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London 2012 Paralympics and The British Paraorchestra

Our reviewing schedule has been greatly disrupted this summer by the Olympics and, more especially, by the Paralympics. It has been hugely inspiriting to watch daily endeavour and achievement against handicap.

I would have preferred, only, that the Ch4 coverage had more emphasis on participation, and a little less on winning and medals statistics (and that the thrilling final night had not been punctuated by the obscenity of advertising breaks, which probably sold nothing ?).

The Paralympic equestrian events happened in my local Greenwich Park, close by the Maritime Museum, and brought back an indelible memory from half a century ago. We were forbidden to take my cerebral-palsied daughter's wheelchair into the museum, so we helped her to struggled up the steps.

"Why didn't you say she was a cripple?" we were asked upon soon abandoning our visit and leaving...

The versatile and generally influential conductor Charles Hazlewood (admired and remembered for his two amazing productions of The Turn of the Screw for Broomhill Opera) also has a daughter disabled with cerebral palsy.

How many aspiring musicians must there be who are thwarted in their efforts by disability? Violinist Itzhak Perlman made a brilliant career and clarinettist Alan Hacker [R] defied a severe disability to become an inspirational champion of British contemporary music. But how many other names come to mind?

As one of Hazlewood's notable projects internationally he founded and nurtured The British Paraorchestra, the UK's first ever national orchestra featuring musicians with disability alongside some who are not handicapped (he does everything to resist ghettoing his handicapped orchestral players).

The work of this orchestra and its musicians is celebrated in a wonderful YouTube video *****, which I urge all readers to spare ten minutes to watch.

Harnessing the social and cultural impact of the Paralympics to music, Hazlewood is seeking to level the playing field for disabled musicians worldwide, and it is great to report his orchestra's presence (albeit in short 'spots') at the fantastic inspirational Paralympics closing ceremony).

Developing comparable resources and enlightened attitudes for handicapped musicians as for athletes and sportsmen and women is a long term goal, one which Musical Pointers will try to watch and listen.

Peter Grahame Woolf

The British ParaOrchestra: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRF_B5WHqsY