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RNS Moves, a unique ensemble of musicians with and without disabilities

Posted on 17 January 2020

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RNS Moves Credit Mark Savage small

Clarence Adoo was a trumpet player for Royal Northern Sinfonia before he was left paralysed from the neck down following a car accident in 1995. He now continues to play music using his electronic Headspace instrument.

We spoke with Clarence about the latest music ensemble he’s part of, RNS Moves, which rehearses and performs here at The Glasshouse International Centre for Music. RNS Moves is a unique, inclusive ensemble which brings together musicians with and without disabilities, featuring members of Royal Northern Sinfonia performing alongside colleagues including Clarence.

Royal Northern Sinfonia is a world-class orchestra and it’s a real challenge to be in an ensemble that is playing at that level for me physically. Mentally, it’s really rewarding. 

“RNS Moves came about because the orchestra wanted to work with Candoco Dance Company, a mix of able-bodied and disabled dancers, and the director here thought ‘is it possible, that musically, we could match that?’. So he chatted to me and we came together with this dance company and had an amazing, wonderful time with these fantastic dancers and a great combination of six or seven RNS players and a few of my disabled friends who we brought in to be part of that ensemble. As an ensemble we really enjoyed ourselves and the challenges we had of bringing the ensemble together. Everyone who came to hear us thought it was special. Out of that project came RNS Moves. 

“So far there are no musical limits to our repertoire and what we can achieve or arrange between us. It’s quite an eclectic group of instruments. As a group we’ve sometimes played with four string players, an oboe player, a modern Headspace (offering a kind of electronic synthesiser sound or harpsichord), a saxophone and an electric guitar. Where the interest lies is how we take music that is well-known and adapt it ourselves. We connect our modern inclusive building and instruments to the music from several years ago.

“It’s not really known around the world to have a combination of disabled musicians playing with able-bodied musicians of this standard, mainly because of the challenges. The ensemble had to think of the structure it had for rehearsing and venues etc., and some of the traditional working ways of a conventional orchestra have had to be broken down and changed; there has been incredible flexibility.

This is a real beacon of high-quality playing, unique around the world. We’ve created an inclusive group. It doesn’t matter whether someone has a disability – music makes a connection to all of us and people can create on all different levels.”