Reviews 2019

Albert Hall, Nottingham - Sunday 24th November 2019 7:30pm

Natalia Luis-Bassa, conductor

Stephanie Maitland, mezzo-soprano

Nottingham young musicians shine in music of geographical and emotional extremes


You needed a large suitcase if you wanted to accompany the NYO on their travels on Sunday night from Finland to Spain and then to Mexico.  And you would have had to pack your snow gear as well as your shorts and sombrero.

The years have shown that the young players of the NYO are nothing if not adaptable, just as good at northern gloom as they are at southern sunshine.  And the First Symphony of Finnish composer Jean Sibelius certainly begins in chilly darkness. Over a quiet timpani roll, a solo clarinet broods.  In these opening seconds of the concert you could sense the audience holding their breath and wondering if the rest of the piece could possibly be as intense in atmosphere.  But it was - and that is down to the dynamic conducting of Natalia Luis-Bassa as well as the talent and commitment of the NYO.

Sibelius poses challenges: for a start his orchestral colouring is very distinctive, pushing solo skills to their limits; and then there's the fact that he scatters pieces of the musical puzzle (often of hugely varying shapes, sizes and colours) and demands that his orchestras piece them together seamlessly so that the final picture emerges as if organically, as if no other solution were possible.  This means very careful rehearsal to ensure not only that individual ideas are beautifully played but that one melts into another with no joins showing, no matter how wide the mood swings, how sharp the switch from fierce to tender.

The result of the tightly disciplined performance achieved on Sunday was that the music was allowed to breathe, with pacing that always seemed just right for the mood.  Amongst the highlights: the thrilling end to the first movement (including the cascading violins and growling basses); characterful wind solos in the song-like slow movement; the ultra-fast changes of direction in the buoyant Scherzo and its riskily fast ending; the glorious big tune in the Finale and the excitement generated by pushing dynamics to extremes.

And then it was time to don sunglasses for the concert's second half.  Music from Bizet's Carmen came first: lots of the famous orchestral numbers fizzed and sparkled and again there was some lovely solo playing, especially the flute in the Intermezzo.  The NYO was joined by mezzo Stephanie Maitland in three of Carmen's arias.  She has a wonderfully rich voice (with some stunning chest notes) capable of reaching deep inside the character, uniting her dangerous and seductive sides.

And finally the NYO flew us to Mexico with José Pablo Moncayo's Huapango , an uninhibited orchestral extravaganza, full of vibrant, toe-tapping Latin American rhythms, lots of exotic percussion instruments.and clearly huge fun to play.  At the end Natalia Luis-Bassa applauded the orchestra and they applauded her.  Clearly they were made for each other.

William Ruff
Nottingham Post



NYO Summer Concert 2019

St. Mary's Church, Nottingham - Friday 2nd August 2019 7:30pm

Youthful talent and energy in a big, bold, extrovert programme

There was nowhere to hide in the NYO's summer concert. It's just as well that the orchestra doesn't have any shrinking violets in its ranks as their chosen programme was big, bold and brazenly extrovert.

The lively acoustics of St Mary's gave a sonic boost to Sibelius's Finlandia and the NYO's brass players made its opening bars as dark and growly as I've ever heard. Youthful energy and hand-on-heart emotion were to the fore in a performance which was not only tense and stirring but which also presented the central hymn tune so movingly that the audience would happily have started waving Finnish flags, had any been available.

Then Thomas Gordon, the NYO's principal clarinet, took centre stage as soloist in Weber's 2nd Clarinet Concerto, the musical equivalent of one of those heart-stopping, potentially neck-breaking circus trapeze acts.  Thomas (still only 16) had more than enough power and technique to thrill the audience with Weber's super-virtuoso demands.  But there was more too.  The concerto isn't all flashy display: there are good tunes, a variety of instrumental colours and some dramatically striking contrasts - as well as plenty of reminders that Weber was no stranger to the opera house.  Thomas was more than a match both for the concerto's technical challenges and for the subtleties which lie under its glittering surface.

More drama in the second half.  Some spirited early Wagner in the form of his Rienzi Overture - and then film music from Shostakovich.  The Romance from his Gadfly Suite with its violin solo (beautifully played by NYO Leader Elizabeth Bratton) has become very popular but it was good to hear just how colourful and atmospheric the other movements are, such as the lively Folk Feast and the Barrel Organ Waltz.  The NYO demonstrated precision of ensemble as well as plenty of solo talent.

The conductor was Alex Robinson who manages not only to extract musical excellence from his young players but also gives the impression that doing so has been a lot of fun too.

Nottingham Youth Orchestra conducted by Alex Robinson, with Thomas Gordon (clarinet)

William Ruff
Nottingham Post



A Russian Gala

Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham - Saturday 9th March 2019 7:00pm



Tchaikovsky may have been a genius but even he couldn't see 144 years into the future.  That's a pity because, if he had known that his First Piano Concerto would be played so brilliantly by 16-year-old Jeneba Kanneh-Mason, he would have had the perfect answer to early critics who dismissed the work as 'worthless' and 'unplayable'.

Jeneba's performance was technically assured and full of poetic insight - right from the famous opening with its glorious sweeping theme accompanied by colossal chords on the piano to the fearsome tour de force of the finale. Jeneba's rapport with conductor James Lowe and her fellow musicians in the NYO was clear from the outset and particularly so in the chamberlike intimacy of the slow movement. 

Stravinsky's Firebird Suite which followed is another piece which pushes musicianship to extremes and allows plenty of opportunities for solo talent to shine.  The 'Infernal Dance' really made the audience jump when it exploded into life and the orchestral colours were so bright and vivid that sensory overload was threatened.  But it was perhaps the hushed moments that impressed the most, the NYO's subtle control of dynamics creating an atmospheric sound-world full of light and shade.

