Norfolk Music Hub worked with NYMAZ’s Connect: Resound Live team to replace their expensive annual Big Sing event with more sustainable virtual event.  

The virtual sing at school was a massive success and the pupils loved it!

 Norfolk Music Hub held its first Big Sing in 2018 and it was fantastic: 9000 pupils and their teachers came together in a massive celebration which generated a real buzz around singing and strengthened our relationships with primary schools. However, in 2019 we needed a rethink. The Big Sing had indeed been fabulous but it was also extremely expensive in terms of budget, planning time and personnel. So, we started looking at alternatives: could a Virtual Big Sing be the solution?

Since 2017, Norfolk Music Hub has been developing its digital strategy, exploring how technology can enrich our music education offer. As part of this digital drive, we have been successfully working with youth music charity NYMAZ, joining their Connect: Resound project to remotely deliver instrumental lessons over the internet, in real time, to rural schools. Through this partnership, we also broadcast our Make Music Day 2018 event online, streaming schoolchildren’s singing performances from a theatre café in Great Yarmouth. With this experience under our belt, we felt confident about creating a live broadcast Big Sing event with just as much feel-good factor.

Our aim was to round off the academic year with a huge, unforgettable celebration of singing. We planned a two-day event at the Royal Norfolk Show which would be attended in person by 800 children but reach far more pupils through an interactive live broadcast to schools. It was essential that every school could take part either in person or virtually. Having a strong digital element also meant that more schools could enjoy the event, as it removed the worry about the cost of transport and planning that it takes for schools to attend large-scale events.

There was definitely an appetite for another Big Sing. Within a week of releasing information, we had 1270 children registered from 30 schools! In the end, over 45 schools had expressed an interest so we ran random ballots for each locality to ensure we had a good level of engagement across the county. All schools were also given details of the live broadcast so that the rest of their pupils could take part digitally. It was interesting to note that 17 schools registered solely for the live stream, showing that the digital approach had real relevance.

Using SingUp we created a fun playlist focusing on songs which the children would enjoy learning, as well as some dance moves for the benefit of our live-stream viewers. Teacher CPD sessions were held in three locations and also made available online. Where requested, we also arranged bespoke workshops to support learning in schools.

NYMAZ and their partner UCanPlay were commissioned to manage the technical aspects of the live broadcast. They liaised with the Royal Norfolk Show to secure a wifi solution and identified the best way to deliver high quality sound and great visuals to the online audience.

This was the first time we had ever hosted a live stream to schools so we had some concerns. How many would be able to tune in? Would there be barriers in the individual school settings, such as broadband speed, screen size, technical experience? Would the times of the stream be convenient?

We asked schools to register in advance for the live stream so that we would know numbers and could send out clear instructions which we developed with NYMAZ. For example, we strongly recommended that schools test their set ups beforehand to make sure they didn’t have any firewalls which would prevent access.

Our Virtual Big Sing was hosted by an energetic professional vocal leader on each day. Along with a fantastic secondary school choir, they led the singing from the stage whilst a big screen reminded pupils of the lyrics.

Meanwhile, at the schools, children watched their fellow pupils on screen and joined in with all the songs via a password protected livestream on Over 750 devices tuned in live, with lots of children participating virtually – from the feedback we know that an average of 200 pupils were watching at each school. Some even managed to tweet us amazing pictures of their energetic in-school events.

We were delighted with the results: Over 800 children attended with their teachers from 24 schools. The live-stream has now been viewed over 2500 times (and counting!), not only by schools taking part in the event but also on ‘catch-up’ by families wanting to relive the moment at home.

We all really enjoyed the event and the children back at school were so excited to see us onscreen and to join in.

The whole school really enjoyed learning the songs and either coming along to the event or joining in via the live link. It was great to be part of such a musical celebration.

Will we go virtual again? You bet! 

With thanks to the Norfolk Music Hub for their assistance in writing this article which first appeared in Primary Music Magazine