Charles Hazlewood is a conductor founded the British Parorchestra to give musicians of disability a platform to collaborate and perform.
Credits for the debut British Paraorchestra performance: Dhanoday Srivastava (Baluji), James Risdon, Clarence Adoo, Lyn Levett. Alison Roberts tell a few of their stories in her Evening Standard piece on the Paraorchestra:
Clarence Adoo, for example, who used to play trumpet with Courtney Pine, suffered a devastating car accident in 1995 and is now paralysed from the shoulders down. He plays music on a laptop, using a specially designed blow tube as a computer mouse. Adoo says he'd rather be able to play an instrument again than walk.
Lyn Levett has severe cerebral palsy and can only communicate by pressing an iPad with her nose, yet makes the "most dizzyingly brilliant electronic music", says Hazlewood. Levett herself, through her iPad, tells us that when she's creating music, it feels as though she's in a cockpit, flying a plane. Sitar player and composer Baluji Shrivastav has been blind since the age of eight months, and Lloyd Coleman is both deaf and sight-impaired. All four make their living solely from music.
Charles Hazlewood's fresh presentations of classical music shake up the traditional settings of the form -- in one performance he’ll engage in a conversation with the audience, while in another he’ll blend film or sculpture into a piece -- but his goal is always the same: exposing the deep, always-modern joy of the classics. He's a familiar face on British TV, notably in the 2009 series The Birth of British Music on BBC2. He conducts the BBC Orchestras and guest-conducts orchestras around the world.
Together with Mark Dornford-May, he founded a lyric-theatre company in South Africa called Dimpho Di Kopane (which means "combined talents") after auditioning in the townships and villages of South Africa. Of the 40 members, only three had professional training. They debuted with Bizet's Carmen, which was later transposed into a movie version called U-Carmen eKhayelitsha, spoken and sung in Xhosa, that was honored at the Berlin Flim Festival. He regularly involves children in his projects and curates his own music festival, Play the Field, on his farm in Somerset. His latest project: the ParaOrchestra.
He says: "I have loads of issues with the way classical music is presented. It has been too reverential, too 'high art' -- if you're not in the club, they're not going to let you join. It's like The Turin Shroud: don't touch it because it might fall apart."