TENS of thousands of schoolchildren have just enjoyed a full symphonic experience in person and through digital live-streaming thanks to the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.

The Key Stage 2 youngsters aged 7-11 heard a range of music including John Williams' Harry Potter and Danse Macabre by Sant Saens in one of the biggest ever projects of its kind.

"It was really magical," said Bea Hankey, BSO's Acting Head of Participate.

"It has been absolutely amazing to reach a record number of young people with this incredible, awe-inspiring symphonic sound."

The Poole-based BSO has been running its free schools' concert programme for several years.

But last month, four 'Explore the Orchestra' concerts in two days saw 423 schools participate with 5,500 pupils watching in the concert hall at Lighthouse, Poole and 26,932 tuning in online across the South West and further afield from Kent to Cumbria.

Even schools in France accessed the digital livestream.

The concerts were presented by composer and music leader, James Redwood and included the premiere of his new participatory piece Can’t Get To Sleep, which was created with schools in the BCP area in partnership with local music education agency SoundStorm.

All the schools learned the piece beforehand.

"It is really wonderful to see the youngsters in the audience air conducting, joining in, singing along and being super engaged," said Ms Hankey.

"It was great for so many pupils to be able to tune in from their classrooms too. Even if a school is just down the road from us, it can be challenging from them to attend in person for all sorts of reasons."

The BSO is recognised nationally and globally for its groundbreaking community work in hospitals and care settings including with dementia patients.

But the schools programme has also long been a vital initiative.

Ms Hankey added: "This outreach feels really important in helping young people to stretch their horizons. They can achieve anything and exposure to all sort of art forms, culture, experiences and jobs is absolutely critical.

"We all make music in some way and being encouraged to do that can be life-changing. It's also a very social thing, a powerful and memorable shared experience.

"This has become even more important after the isolation and disruption of lockdown in the pandemic and the effects on the mental health, wellbeing and development of children. The entire BSO organisation is invested in this."

One Poole school described the concert its pupils attended as "an amazing opportunity with the children in awe of the extremely talented musicians."

Free access to the concert is available until June 17.