Course Information


Magdalen Farm



TA20 4PA


Our next course will be
from 7th to 13th April 2017

Age and Ability

Ages 9 to 16 years


Musical standard between Grade 2 to Grade 8


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Magdalen Farm Strings 2016

Our Ninth Successful Year

by Course Director Sarah Gleadell

Sarah Gleadell

No fewer than thirty participants attended the 2016 course, a record number for us and the maximum we can manage under the present arrangements. All except one of the 2015 musicians returned but it was a completely new experience for the majority as we were returning to our original home - Magdalen Farm, a beaufiful 132-acre organic farm in West Dorset.

Participants ranged in age from 9 - 17 and in ability from Grade 2/3 to Grade 8 and above. There were 11 cellos, 17 violins and 2 violas. The students were divided into 2 groups for orchestral work and Dalcroze Eurhythmics according to their standard of playing. There were six chamber groups and everyone had a session with their group each day. From the youngest upwards, every group performed unaided in the final concert. They all kept their nerve and played gratifying well, taking their bow in a most professional manner!

We were all very sad when our long-standing course leader, Brigid Kirkland-Wilson, regretfully resigned at the end of the 2015 course. Brigid had been with us right from the start and was very popular with all participants, in particular the more advanced students. She made them work hard and was very exacting in the standard she demanded, with excellent results. But her sense of fun always showed through and she was just as willing to be as wildly silly as everyone else in the 'Talent Show'. Thankyou, Brigid, for your support for Magdalen Farm Strings over the past 8 years.

Not surprisingly, with such a top-class predecessor, it took some time for us track down our wonderful new course leader, Fiona McLean-Buechel. Fiona's approach is more informal - in many ways radically different - but the children responded with great enthusiasm and élan: the final concert was a triumph! Polly Orr-Ewing and Lucinda Wright, both of whom have also been with Magdalen Farm Strings from the start, like Fiona enormously and we are also delighted that she is very keen to join us again in 2017.

Our course focus for Magdalen Farm Strings 2016 was always was on British repertoire. For the choir, Colin Matthews composed more of his ‘Pig’ songs with words by Wendy Cope. The majority of participants sing in their school choirs and the standard was most impressive. Colin attended a rehearsal as well as our end-of-course concert.

Afternoons were spent out of doors and working off steam. The Magdalen staff are used to working with large groups of children and devised all sorts of exciting and enjoyable activities around the farm, ranging from 'Survival in the Wild' to feeding the pigs and chickens. the 'Low Ropes' course, river dipping in the River Axe, outdoor pizza making etc. Everyone comes back in for tea at around 4 p.m. followed by another hour of music making before supper. After supper, we had two sessions with visiting musicians: folk band with dancing (Miranda Rutter) and jazz improvisation (Ian Ellis). Other evenings were spent exploring the farm, devising the popular annual 'Talent Show', playing organised games, etc. with a concert walk-through on the last night.

The final concert was received with huge enthusiasm by parents and sponsors. Colin Matthews, who has supported us from the start, commented that it was his best ever Magdalen Farm Strings.

Colin's website