Community outreach "Music Hub" opens at Edinburgh church

A ground-breaking community project which uses the power of music to promote health and wellbeing is being launched in Edinburgh today.

The "Music Hub" at Stockbridge Church is led by professional cellist, Clea Friend, who has played all over the world with artists including Sir Rod Stewart, opera tenor Andrea Bocelli, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.

Clea Friend
Clea Friend

It will encourage interaction and friendship among people of all ages by offering opportunities to create, listen and discuss music in a fun, safe and inclusive environment.

Concerts involving musicians from a wide range of genres will be regularly held in the building on Saxe Coburg Street along with a "Culture Club" featuring screenings of theatre and opera productions followed by discussion.

Miss Friend, a community music practitioner who has worked with people with special needs for 20 years, plans to run classes for children and young people living with autism to help them express themselves better.

She will work with local schools, care homes and others as part of her role and regularly perform with Artisan, an Edinburgh based professional classical music ensemble.

Miss Friend, 48, the daughter of musicians who took up the cello aged six, said a project that she has run with a violinist for several years called ‘Recitals for Wrigglers' – short interactive and educational concerts for pre-school children – will now be based at the church.

"I am delighted to be leading the Music Hub which seeks to promote health and wellbeing, communication, integration and inclusion through music making and listening to music," said the University of Edinburgh graduate.

"As a professional cellist and a trained community music practitioner, I have a fusion of skills that feed off each other and understand how music affects the brain and the body and how it can be used to improve people's lives.

"It is very therapeutic and I am really passionate about working with people who may not have access to music or have special needs of some kind to help them communicate better."

The Music Hub, supported by Amati Global Investors and Chamber Music Scotland, is officially opening at 1pm with live music, speeches, presentations of the resources on offer and a question and answer session.

Rev Dr John Cowie
Rev Dr John Cowie

Rev Dr John Cowie, minister of Stockbridge Church, said music played a big part in the life of the congregation and members are "delighted" to host the new community outreach project, which also has an online presence.

"I love music, it draws people together, and the Music Hub is an exciting addition to the life of the church which has the tagline ‘Friendship through Music'," he added.

"Clea brings great musical skills, local and international experience and a commitment to bringing people safely together which is important as we emerge from the isolation of lockdown.

"Stockbridge is regarded as a wealthy community but there are a lot of people who suffer from loneliness and there are families who are not well off and we want to support them."

Community outreach

Prior to the pandemic, Dr Cowie, who plays the bassoon in a community orchestra, said the building was regularly used for concerts by the likes of St Mary's Music School and Napier University's orchestra.

"Worship is drama to some extent so when people built the church they were thinking of how they could be heard so it is a good space for music," he explained

"The congregation is excited to see how the Music Hub grows and develops and if it builds bridges in the community and into the community, we will be very happy,"

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