In the concert's first half Christopher Hoggarth conducted the Intermediate Orchestra in pieces by Holst, John Williams and Mussorgsky whilst David Leeder was at the helm of the Training Orchestra for Tchaikovsky.  The two orchestras then joined forces for a Rondeau by Mouret.  The sight of so much youthful talent on the RCH stage was enough to lift the heart, quite apart from the impressive sound they made. In a world where classical music is threatened with extinction in our schools, it should be a matter of pride for this city that the NYO is fighting so vigorously for its survival.

William Ruff
Nottingham Post


Reviews 2018

Albert Hall, Nottingham - Sunday 25th November 2018 7:30pm

Every year the NYO sees a range of musical mountains on the horizon and then decides to pick the highest and most challenging to climb. And they always reach the summit to plant the flag of success.

On Sunday the challenges were both spectacular and subtle.  The most obviously exciting peak to scale was the new piece specially written for them by composer Henry George Page called Elphyne , its four movements evocatively named Knocking, Light, Sneeze and Bitter-Sweet.  Just a few words plucked from the programme notes will give you the flavour: 'fairyland', 'phantasmagorical', 'fiery', 'energised', 'otherworldly'.  Scored for huge orchestra and five fearless singers (Stephanie Poropat, Kristin Frivoid, Bethany Moran, Naomi Rogers and Molly Barker) it is a startlingly original piece from beginning to end, creating all sorts of unexpected orchestral and vocal textures in a vast range of sonic colours.  And it must have been thrilling to play.

Elsewhere the repertoire was more familiar but no less demanding.  It might be tempting providence to begin with Haydn's Representation of Chaos, his remarkable evocation of nothingness, of the giant black holes of space that existed before the creation.  The NYO skilfully captured its slow-moving alternation of massive and lightweight sonorities.

Conductor Alex Robinson ensured tight ensemble here and in the overture to Weber's opera Der Freischütz which followed.  The storyline is weird and wonderful involving evil spirits and magic bullets so it's important that the overture creates the right supernatural atmosphere and whets the appetite for the ensuing excitement.  The NYO's playing had more than enough bite and rhythmic precision to do just this.

Sibelius's 5th Symphony ended the concert.  Again this isn't an easy work (and there were a few mistimed entries in the first movement) but the performance crackled with energy and packed a massive, epic, heroic punch.

William Ruff
Nottingham Post


St. Mary's Church, Nottingham - Friday 3rd August 2018 7:30pm

Vienna Post Tour Concert

The NYO have been on tour in Vienna.  But instead of sticking stamps on their musical postcards, they brought them back with them and performed them for their supporters in St Mary's on Friday.

Anyone who didn't know this young orchestra might have wondered if they were pushing their luck in taking Strauss waltzes to perform in some of Vienna's most prestigious and iconic venues.  But long-time admirers will know that there's nothing which fazes them, as shown by the elegance, style and rhythmic vitality of their approach to Johann II's Voices of Spring , Blue Danube and Thunder and Lightning Polka .  The experience of playing these at the foot of Vienna's famous ferris wheel ensured that the music spoke with an unmistakably authentic accent.  

The NYO, under dynamic conductor Alex Robinson, packed a powerful punch in their opening piece: the grandly stirring Homage March by Edvard Grieg.  But it's not all pomp and ceremony.  It includes a theme unusually performed by a cello quartet (sensitively handled by the NYO's fine players) and there's an expressive central section featuring the harp.  These strong contrasts to the overall military grandeur gave the NYO plenty of opportunities for showing their range and flexibility.  And the same was true of their approach to the five short, delightfully witty movements of Britten's Soirées Musicales , arrangements of Rossini at his most toe-tappingly entertaining.

And adding even more sparkle to the evening was solo trumpeter Libby Foxley who played the Trumpet Concerto by the just about unknown 18th century Czech composer Johann Nuruda.  Libby combined beauty of sound with a fearless and apparently effortless approach to all the technical demands which the composer throws at the soloist.  The overall effect was dazzling and as such perfectly in tune with a concert which celebrated so much youthful talent.

William Ruff NEP


Albert Hall, Nottingham - Sunday 25th March 2018 7:30pm

Spring Spectacular

Nottingham Youth Orchestra, Cantamus, Thoresby Colliery Band

Even after three hours of music, lots of flag-waving and singing of patriotic songs some members of Sunday's audience were still shouting for more.  This Spring Spectacular event (in aid of the Masonic Charity Festival) brought supporters out in force and gave them an evening of high quality music-making and youthful energy.  It was quite a ride and you needed good seat belts as this musical roller coaster hurtled from Tchaikovsky to George Michael - and everything in between.

The contribution of each participating group was generous and expert.  The NYO, under the perceptive direction of conductor Alex Robinson, started with Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet, soaring romantic strings set against full-throttle, red-blooded aggression.  Later came an eloquent performance of Elgar's Nimrod before they soared high with one of their signature tunes, 633 Squadro. Read more....

William Ruff NEP


Reviews 2017

Albert Hall, Nottingham - Sunday 26th November 2017 7:30pm

At the end of Sunday's NYO concert Venezuelan conductor Natalia Luis-Bassa brought each section of the orchestra to their feet to receive their share of the applause. Nothing unusual about that. But it's hard to think of a recent NYO concert in which all the parts have contributed so magnificently to the whole. And the volume of the audience cheers suggested that I wasn't alone in thinking this.

The conductor was right to say that much of the credit lay with all those instrumental tutors and the small army of administrators and helpers that keep the show on the road season after season. However, Sunday evening saw some wonderful conducting and Natalia (a graduate of El Sistema) brought with her plenty of the inspirational music-making for which her native country is famed.

