Recent Productions
The Great British Paraorchestra
The Great British Paraorchestra

1 x 54 min for Channel 4
Broadcast: September 9th, 2012

Inspired by his 5-year-old daughter who has cerebral palsy and the principles of the Paralympics, conductor Charles Hazlewood is determined to create a platform for talented disabled musicians. As an internationally renowned conductor who over the past six years has conducted more than 50 orchestral world premieres, from Carnegie Hall to the BBC Proms, Charles has decided to form an innovative orchestra made up entirely of talented, disabled musicians. “You can’t tell me that there aren’t millions of talented disabled musicians out there, so why oh why aren’t we hearing from them?” Charles says. Through the musicians’ personal stories, The Great British Paraorchestra explores the challenges and the lack of opportunities facing disabled musicians in Britain today.

We meet Nicholas McCarthy, born without a right arm, who is making a name for himself as a left handed pianist, and rarely gets the chance to play with other musicians. Another member of the orchestra, Clarence Adoo, was once a professional trumpeter who played in the Northern Symphonia and Courtney Pine’s band, but a catastrophic car accident left him paralysed from the neck down. Clarence uses cutting edge technology designed by Rolf Gehlhaar, composer and music technologist – he now makes music on a computer, using the slightest movements of his head and blowing down a tube. Music is Clarence’s life – he tells us, “I’d rather be able to play an instrument again than walk.” As Rolf says, “I believe everyone should make music. Paraorchestra is important for many reasons… The most important is that it gives disabled young people who would like to become musicians hope.”

Lyn Levett is a music producer with cerebral palsy who also plays using music technology – operating a computer with her nose. She travels regularly to a squat in central London to perform with other musicians and performance artists. As she puts it, “I can’t imagine life without music. I have to have my daily dose.” We also meet 23-year-old Charlotte White, who has a muscular-neuro disease which left her disabled at the age of 11. “Music... gave me confidence and a belief in myself again… I couldn’t live without music,” she says. Charlotte has been without an instrument since leaving school, so Charles and members of the orchestra put on a fundraising concert to enable her to buy the technology she needs to be part of the orchestra, and she gets the chance to play at the British Paraorchestra’s first public concert at Orchestra in a Field in Somerset.

This film explores music’s power to bring people together despite their disabilities. It charts the formation of the British Paraorchestra and explores the musicians own relationship with music. Charles tells us his ambition – “There are so few professional opportunities for disabled musicians out there and that’s what’s got to change.”

Video Clip
Nicholas McCarthy - Piano   Click to enlarge   Click to enlarge   Click to enlarge
Nicholas McCarthy Piano   Charlotte White
Music Technology
  Clarence Adoo
Music Technology
  Lyn Levett
Music Technology
Nicholas McCarthy - Piano   Click to enlarge   Click to enlarge   Click to enlarge
Baluji Shrivastav
Sitar & Tabla
  Abi Baker
Violin & Piano
  Takashi Kikuchi
  Charles Hazlewood
Music & Artistic Director
Click to enlarge   Click to enlarge   Click to enlarge    
Charlotte White
Music Technology
  Matthew Goodsel, Charles Hazlewood & Lyn Levett   Charles Hazlewood
Music & Artistic Director

Directed and Edited by:
Cesca Eaton
Executive Producer:
Claire Whalley
Assistant Producer:
Susie Attwood
Director of Photography:
Richard Rankin
Head Of Production:
Nic Preston
Production Coordinator:
Robert Hanger
  Watch the British Paraorhcestra at closing ceremony of the Paralympics

Photos by:
Ryan McNamara