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One of our Upper Fifth pupils, Alexander Semple (Churchill), recently attended a Winter Residency with the National Youth Orchestra. The NYO strives to inspire young people to develop a lifelong love of classical music. With teen musicians from all over the UK, they are passionate and dedicated to giving world-class performances and securing the future of orchestral music.
In December 2016 Alexander also had the privilege to be one of only 38 members of the National Youth Orchestra to be invited to play with the Royal Concertgebawu Orchestra at the Barbican with Daniele Gatti conducting. The concert received glowing reviews in the British and international press. We spoke with him about his inspiring experiences and how it has helped him further develop as a musician.
How were your days spent on the Winter Residency?
Our days were all about the music. We began at 8 am, and after breakfast and warm-ups, rehearsals commenced. For the first few days, we had sectional rehearsals which included a mixture of tutoring from Paulette Bayley, and from our section principals.
What was the highlight of the rehearsals for you?
The whole experience was incredible. However, what struck me the most about the rehearsals was the respect everyone showed for each other. To be a part of a group of 20 teenagers sitting in total concentration for an hour and a half session with our 17-year-old principal was something I had never experienced before. Everyone took complete responsibility for the music which highlighted to me how music brings people together, regardless of age or background. The focus and commitment allowed us to create something very special.
How did your tutors help you grow?
Commitment to the music was showcased exceptionally by our world-class conductor, John Wilson. Mr Wilson encouraged us to test ourselves through the programme of Rachmaninov, Dean, Marshall and Szymanowski.
How did it feel to be a member of the NYO?
Being part of the orchestra was demanding but incredibly rewarding. Sitting at the back of the 2nd violin section made it challenging to hear the rest of the section. Initially, it was difficult to maintain the courage to play out and sustain belief in my ability. However, once I overcame this, I found a new confidence in myself and became more aware of what was going on around me. I felt secure playing as part of the section rather than as an individual.
Where did you play?
We played the Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham, the Birmingham Symphony Hall and the Royal Festival Hall in London. My highlight of the tour was The Birmingham Symphony Hall Concert. It was high pressure as it was aired live on BBC Radio 3. Doing well in that situation was even more gratifying.
What does the next year hold for your involvement with the NYO?
Next up is the Spring residency. We will be playing Night of the Mayans by Revueltas, Shostakovich's Symphony no.5 and Cello Concerto no.1 with soloist Shaku Kanneh-Mason, the 2016 BBC Young Musician of the Year. Over the next two courses, we will be playing in concert venues including Leeds Town Hall, the Barbican and Snape Maltings Concert Hall.
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