Australian Youth Orchestra February Season 2016: Blog 2
By Annabelle Carter
Last Friday, nearly 100 musicians from all across Australia arrived in Brisbane to commence AYO’s February Season. There is always a buzz of excitement in the air on the first day, the stimulation of being in a new city, seeing old AYO friends, meeting our conductor for the program and, of course, the anticipation for the first rehearsal in the evening. Our repertoire for this program is Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet: Suite, Kodály’s Dances of Galánta and Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No.2.
We began the first rehearsal by running through these pieces under the baton of French conductor Alexandre Bloch. Some of us have had the privilege of playing with him before on National Music Camp, and it was exciting to welcome him back to AYO. The first rehearsal can sometimes be quite daunting in realising the work that needs to be done, but in this case we all left whistling tunes from Prokofiev and sharing our favourite parts in the pieces, enthused to be playing such great repertoire and lead by a notable conductor.
Over the following days, Alexandre ran our rehearsals efficiently and treated us as professionals, trusting us to prepare our parts and entries. Consequently, we all lifted as an ensemble and were able to develop a strong blend of sections – by the time we arrived at concert day, all our pieces were at a high standard. In addition to our tutti rehearsals, we also had tutorials with tutors from Brisbane in which we could focus on specialised areas for our instruments. These tutorials are invaluable for developing the sound and blend of each section. Alexandre also took us for sectionals, where we worked on the excessive notes and Hungarian folk melodies in the Kodály and the different soundscapes and textures in the Prokofiev. The work that is achieved in sectionals and tutorials is always very apparent when we come together in tutti rehearsals.
Halfway through the week we also had the pleasure of meeting our soloist for the Rachmaninov, Maxwell Foster. With the first intimate chords of the Rachmaninov, the whole orchestra was captivated by his heart-wrenching melodies and sparkling virtuosity. Looking around my violin section in some of the melodies, there were many smiles, as we were all entranced by Rachmaninov’s emotional genius. The sharing of these moments of musical brilliance are one of my favourite parts of playing with the AYO, surrounded by others who can’t help but bop along to Montagues and Capulets in Prokofiev or relish in the layering of first and second subject themes in the first movement of Rachmaninov. Within the orchestra there’s such a sharing of passion, and it’s the reason why we form such strong friendships in AYO. On that note, I can’t help but mention the social side of AYO that is an integral part of the fun. Put a group of young musicians together and of course you are going to get the occasional (frequent) celebration after rehearsals. Most of us could be found in the hotel sauna after rehearsals, sweating out the hard work of the day! The special thing about these friendships is that they endure after AYO, and many of us will end up working together in orchestras in the future.
We have now finished our first concert in the Gold Coast and tomorrow we have our second concert in Brisbane. I am looking forward to performing in QPAC and enjoying the brilliant repertoire, although sad that AYO will be over for another season. I always go home after AYO programs inspired to practise and look forward to the next program.