Shostakovich's Festive Overture opened the concert in spectacular fashion. It is a brilliant, feel-good piece which showed off not only the virtuosity of the young performers but also their fearlessness. It was risky to take the piece quite that fast, but it all paid off. The exhilarating (but daunting) woodwind runs were executed cleanly and with supreme confidence. The brass was resplendent.

This theme of brilliant virtuosity was continued by soloist Daniel Walton in Hummel's Trumpet Concerto in which the combination of sparkling bravura and stylish elegance was irresistible. Rhythms were bright and bouncy, the notes crisply articulated and the whole concerto dispatched with high-spirited exuberance.

Dvorak's 8 Symphony saw some lovely playing too. The opening's dark-hued, soulful melody was sensitively handled; the slow movement had great emotional range; the scherzo had a dance-like lightness of touch; the finale's tempo contrasts were finely judged and infused with high drama.

And there couldn't have been a more toe-tapping, more joyful, more encore-inspiring way to end than Marquez's Conga del Fuego Nuevo.

by William Ruff
Nottingham Post


St. Mary's Church, Nottingham - Saturday 29th July 2017 7:30pm

There was plenty of musical magic in the air at the NYO's post-tour concert on Saturday. And that was even before conductor Alex Robinson flourished his fairy wand (complete with pink star and tinsel) to cast a spell on the final toe-tapping ballet music.

It takes a confident concert planner to start with Rossini's Barber of Seville overture. It may be one of the most hummable pieces in the repertoire, but it demands total precision, if it is to work. Alex Robinson chose perfect speeds to allow the music to breathe and the wit to sparkle. The players showed throughout that they could listen as well as play, with lovely woodwind solos and some especially nimble work from the strings.

As well as a thoughtful, lyrical performance of Schubert's Unfinished Symphony (featuring some of the best cello 'singing' I have heard from the NYO), an excitingly dramatic Magic Flute overture and some dazzlingly colourful ballet music (Massenet's El Cid ), there were plenty of opportunities for individual talent to shine.

The soloist in Marcello's Oboe Concerto was Daniel Fawcett, definitely a name to watch out for in the future, as his playing was exceptional by any standards, never mind that he is still only 16. Agility, astonishing breath control, an ability to mould long, fluid lines: just a few of the qualities he brought to his performance.

The spotlight fell on the NYO's brass players in three dances from Susato's Danserye - and very resplendent they sounded too,. Then there was an elegant, skilfully written Allegretto for strings written by NYO cellist Rebecca Stone which imaginatively explored the sonorities of the ensemble.

We heard that the NYO's energetic and joyful performances earned standing ovations from their Loire Valley audiences earlier this month. Saturday's concert made it easy to see why.

by William Ruff
Nottingham Post


Albert Hall Nottingham - Sunday 19th March 2017 7:30pm

Every NYO concert is a significant event, of course, but it's hard to think of one which was so eagerly anticipated (and which sold out so quickly) as Sunday's performance with BBC Young Musician  Sheku Kanneh-Mason  of Haydn's  C major Cello Concerto .

It takes remarkable composure for a 17-year-old to deal with such high audience expectations, but Sheku seems to love communicating with his public as much as any aspect of his incredible music-making.

Watching him is almost as enthralling as listening: his oneness with the cello and his intense observation of conductor and fellow musicians. And then there is his sound: so personal to him, making Haydn's notes seem as light as air, shaping phrases so imaginatively, capturing the composer's elegance, wit, transparent textures, sense of fun.

The NYO proved to be expert accompanists, helping to ensure that the concerto really fizzed with excitement and high spirits. They brought this same quality to their performance of Borodin's  2nd Symphony , surely one of the most seductively tuneful works in the Russian repertoire. There were plenty of opportunities for each sections of the orchestra to show what it was made of: spine-tinglingly dark string tone at the outset, fruity brass and lots of fine wind solos. Overall there was an exhilarating sense of unbridled enjoyment as well as a red-blooded approach to Russian emotion at its most intensely lyrical.

This same youthful, exuberant energy made a similar impact in Walton's jazzy, syncopated  Johannesburg Overture . And it surged from the stage in Sibelius'  Karelia Suite , the work which opened the concert. Here, as throughout the evening, conductor Chris George moulded fine performances, never allowing the music to over-inflate, capturing the celebratory mood of the outer movements and creating some heart-stoppingly beautiful pianissimos in the central  Ballade .

by William Ruff
Nottingham Post


Reviews 2016

Albert Hall Nottingham - Sunday 27th November 2016 7:30pm

If Nottingham awarded a prize for the most exotic concert of the year, then it would surely have to go to the NYO's Latin American programme on Sunday.

It also created a dilemma for the audience: how to sit still whilst the music screamed: Get out your Strictly sequins and tango the night away.

Much of the music must have been getting its first East Midlands outing. When faced with the Overture to the opera Il Guarany by the Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Gomes, one needed the NYO's informative programme notes.

It was certainly a red-blooded way to start: a medley of tunes from an 1870 opera full of love, silver mines, cannibals and explosions. The NYO had been well drilled by Alejandro Jassán, its highly energetic Argentinian guest conductor, vividly capturing its drama and heady mixture of the stormy and the romantic.

Much of the evening featured symphonic dances whose wildly complex rhythms must have been exhilaratingly tricky for the NYO's young players to perform, taking them out of their comfort zone and pumping up adrenaline levels. Ginastera's Dances from Estancia were made to sound irresistibly exciting, hypnotic, pulsating - almost dangerous.

The music also called for challenging solo performances. They were joined by professional bandonéon soloist Juan Guerra in a tango and a milonga by Argentinian composer Anibal Troilo, both sounding sensual and combining the romantic and the melancholic. But the rest of the solos were performed with style and panache by NYO members......

