AYO Blog

AYO National Music Camp 2014: Blog 6
By Gabrielle Ruttico

Three young musicians smile at the camera, a yellow rose in each of their mouths.

‘You are amongst some of the luckiest people on earth,’ said Richard Gill in a pre-camp video pep talk. My mum was extremely impressed by this and told me once again, as wonderful mothers do, how clever I was.

I didn’t share her enthusiasm.

The day I left home for NMC I was that nervous I cried so much that it is going to take me months to replenish my salt levels. I have met other people who couldn’t eat, and I shudder to think what was going through the heads of the players here who had never played in an orchestra.

Look at us now!

After only one week those musicians who were new to orchestral playing, together with those who were old hands, put on one of the best performances I have ever seen in my life.

From the minute MC Guy Noble set foot on the stage at 4.30pm, the audience was enraptured. The Hopkins Orchestra under Geoffrey Lancaster did marvellously with Mozart’s Symphony No.29 giving a performance that would have brought the boy (OK, teenage) genius to tears.

Similarly Andrew Howes must have been proud to hear Richard Gill and the Alexander Orchestra perform the world premiere of Ichiròs, which Howes was commissioned to write for NMC. It was great to hear a piece written in the twenty-first century that, while challenging, doesn’t overpower the listener. The fact that Andrew injured himself while looting railway tracks for the performance was awesome, and indeed quite touching.

After hearing Alexandre Bloch conduct Brahms’ fourth symphony with the Bishop Orchestra, the audience clapped hard enough to bring Bloch back on stage four times to acknowledge the crowd. To our delight Bloch reached for his baton again and conducted an encore, his own arrangement of a Piazzolla tango. Some of the performers felt a little embarrassed walking around afterwards with their roses and endeavoured to ‘pass them’ to other players – cries of ‘Hold on, how did I get two?!’ were heard in the corridors.

There were a few butterflies getting in the way of the musicians’ hastily eaten dinner, but nonetheless the second concert at 8pm had just as much energy as the first. It opened with the Romeo and Juliet fantasy-overture conducted by Bloch. The best proof of the quality of the performance was seen in the row in front of me, where a middle-aged couple looked dreamily at each other and held hands. It has got to be the first time in my life I have seen 50-year-olds act like they are in love in public – well done Bishop Orchestra for sending the romantic vibes home.

Then every nuance, gesture and detail of Haydn’s ‘London’ Symphony came alive thanks to Lancaster and the Hopkins Chamber Orchestra. Despite the fact that Classical era music does not demand the level of virtuosity of later eras, the style is frustratingly hard to master. The Hopkins players made a meal of it and the audience loved it.

Finally Gill returned to the stage and Copland’s Third Symphony exploded from the Alexander Orchestra. Despite many nerves – it is an astonishingly difficult piece – the performance was flawless. I have never clapped so long for a performance in my life and my arms were very sore the next day.

Everyone involved in the concerts, whatever their role, should be extremely proud. Richard was right. We are the luckiest people in the world to be surrounded by other enthusiastic players, composers or writers and to be performing challenging repertoire to such a high level.

It seems stupid that just over a week ago I was almost wishing that I had never applied for NMC. I have met so many awesomely talented people that I know I will remain friends with for the rest of my life. The chance to meet musical celebrities such as Richard, Geoffrey or Alexandre is priceless. So, thank you AYO for all of the work that must be done to prepare for these two weeks. Thank you also to the people who I sit next to in the Château Periwinkle and in rehearsal for making this one of the most fantastic ways to spend January. Here’s to being the luckiest people in the world!

And thanks to Mum for putting up with my tantrum just before I left. Ha ha ha!

Words About Music participants have been blogging daily during AYO National Music Camp 2014.