in Oxford despite all the connections.

“Dr Whittaker is immensely fond of the city he studied in and he comes to watch Songscope performances regularly.

“Music and the Deaf is a fantastic charity.”

Miss Saunders estimates that it will cost about £1,200 to host the concert and added that sponsors and individual donations have helped fund it.

All profits from the event, which runs from 7pm until 9pm, will go to Music and the Deaf.

Adult tickets are £10, concessions £5 and family tickets are priced at £25. Book by contacting 01865 730834 or email pamadama@ btopenworld.com.

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