Read more at:

William Ruff
Nottingham Post

Royal Concert Hall Nottingham - Saturday 27th February 2016 7:00pm

The NYO celebrated their 30th Anniversary on Saturday night.  There were some speeches, of course; but Chairman Christopher Goodall and conductor James Lowe were both eloquent and concise, preferring to let the music-making speak for itself.

Before the NYO proper took to the stage, the Training and Intermediate orchestras were given their chance to shine on the RCH stage.  Separately their conductors David Leeder and Christopher Hoggarth moulded vigorous performances of music from Mozart's Magic Flute and Badelt's Pirates of the Caribbean .  When they joined forces in Larry Clark's Engines of Resistance it wasn't just their sound which impressed - but the combined musical energy and concentration of 150 youngsters created a breath-taking spectacle.

The senior orchestra's programme took three pieces associated with the big screen.  Isata Kanneh-Mason was the brilliant soloist in Rachmaninov's 2nd Piano Concerto (of Brief Encounter fame).  More than a match for the concerto's fierce technical demands, hers was a performance which married poetry to fire, tender lyricism to sweeping passion.  And the orchestra were such sensitive partners, responding perceptively to the soloist's often sudden changes of mood.

The solo spotlight then shone on Edward Turner as soloist in the climax of Saint-Saens' Organ Symphony (remember the piglet film Babe ?), producing not only much sonic grandeur but also a few worries lest cracks should appear in the RCH's masonry.  

The final work in this celebratory programme was an inspired choice: scenes from the Kenneth Branagh film of Henry V with Patrick Doyle's music and with a cast of actors including Sarah White (Chorus) and Louis Greatorex as Henry.  The combination of such stirringly patriotic words and music delivered with so much youthful energy and commitment was truly inspirational - and summed up what the last 30 years of NYO history has meant to this city.

William Ruff
Nottingham Post

Reviews 2015


Albert Hall Nottingham - Sunday 29th November 2015 7:30pm

The first half of Sunday's NYO concert came as a complete revelation: unfamiliar (but vividly colourful) music from 20th century Portugal - followed by breathtaking playing from one of the most exciting young pianists ever to have played with the orchestra.

The name of Luis de Freitas Branco may not exactly trip off my tongue in future, but the NYO's performance will certainly make me want to explore his music further.  His Suite Alentejana No 1, inspired by a region to the south of Lisbon, shimmered with local atmosphere infused with shepherd songs and lullabies.  Branco's musical palette is extensive and delicate, making it tricky to play. However, the NYO rose splendidly to the challenge - especially their principal horn and cor anglais player.  The concluding Fandango was loud, lively and wildly joyful.

Then came one of the most astonishing performances in the NYO's 30-year history.  The 18-year-old pianist Yaunfan Yang joined them as last-minute stand-in soloist in Grieg's Piano Concerto.  Right from the opening dramatic flourish it was obvious that he was completely in control of the music, able not only to meet its fiendishly difficult virtuoso demands but also able to breathe new life into its familiar phrases.  The first movement cadenza had startling power - but it was its silences which really caught the breath and suggested that Yuanfan is a master musician in the making.

As if this wasn't enough, he played Liszt's La Campanella as a rapturously received encore.

After all this the second half could have been an anti-climax.  But no fear of that.  Conductor Jan Wierzba coaxed tight ensemble and some beautiful solo playing from the NYO in a stirring performance of Sibelius' Finlandia, as well as much characterful tone painting in Bartok's Hungarian Sketches and Grieg's Peer Gynt.

William Ruff
Nottingham Post


St Mary's Church Nottingham - Saturday 1st August 2015 - NYO Post Tour Concert

Saturday night in central Nottingham was a time of torrential rain and high emotion.  In fact, it almost ended in tears as five retiring NYO players said their farewells to the orchestra, attempting to sum up what being part of such a supportive and creative musical family had meant to them.

The preceding music was a good demonstration of the passion and commitment which has characterised this orchestra for nearly thirty years.  Saturday's post-Amsterdam-tour programme was a mixture of three complete works and three extracts from symphonies, possibly chosen to whet the appetite for the whole thing in future concerts.

The rainy gloom outside was soon dispelled by a vividly colourful performance of Balakirev's Overture on Three Russian Themes , full both of atmosphere and opportunities for all sections of the orchestra to shine.

Then came Schubert's Unfinished Symphony , a piece which demands intense concentration if all its subtleties are to be revealed.  From the opening bars of its mysterious, brooding introduction it was clear that this was going to be a revelatory performance.  Conductor Mike Palin conveyed a strong sense of the music's emotional ebb and flow, crafting a beautifully lyrical slow movement and ensuring that his players were always attentive to phrasing and dynamics.

In the concert's second half Christopher Hoggarth was a similarly perceptive conductor of Czech, French and Finnish music.  The Scherzo from Dvorak's 8th Symphony is really a sort of Slavonic waltz which charmed and danced its way around St Mary's.  

Fauré's Pavane - with languid, swaying rhythms and seductive harmonies - was followed by the finale from Sibelius' 2nd Symphony , full of sweeping melodies and a brilliant showcase for the orchestra's many talents (not least its resplendent brass).

The encore?  A full-blooded, no-holds-barred performance of music from Pirates of the Caribbean.

William Ruff
Nottingham Post


Albert Hall Nottingham - Sunday 29th March 2015 - NYO spring concert

Chabrier's Joyeuse Marche could have been written for the NYO, although its members would have to be 150 years old for this actually to be the case.  It's only very brief but it packs a powerful punch and it's music that seems to smile all over its face.  The young players, under their energetic conductor Chris George, captured all its bounce and rhythmic quirkiness to perfection, launching their programme in robust and effervescent style.

