Symphony Orchestra Spring - News & Reviews


This April our 2023 Symphony Orchestra came together for their first residential course and concert tour. Over six days, 100 talented young players stretched their musical wings at Strathallan School in Perthshire in preparation for concerts in Glasgow and Edinburgh. It was wonderful to welcome them, and we still do not take for granted how lucky we are to be back together making music.

The opening day of the course looked a little different than normal with a focus on wellbeing. As well as developing our incredible young musicians, NYOS also seek to promote good self-care practice and we were delighted to welcome Hattie and Becca from the Things Musicians Don’t Talk About Podcast to host some sessions on mental health. We were then joined by osteopath Andrew Patterson who guided orchestra members through exercises and stretching routines tailored specifically for musicians. Once mind and body were taken care of, it was time to rehearse.

From there it was full steam ahead tackling the two challenging pieces we had set the orchestra for spring – Mahler’s Symphony no. 7 and Susurrus by Finnish composer Lotta Wennäkoski, in which the orchestra would be joined by guitarist Sean Shibe. Our conductor was the fantastic Catherine Larsen-Maguire. The young players took to her style quickly, and her passion for the music and immersion with the orchestra throughout the course helped to develop a wonderful rapport with the players and tutors, founded on hard work, mutual respect and the ability to have fun.

Catherine’s enthusiasm for Mahler’s work was infectious, helping our young players to undertake such a large and demanding piece. However, it wasn’t always serious, Catherine was open to sharing her thoughts on a range of subjects during a Q&A session, hosting impromptu conducting sessions, and even joining the ceilidh band and performing second fiddle on the last night of the course!

Soloist Sean Shibe arrived on day four of the course and Susurrus began to come to life. Susurrus means “rustling” or “whispering”, and this piece challenges the players to create many of the sounds being produced by Sean on his guitar using a combination of their instruments, their sheet music and lots of classroom rulers. Our young people really took to this unique approach to orchestration and relished the chance to experiment.

After six days of intense sectionals, rehearsals and amazing musicmaking, the orchestra was ready to perform. First up, the majestic Usher Hall in Edinburgh. For some of our players this was their first visit to the venue, let alone their first time performing in the space. They all rose to the occasion to bring Mahler and Wennäkoski to life, filing the grand hall with their powerful music.

“I never thought I would have the themes of the last movement resounding in my head the next morning – it makes me want to hear the symphony all over again. I wonder, though, if I will ever come across another performance as good as this one.” Christopher Lambton, The Arts Desk

Next stop, Glasgow and the wonderful Glasgow Royal Concert Hall offering a different acoustic to perform in. It may have been their second concert in as many days, but our musicians continued to surpass expectations. Another incredible concert. Bravo! It really is testament to the skill and dedication of our young people that they performed such challenging and innovative repertoire to professional standards after just five days of rehearsals. 

“… a daring programme that coupled a challenging newish concerto with the awesome magnitude of Mahler’s Seventh Symphony. That it came off so impressively is a glowing testament to the power of youth and its capacity for recovery.” Ken Walton, The Scotsman

As the last of the rapturous applause died down, it was home for a well-deserved rest. Before we know it, everyone will be back for our summer courses and concerts where the repertoire includes Elgar’s In the South and Coleridge-Taylor’s Violin Concerto with acclaimed violinist Elena Urioste. Not to be missed.

“So many moments when you could have sworn the massed musicians on stage were hard-worn professionals.” Ken Walton, Vox Carnyx

A massive shout out to all those who make our concerts and courses a reality including Pete and our amazing crew, our ever-energetic pastoral team who look after all our young people keeping them safe, healthy, and entertained, and of course our outstanding tutors who effortlessly support and nurture our players to be the best they can be. Thank you all.

See you in July!