Music For Youth Proms 2016
At 9:00 on Monday 14th November 2016 over 200 young singers and instrumentalists from around Gloucestershire were eagerly boarding their coaches to take them to the iconic Royal Albert Hall in London for their performance at the Music For Youth Proms 2016.
Music For Youth is a national music charity providing access to performance and audience opportunities for young musicians across the UK through its annual season of festivals and concerts. With over 40,000 young musicians taking part each year it is the world’s largest youth music festival. Gloucestershire Music hosts one of the 50 Regional Festivals at Cheltenham Town Hall each year and welcomes performances from schools, community groups, music services etc. through to groups run by young people who demonstrate amazing compositional and ensemble creations in their own right.
This year we were delighted to have three of our Gloucestershire Music County Music Groups get through to the National Festival. Read more about this in Steve Legge’s previous blog ‘Now that’s what I call a weekend!’ We then were delighted to hear the exciting news that GYJO had been invited to perform at the final platform at the Music For Youth Proms in London. This was a great honour to be invited to perform alongside 3,000 other performers who would get the chance to perform on one of the three days.
The amazing bonus this year was that Gloucestershire Music was successful in submitting a bid to MFY to provide the Massed Ensemble item for one of the three nights at the MFY Proms. We submitted a joint proposal for 500 young musicians to come together from our county and two local Music Hubs: South Gloucestershire Music Hub and Bath & North East Somerset Music Hub. The proposal was to commission a work from the wonderfully talented Philip Harper (Composer, Conductor and Musical Director of the Cory Band – No.1 Brass Band in the World!) to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. Through GM’s links with the National Concert Band Festival we proposed the Wind Orchestras from all three areas collaborated. The massed singing force was a combination of the county choirs from the three areas and pupils from Secondary Schools. I was so proud to see that 34 of our County’s Secondary Schools nominated pupils, which made for a wonderfully inclusive choir.
The wonderful piece entitled ‘A Shakespearean Triptych’ was ready at the start of September 2016 and all the wind orchestras set to work learning their parts. The massed choir had a two-day course during the October half term and had a fabulous time learning the atmospheric work.
On the 6th November we all travelled down to Bath Pavilion to rehearse for the first time as a massed ensemble and with Philip Harper at the helm conducting the day! It was so exciting to finally hear the piece come together with all the singers and instrumentalists. The young musicians really rose to Philip’s direction, which brought the important nuances out of the scoring to create a wonderfully theatrical performance.
When the big day came we were all very excited, as were the five coaches of supporters who joined us for the day! Anyone who has been to the Royal Albert Hall will know what an incredibly impressive and special performance venue it is, but to be seated on the stage itself or in the choir seats alongside the awesome central organ is one of life’s most memorable moments! The young musicians were in awe of the venue and were fascinated to watch the rehearsals for some of the other groups performing. Then it was time for our rehearsal and a sea of red t-shirts rose out of their seats and stormed the stage, with our fanfare musicians flanking the sides of the stage on the steps – it was a magical sight!
After a successful rehearsal the massed ensemble had some time to take in the sights of the Science Museum and have some food before we returned to the RAH to give our world premiere performance! The instrumentalists prepared for their entrance from their dressing room (even that is a fascinating part of the RAH that not many people get to see! We refrained from having too many demanding rider requests!) and when they weren’t performing they got to watch the performers up close from the Arena. The choir members had a great view from the choir seats and were having a wonderful time throughout the performance making their torches dance to the music, creating a twinkling star effect in the darkness, which was magical!
Then our time came – just before the interval – to perform. Ten minutes of pure musical joy ensued and every single young musician focused, sang and played their hearts out to wonderful effect. I’m sure there were many a teary eye from the parents and supporters from the audience at that point! Everyone was so proud of the result – the piece resonated around that famous hall with the drama intended and the atmosphere was spine tingling!
What was also incredibly inspiring for all involved was seeing such a diverse range of young musicians coming together in all the other performances that night. From orchestras to smaller instrumental ensembles; neon faced drumming groups to dancing jazz bands; heavy metal bands to choirs the standard of musicianship was at it’s highest standard and there was something for everyone.
For some of our musicians and singers in particular this was a world away from any musical experiences they had been exposed to before and for many this was a truly life changing evening. At Gloucestershire Music we aim to provide these inspiring opportunities for young people by working with our National Partnership Organisations such as MFY and we are so pleased to hear that for the next three years at least the government will continue to fund these sorts of national initiatives through the Arts Council commissioning – long may it continue to be a priority for young people to have access to the wonders of music in all it’s different genres, as it is one of the greatest pleasures of being a human being and the souls of those involved in this project have certainly been enriched because of it.
Many thanks must go to:
- The MFY team for their ongoing support and wonderful organization of such a mammoth festival
- Make Music Gloucestershire/Arts Council for part funding this experience, South Glos and B&NES for their wonderfully collaborative teams – it was a pleasure to work with you and your young musicians
- Philip Harper for your wonderful new work and for leading our massed ensemble with such flair and grace
- Steven Legge (Extended Learning and Provisions Manager at GM) for all the amazing organization of our involvement in MFY this year – awesome!
- All the GM staff and GYC Tutors who prepared the young musicians so brilliantly and looked after them so well during each event
- All the Colwell team who support everything we do so wonderfully.
- All the parents, schools and friends who supported their children to be part of such a wonderful experience – they couldn’t do it without your support and enthusiasm which is not to be underestimated – THANK YOU!
Watch this space…
There’s more!!! Come back to read our next blog about the next day when Gloucestershire Music took 21 young jazz musicians from GYJO to give their amazing debut performance at the Royal Albert Hall. As one of only a few County’s to have more than one group represented at the MFY Proms nationally it was such a treat to be able to go for a second day to celebrate the amazing talent we have in this county. All I can say is ‘WOW!’ but I’ll leave you to read all about it in the next blog.