Dvorak's symphonic poem The Water Goblin needs a very different approach, since it is a detailed musical narrative, steeped in the folklore of its composer's native Bohemia and telling the story of a malicious sprite who wreaks a horrible revenge on the human he has married when she escapes his clutches. The NYO rose to the work's virtuoso demands, immersing the audience in its macabre world whilst making it a thrilling, exhilarating experience.

After the interval came an even more challenging orchestral masterpiece: Elgar's Enigma Variations .  It may be one of its composer's best-loved works but it is fiendishly difficult to play.  The spotlight falls on most of the instruments, so there is nowhere to hide, especially in the slower, more delicate sections.  The NYO sailed a bit close to the wind in some of the character portraits (the spiky opening of the second variation caused some problems for the strings) but overall the effect was stirringly impressive.  The personalities of Elgar's friends 'pictured within' emerged vividly and the whole performance shone with rhythmic verve and detailed phrasing.

Many of the orchestra's principals had to play demanding solos (including the fearless timpanist) and all rose magnificently to the challenge.  The only slight disappointment was that the Albert Hall's mighty Binns organ remained silent during the final portrait of Elgar himself.  Nevertheless the concert ended as impressively as it began.


William Ruff
Nottingham Post


Reviews 2014


Albert Hall Nottingham - Sunday 30th November 2014

There was a lot of enthusiastic applause generated by Sunday's NYO concert - and it wasn't just from an appreciative audience aimed at the young musicians. Equally heartfelt was the applause from the orchestra for those who had inspired them: soloist Ben Dawson and conductor Alpesh Chauhan.

The opening suite from Bizet's Carmen was a taste of things to come. Not only did the six short movements have plenty of the NYO's trademark energy, but the playing was full of the opera's bright colours and tragic intensity. The orchestra was good at projecting the swagger of the Toreador's Song, and there were sharply etched contrasts too - such as the slinky Seguedille and th poignant flute melody (beautifully played by Megan Dawes) which made the Intermezzo so memorable.

Falla's Nights in the Gardens of Spain is a relative rarity in the concert hall. Soloist Ben Dawson was an eloquent advocate for its lush, shimmering charms. Its three movements make it not so much of a concerto as a series of vivid musical impressions, the effect of each depending on the precision with which soloist and orchestra recreate the composer's highly individual sound world. The rapport between Ben Dawson and the NYO was apparent throughout the performance, and it was clear that rehearsals had created an unusually fruitful and coherent vision of the piece.

After the interval came Cesar Frank's D Minor Symphony, conductor Alpesh Chauhan always highly responsive to detail, encouraging his young players to create light and shade through a careful control of dynamics. This is a symphony which begins sternly and ends joyously. The triumphant, exhilerating conclusion was a fitting way to end yet another demonstration of the NYO's musical talent.

William Ruff
Nottingham Post


St. Mary's Church - Saturday 2nd August 2014 - NYO Post Jersey Tour Concert

You would never have guessed that the young members of the Nottingham Youth Orchestra had arrived home from their tour to Jersey at 5.00am the previous morning. Because there was certainly nothing bleary-eyed about their post tour concert in St Mary's. Far from it. On Saturday night, their playing was as energetic as their programme was ambitious.

No one could have complained about lack of variety - with over four centuries of music covered. Nor could the audience have said that the pieces lacked drama, as extracts from two ballets and an an opera were on offer as well as strongly pictorial music by Saint-Saens and Borodin.

Despite this, perhaps the highlight of the concert was the delightful performance of Vivaldi's A minor Concerto for Two Violins. Joy Hodkinson and Becky Adams were the fleet-footed, sweet-toned, highly responsive soloists. The slow movement in particular was beautifully played and seemed perfectly matched to the church's ample acoustics.

The 3rd movement of Mahler's 1st Symphony was full of quirky idiosyncrasies - and featured a famously unusual double bass solo (played with plenty of character by Matt Sutton).

The stage music was performed with vivid tonal colour. In the first half conductor Christopher Hoggarth directed a series of evocative dances from Massenet's El Cid, whilst in the second Mike Palin drew plenty of excitement from Khachaturian's Gayane suite, concluding with its fast and furious Sabre Dance.

As if this was not already enough virtuosity and brilliance for one evening, the orchestra's brass ensemble dazzled with pieces by Howarth, Praetorius, Gastoldi and Jeremiah Clarke.

William Ruff
Nottingham Post


Royal Concert Hall - Saturday 1st March 2014 - 'Heroes and Villains' Concert

If you were in Saturday night's audience at the NYO's Heroes and Villains concert, you would have saved a fortune in travelling expenses.  If your ambition had been to hear Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker play the cello, then there was no need to travel to a galaxy far, far away.  And no need to jet off to Metropolis or Gotham City - because Superman and Batman were also playing in the Concert Hall.  

The fact that the orchestra had taken the trouble to dress up and that the music was always accompanied by so many entertaining projected images (of invading Martians, Bond villains etc) were signs that this was a high octane concert in which no one was holding back on energy and commitment.

The young members of the NYO and their Jazz Orchestra colleagues were on top, stylish form throughout, their conductors James Lowe and Phil Smith inspiring them to produce highly professional performances.  Their range was impressive too: everything from film scores to chunks of symphonies by way of ballet, opera and musicals.  All were given the NYO's fresh and dynamic treatment.

The musicians were joined by two guest singers, both of exceptional promise: Marcus Farnsworth in numbers by Tchaikovsky and Mozart, and Lucy Kay Allen in the roles of Tosca and the Queen of the Night.  

