AYO Blog

AYO National Music Camp 2024: Blog 7
By Caitlin Annesley

A chamber orchestra rehearses in a room.

The afternoon scorches and the Bishop Orchestra are woodworkers trimming loose shards of music timber; they’re polishing their interpretation of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, ready for their performance on Saturday. Conductor Toby Thatcher encourages the young players to sacrifice technique for visceral power. ‘The people need to hear those horn calls from the next village!’, the conductor says to the two horn players, urging them to mimic the rough sound of a provincial hunting horn. ‘Risk the sound, it’s OK if you split a note’.

Saturday arrives. 9am. The temperature is already in the high twenties; the Brislan Chamber Orchestra have their final call before the afternoon shows. The polish of their sound suggests an orchestra who’ve worked together for much longer than six days, and the satisfied smiles of the players suggest they are aware of their accomplishment.

It’s concert time, and the subterranean practice rooms of Elder Hall are converted into green rooms. The performers crowd into narrow hallways, anticipating their turn to take the stage. It’s a chaotic atmosphere, marked by chatter and the frantic sounds of concertos. The bright stickers on cases in the hallways add a touch of eccentricity.

‘Showing up imperfectly is better than not showing up at all’

‘Viola girl: Like a normal girl, but cooler’

After the Acknowledgement of Country, the Alexander Orchestra provides a bombastic opening with their performances of John Adams’ Short Ride in a Fast Machine and Lachlan Skipworth’s Hinterland. ‘Wow,’ an audience member exclaims after the earth-shaking ending of Skipworth’s tone poem; this word personifies the rest of the music-making.

Throughout the two concerts, the Alexander and Bishop Orchestras bring plenty of symphonic razzle-dazzle. The Teen Titans (my name for the mostly under-18 Bishop Orchestra) stop just short of knocking their chairs over as they thunder through Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 and Ligeti’s Concert Romanesc. The Alexander Orchestra are exuberant in their foot-stamping rendition of Enescu’s Romanian Rhapsody, and mesmerising in Lutoslawski’s frosty Concerto for Orchestra. Though entrusted with mellower repertoire, the Brislan Chamber Orchestra show equal accomplishment and that youth can be as solemn as they are enthusiastic.

And just like that, the first week of AYO National Music Camp is over. The standard has been set, and the young musicians have one goal for the next week. Achieve the same thing, and sneak in trips to the bakery while they’re at it.