Wow! What a day. I can’t believe we packed so much into just one afternoon…!
It was great to have so many players, new and old, join us in the Armstrong Hall at 1pm. We quickly took to the stage, and by 3pm we had conquered the 1st and 4th movements of the Dvorak (sort of!). There was some fine playing from the strings, particularly the violins, as well as careful work from the oboe & cor anglais.
At 3 o’clock we welcomed Alexander Technique Teacher Lisa Clarke. Lisa gave a 1hr presentation and interactive lessons to the orchestra, explaining how Alexander’s principals can be used to improve performance, overcome performance anxiety / stage-fright, and how it can help reduce strain. The presentation began with a simple (and then not so simple!) ball game, which illustrated perfectly the way we naturally hold our breath when things get tricky or complicated – something which easily interferes with a musician’s performance. Lisa then talked to us about habits which we may not realise we have – for example, can you fold your arms the opposite way to ‘normal’? How do you move your body when you pick up your instrument? The remainder of the class focussed on the position of the head joint – it’s surprising, but not uncommon that most people do not realise wear the joint is, but once you become aware of it (and the weight of your head), you can move more easily.
There was a chance for the whole orchestra to benefit from Lisa’s expertise. By focussing on breathing, the cello section (already making a mighty sound) were able to play louder, and more freely, aware of the space around them.
There was then a chance for some quick 1-1 interactions. Flautist Antonia was shown how focussing on her head position and balance allowed her sound to project more, and she could focus more on the notes. Conductor Chris also had a lesson on how much strain can be caused by naturally making himself smaller when conducting.
After some more rehearsing, which included a practice of the Britten ready for the Music for Youth performance – which really came to life with four trumpets! – there was a chance for the players to eat tea with some entertainment in the form of Bone Appetit rehearsing on the stage!
At 7pm it was showtime. The first half of the concert was a performance by the stunning ‘Bone Appetit’. This trombone quartet comprises trombonists and bass trombonists who are in their third year at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. They performed for Gwent Music Service’s ‘Tiddly Troms’ earlier in the day, and have recently performed on BBC Radio3. They were polished, classy and a hit with the audience. Amongst the pieces they played were some Welsh hymn tunes with a twist, The Pink Panther, William Tell and… well, not wanting to spoil it for future audiences, let’s just say ‘You Raise Me Up’ has a special surprise!
After interval drinks, it was time for SCYO to take to the stage. They began with a performance of Britten’s ‘Soirees Musicales’. SCYO are privileged to the only orchestra of this level representing the South Gloucestershire area at the Music for Youth National Festival this year. The work was confident and assured (helped by our new-found additions in the trombone section!) with great clarinet, flute, oboe and violin solos in particular.
The Orchestra then showed-off their hard work earlier in the day with Dvorak’s mighty Sixth Symphony – the orchestral work which made Dvorak famous! The acoustics of the hall were excellent, and it was great to hear each section highlighted in their own way. The performance was certainly fun and lively!
What a brilliant day – it was great to be able to bring the orchestra together in this way, and we’re all looking forward to Peter and the Wolf in November with our guest narrator.
Oh yes… There’s Music for Youth next on July 12th though!