Adding his own sense of style and mixing all the ingredients together was presenter Des Coleman, as loose a cannon as ever graced the deck of a pirate ship - but always guaranteed to entertain as well as wowing the crowd with his singing.

William Ruff
Nottingham Post


Reviews 2013

Albert Hall Nottingham - Friday 22nd November - Benjamin Britten Centenary Concert

Friday was a big day in the calendar of classical musicians across the country: the centenary of the birth of composer Benjamin Britten.

Every day last week in Nottingham there was a Britten event: operas at the Theatre Royal and concerts at the Royal Concert Hall and elsewhere, but it was particularly heart-warming to see so many young people celebrating what would have been his 100th birthday.

The NYO joined forces with Music for Everyone and local school choirs to present a varied selection of Britten's music which centred on a collection of 12 songs called Friday Afternoons, written for the school where his brother Robert was Headmaster and so called because that is when the children had their singing lessons. Most of the songs are very short but the collection is wonderfully varied and it was clear that the 7 choirs assembled for this performance not only knew the words and music very well (some by heart) but also obviously relished the chance to sing it.

There were also purely orchestral pieces on the programme: the theme from The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra Purcell's Chacony, the Courtly Dances from Gloriana and 3 movements from Matinées Musicales. This was music of widely different styles displaying the young players' versatility as well as their sensitivity to tonal colour.

Under the direction of conductors Mike Palin and Alex Patterson the NYO rose to the occasion and ensured that this was a worthy tribute to one of England's greatest composers

William Ruff
Nottingham Post


Albert Hall Nottingham - Friday 22nd November - Benjamin Britten Centenary Concert

On Friday the 22nd of November young people from all around the UK celebrated the 100th Birthday of Benjamin Britten by performing songs from the collection 'Friday afternoons'.

NYO collaborated with Music for Everyone and a number of schools at Nottingham's historic Albert Hall to create an evening not to be forgotten! The children in the choirs where buzzing with excitement and the conductors Alex Patterson and Mike Palin bought enthusiasm to each piece of music.

To start off the night the orchestra performed Fanfare for St. Edmundsbury which Britten wrote in 1959. This piece was made up of 3 trumpets each individually playing it's fanfare then all coming together to make a strong, extravagant sound. It was an uplifting start to the evening!

My favourite pieces were Cuckoo, Old Abram Brown and the theme from 'The Young Persons Guide to the Orchestra'. Although not part of the Friday afternoons collection the theme from 'The Young Persons Guide to the Orchestra' was a brilliant addition to the night. Firstly the whole orchestra played the theme together then all the different groups of instruments followed. I liked this piece of music because it lets all the main instrument groups shine individually before bringing them all together making a loud and powerful sound. Cuckoo was sung by the choirs, and it started off quietly then ended in a round. It sounded beautiful and you could tell the children loved singing it. Abram Brown was completely different to Cuckoo, Low pitched and serious. This moving song was a perfect end to the night.

Overall a great night with inspiring songs and classical orchestral pieces that were loved by all generations.

Click here to listen to very cute rendition of "Cuckoo" ........

Charlotte Epton age 12. Audience member.


St Mary's Church Nottingham - August 2nd - Post Vienna Tour Concert

An era in Nottingham's musical life ended on Friday night with an NYO concert which not only marked their return from a Viennese tour but also celebrated the retirement of their co-founder and Musical Director, Derek Williams.

For 28 years Derek has been at the helm, leading generations of talented youngsters through the full range of the classical repertoire with nothing being dismissed as too difficult or challenging. Whether they have been tackling a Beethoven symphony, John Williams' film music or John Dankworth concerto, the result has always been full of musical insight coupled with youthful energy and enthusiasm.

On Friday the players showed their appreciation not only with their presentation of gifts but also through their typically committed music-making. With Derek (untypically) in the audience, conductors Mike Palin and Christopher Hoggarth took charge, ensuring that the orchestra excelled in a programme largely consisting of finely detailed, often witty, musical miniatures (Coates' London Suite , Walton's Façade , Britten's Soirées Musicales ) together with Strauss waltzes, Suppé's Poet and Peasant overture and Mahler's Blumine . A special highlight was the finale from Hübler's Concerto for 4 horns , the virtuosic soloists being Matt Milner, Robin Jootun, Aiden Chan and Timothy Lee.

As a highly appropriate encore Derek Williams was prevailed upon to conduct (with his presentation baton) the Radetsky March .

Both as a collection of talented individuals and as a highly responsive ensemble, the NYO demonstrated that they are in fine fettle as they start a new chapter in their impressive history.

William Ruff - Nottingham Post


Royal Concert Hall Nottingham - 2nd March - Best of British Prom Concert

It is an enormous tribute to the talents and commitment of the Nottingham Youth Orchestra's young musicians that Julian Lloyd Webber, one of the world's great cellists, chose to play Elgar's Cello Concerto with them on Saturday night.

As conductor Derek Williams commented during the interval: what an artist chooses to do in performance may be very different from what is rehearsed, so the orchestra had to respond to body language and listen to every nuance. Perhaps this explained the compelling intensity of their playing.

The combination of the concerto's tragic nobility, the youthful energy of the orchestra and the long experience of a master soloist were irresistible - from the tense first movement through the skittering scherzo, the soul-searching adagio and the stoical determination of the finale.

Other pieces on the "Best of British" programme included Holst's vivid music from his ballet The Perfect Fool and patriotic works such as Walton's Crown Imperial and Vaughan Williams' Greensleeves. Joining orchestra and audience in Rule Britannia, Jerusalem and Land Of Hope And Glory was young mezzo Katie Stevenson - whose voice has such expressive richness that it can't be long before her name is on every music-lover's lips.

