A party of London's finest musicians will stage an all-weekend concert next month to save a centre of musical excellence at a Hampstead primary school.

Fitzjohn's, whose pupils have progressed to the Royal Academy of Music and the West End, is facing the closure of its music department due to government cuts.

The school predicts that the music festival, whose patrons are Simon Rattle, conductor of the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Cleo Laine and John Dankworth, will raise about pounds 20,000 and secure the future of the music department for the next year and a half.

The move comes against a background of hard-pressed primary schools axing music departments to save money for core subjects. Last month neighbouring Fleet Primary in Hampstead was forced to sack its music teacher due to a lack of funds.

At least 50 musicians including Larry Adler, George Melly and Xue Wei, the violinist, are expected to take part. Those unable to attend, such as Sir Georg Solti, the conductor, have donated batons and signed CDs for auction. Ms Laine, on tour in June, has offered to give a free concert at the school later in the year.

'I would do anything to help children learn music in schools,' said Mr Adler. 'They don't seem to learn music anymore - or anything else for that matter.'

David Joyner, head of music at Fitzjohn's and a voice coach at the English National Opera and Guildhall School of Music, said: 'The only way they can keep me on is if the festival is a success. Most of our instruments are ancient and we don't want to charge pupils for lessons as many primaries do.'

The school has a full orchestra, swing band, chamber orchestra and choir, which in July competes in the final of the National Choral Festival. Natalie Carnegie, 11, who out of school hours plays an angel in Carousel, in the West End, said: 'I'd like to keep on playing flute and maybe another instrument when I go to secondary school,' she said.

(Photograph omitted)