Development Orchestra - Spring Course Recap


On 1 April 2023, we welcomed our inaugural NYOS Development Orchestra cohort to Strathallan School in rural Perthshire for five days of tutoring, ensemble musicmaking and connecting with likeminded peers. No fools here though, just the best and brightest young musicians aged 11 and 18 Scotland has to offer.

Over the course of a busy, fun and music-filled week the players rehearsed the soaring Finlandia by Sibelius, Errollyn Wallen’s powerful Mighty River, and Grieg’s masterful Piano Concerto for which we would be joined by pianist Ethan Loch. Not an easy undertaking, it was brilliant to see an atmosphere of mutual respect and collaboration amongst young people with our more experienced members encouraging and empowering the younger players.

Steering the ship, we were thrilled to welcome back conductor Natalia Luis-Bassa. Her energy and enthusiasm are infectious, and every day, no matter how tired the young players were, Natalia was able to bring the orchestra to life. She drew the best out of these young players as they played challenging repertoire, many for the first time in an ensemble of this size.

Supporting Natalia were our fantastic tutors. Our courses could not happen without their outstanding knowledge and experience, making sure each player received the right amount of support and guidance through each piece. Alongside them, our wonderful Pastoral Team who make sure our young people are looking after themselves whilst also organising a range of fun and engaging social activities during breaks from rehearsals.

Beyond rehearsing the music, Natalia also offered fantastic conducting lessons, often ending a full rehearsal early and allowing volunteers to conduct their peers, giving the musicians a new perspective of the full ensemble and insight into how all the sections come together. Natalia was encouraging and supportive while injecting a bit of fun and excitement after a day of intensive rehearsals.

From one inspirational presence to another. On the third day of the course, we welcomed our soloist, pianist Ethan Loch, to rehearsals. Blind from birth, the BBC Young Musician finalist 2022 is just nineteen years old and has a unique approach to music, sound and learning. The young players were very excited to have Ethan join them for Grieg’s Piano Concerto, and it was great to be showcasing another incredibly talented young Scottish musician.

Following the first full rehearsal of Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor, Ethan led an improvisation workshop for the entire orchestra. Improvising can be a scary concept for any classical musician, but Ethan was incredibly encouraging and generous. After a tentative start he soon had lots of volunteers from across all sections of the orchestra playing beautiful, improvised passages with Ethan accompanying them, seemingly effortlessly on the piano. It was such an engaging, thought-provoking workshop and Q&A session, which offered our young people the chance to learn about a completely different approach to music and sound.

With all the rehearsing and excitement, the time flew by and before we knew it the orchestra was off for its first concert at the wonderful Perth Concert Hall. It was a glorious evening with family and friends enjoying a brilliant night of music. Natalia really challenged our young players to play to their best of their abilities. Then, with instruments packed away, it was homeward bound wishing the time away to our next course in July when Natalia will return to conduct Innocente Carreño’s Margariteña Glosa Sinfónica and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony no. 5.

“Ethan Loch was the excellent soloist in Grieg’s Piano Concerto…showing himself to be a musician of fine melodic expression and distinctive bravura.” Perthshire Advertiser

“The [concert] ended jubilantly and powerfully with answering ‘bravos’ and enthusiastic applause from the audience”’ Perthshire Advertiser