William Ruff - Nottingham Post


Reviews 2012

Albert Hall Nottingham November 25th 2012

Although November is a little early to be having what the NYO advertised as a 'Winter Concert', their choice of colourful repertoire did much to banish thoughts of gloomy November with its floods and gales.

Bizet's L'Arlesienne suite is sunny, melodious and exquisitely orchestrated - qualities exploited to the full by the NYO, conducted by Derek Williams. There was some impressive playing from the principal flute in the Menuet and the brass section made its mark when set against the exultant strings of the Carillon.

Shin Suzuma was the solo pianist in Dohnanyi's witty Variations on a Nursery Song, which pokes fun at a range of composers through the most innocent of themes: 'Twinkle twinkle, little star'. The work's mischievously ominous opening was played with imposing, straight-faced weight by the NYO with soloist later exploiting his virtuosity to the full, bringing plenty of charismatic sparkle to the role.

Other works included Tchaikovsky's vividly dramatic Marche Slave, the NYO capturing its mood swings from darkly mysterious to brightly martial, as well as pieces from Berlioz's Damnation of Faust, the Judex from Gounod's Mors et Vita and Arnell's Variations on The Grenadiers played by the ripely ebullient brass section.

William Ruff - Nottingham Post


St. Barnabas' Cathedral Nottingham July 27th 2012

The NYO's musical talent shone brightly on Friday night in their post-tour concert.  Which is more than can be said for their venue.  At just about the same that the Olympic arena was flooded by the greatest light show on earth the lights in St Barnabas' Cathedral failed.  Right in the middle of the opening movement of Tchaikovsky's 2nd Symphony .  But the young players of the NYO rose heroically to the challenge and carried on regardless to the end of the movement - even entertaining the audience with the Great Escape march until normal service could be resumed.

That apart, conductor Derek Williams ensured that their playing of the Tchaikovsky was stirring stuff, really Russian passion co-existing with the technical demands that the composer makes of all sections of the orchestra.

As befits a concert given in the aftermath of a foreign tour, the programme was as cosmopolitan as one could wish for.  Their performance of Humperdinck's overture to Hansel and Gretel was a sprightly and vivid tone painting of the opera's narrative of childhood hopes and fears.  And the inclusion of Malcolm Arnold's set of Cornish Dances allowed them to create moods of boisterous good humour alongside the images of a ravaged and desolate landscape scarred by abandoned mine-workings.

The evening's central work, and luckily one that escaped without mishap, was an arrangement for harp and orchestra of Rodrigo's famous Concierto de Aranjuez , played with warm insight and dazzling virtuosity by Roisin Hickey and accompanied with sensitivity and poise by the NYO.

William Ruff - NEP


Albert Hall 28th April 2012

WHEN James Lowe came on to the platform to conduct the Nottingham Youth Orchestra's Night at the Opera, his first task was to inform the audience of a last-minute change of plan.

Tonsillitis had struck the scheduled tenor, so stand-in Paul Hopwood had to come to the rescue, hot-footing it up the M1.

Perhaps it was the added adrenaline generated by a potential crisis that gave the concert its edge but much of the music-making had a vibrancy even beyond what is normal for the youthful talent that is packed into the NYO.

The programme's first item, selections from Bizet's Carmen, contained the essence of the whole evening.

The Prelude fizzed with energy, suggesting all the Spanish colour of the opera as well as its exuberance and tragic outcome.

The wide tonal palette demanded key solos from the orchestra's principals, all having to paint in vivid and intricate colours.

James Lowe's painstaking preparation was evident everywhere in the attention to phasing and ensemble.

He was clearly pleased with the orchestra's response, bringing soloists and sections to their feet to acknowledge the enthusiastic applause.

Paul Hopwood and Charlotte Ellett were impressive soloists, both individually and when joined in duet. Their performance of the Act 1 Finale from Puccini's La Boheme was not only beautifully sung but touchingly acted as well.

Elsewhere they were in fine voice in numbers from The Merry Widow, Tosca and Die Fledermaus, always with the orchestra providing sensitive, well-balanced support.

William Ruff - Nottingham Evening Post


Royal Concert Hall 3rd March 2012

Trying to write about the NYO's "Journey Through Olympic Cities" concert in just one review is like trying to cram London 2012 into a school playground.  There was so much going on that the air seemed to crackle with high voltage energy bursting from a vast array of musicians and athletes assembled on the Concert Hall's stage.

The orchestra's journey started with the exhilarating Skyline composed by 16 year old NYO member Coleman Chan before taking off to Greece and eventually landing in London, stopping off at more Olympic venues than most of the audience could remember.  Paris was represented by Chariots of Fire ; Helsinki by Finlandia ; Moscow by the Dr Zhivago theme - all played with gusto by the NYO under the baton of Derek Williams.  Opera got a look-in too.  Tenor Nicholas Sharratt sang Nessun Dorma (Rome); Laura Parfitt sang Un Bel Di from Madame Butterfly (Tokyo); and together they sang Barcelona .  From the world of musicals came Cabaret (Berlin) sung by Jayne Russell.  And there was plenty of jazz too - both on stage and in the foyer - played by the NYO's Jazz Orchestra and their conductor Phil Smith.

Holding all this together was a Greek Chorus of young children, chorally reciting introductions and being delightful guides to the programme.  And there was the multi-talented compere Des Coleman, ten times larger than life, singer, dancer and interviewer of local athletes John Whetton, Simon Wilson and Becky Downie. 

William Ruff - Nottingham Evening Post

Listen to the BBC Radio 3 Interview - Sat 3rd March....

See the photo's......


Reviews 2011

Albert Hall Nottingham 27th November 2011

Most orchestras see an occasional turnover in members, but for a youth orchestra the process is unavoidable. As always, the independently run Nottingham Youth Orchestra fielded a number of new players in its first concert of the season, musicians stepping up from the intermediate and training ensembles that prepare them so well.

The evening opened with Brahms's humorous response to the award of a honorary doctorate: an overture pitching student songs into a symphonic edifice of impeccable build.Dvorak's Third Symphony, too, projects lyrical impulses through classical craft. Both scores were scrupulously realised under the direction of young Spanish maestro Jon Malaxetxebarria, making his second appearance with the NYO.

The next piece saw him on home ground - up to a point. In a modern reworking  of The Night-time Withdrawal From Madrid, Italy's Luciano Berio wove enchanting orchestral textures out of different versions of Boccherini's transfigured tattoo.

The stormiest emotions were saved for Tchaikovsky's fantasy overture Romeo and Juliet. Dramatic climaxes packed a punch, and it was as though players and guest conductor had all been together for years.

Before the concert and during the interval, listeners were serenaded by members of Nottingham Youth Jazz Orchestra, who will figure in the NYO's Olympic bash at the Royal Concert Hall in March.

Peter Palmer - Nottingham Evening Post


St. Mary's Church 30th July 2011

To bring off Rimsky-Korsakov's exotic Scheherazade suite, an orchestra needs special talents in every section. Prior to St Mary's, the NYO gave three concerts (two with expatriate violinist Daniel Bell playing Glazunov) at different locations in Berlin - and even the sternest of German judges must have been impressed.

Inspired by the Tales of the Arabian Nights, Rimsky painted an animated fresco of melody, rhythm and instrumental shadings. Images of Sindbad's ship, a prince among dervishes and a festival in Baghdad are evoked by various groups of players.

Leader Amanda Bruce linked the scenes with her captivating violin. The graceful interlude for a young royal couple produced real enchantment. In the final build-up to a reprise of the sultan's theme, the way that the ensemble sustained the momentum was thrilling to hear.

In the opening performance of Smetana's Vltava, Bohemian dances were deftly inserted into the changing flow of the river depicted. Under conductor Derek Williams's scrupulous guidance, movements from Grieg's Peer Gynt music were executed with poetry, pathos and gusto.  
And Rachel Tooley and Christopher Hart played beautifully matched trumpets in a baroque concerto by Francesco Manfredini. Noble music-making all round.

Peter Palmer - Nottingham Evening Post


Reviews 2010

Albert Hall 5th December - A Winter Concert

The Nottingham Youth Orchestra under conductor Derek Williams came up with the perfect antidote to the wintry weather: a programme of highly attractive music, and playing which radiated warmth and energy.

Wagner's Mastersingers Overture set the tone for the evening with its feel-good factor and its exuberant broad sweeps of melody. This is Wagner with a smile on his face, and the young musicians brought out the extrovert good humour of the piece.

Malcolm Arnold's English Dances requires some quick-fire mood-swings, from the delicate and pastoral to full-blooded energy; the Orchestra responded impressively, evidently enjoying the challenge.

Glazunov's Violin Concerto was a gem of a piece, full of lightness and warmth.Young soloist Sophie Rosa played with great poise and gave a beautifully eloquent account of her demanding part. The Orchestra provided a tapestry of colour.

Josef Suk's A Fairy Tale will have been a welcome discovery for many in the audience. The Youth Orchestra clearly loved it, and the world of princes, princesses, evil spells and true love finally triumphant came vividly to life. Suk's music is captivatingly rich and immediate, and the playing had a fluent confidence which made it hard to believe how young these musicians are.

Grahame Whitehead - Nottingham Evening Post

Albert Hall 5th December - A Winter Concert

On a very snowy Sunday in December, at The Albert Hall, Nottingham , after months of rehearsals, the Nottingham Youth Orchestra opened its Winter Concert 2010 with the prelude to The Mastersingers . All of the orchestra's players went into full flow, weaving in and out of each other with utter radiance as Wagner's "great and joyful work" was played at its best. As NYO approached the middle of the piece the orchestra reached a majestic section, quieter, to add shape to the coming rousing end (finishing at the same volume and clarity as it started!). This dramatic yet stirring opening was carefully chosen to suit his orchestra according to Derek Williams, the NYO conductor, and it was a perfect introduction to the evening.

Next, changing the atmosphere entirely was English Dances by Malcolm Arnold. The first movement, Andantino, suggested a small stream flowing by, perhaps a soft breeze, and so as you can probably guess, this first movement started off softly. It began with delicate chords played by French horns and harp. After a few bars the melody was brought in by the pure sounding oboe. This was a romantic and idyllic piece.

The second section was more of a lively number, with tuned percussion playing the main tune. This brought more of a festival mood and also some joyful moments to English Dances.

The third movement consists of a beautiful and graceful bassoon solo, and creates a solemn atmosphere. Then the strings and the rest of the woodwind take over, as if telling a sad story between them.

In the final movement, Allegro risoluto , the brass played out and brought the piece of music to a brilliant end.

This year the Nottingham Youth Orchestra were privileged enough to have award winning soloist Sophie Rosa, join them. She played for us a spell-binding piece which was delivered in a very expressive manner. She was very well prepared for this extremely challenging piece, with a professionalism that you would have thought beyond her 22 years.

Finally, one of Josef Suk's earliest compositions, A Fairy Tale, enchanted us all. In true fairy tale form, the story told us of two lovers-a Prince Raduz and a Princess Mahulena-were confronted by a Queen with evil plans. Fortunately (not meaning to spoil the story) a happy ending is achieved. The violin soloist plays the part of Mahulena, whilst the brass plays the Queen when she is carrying out her evil deeds. The King's part is told in the Funeral March and the woodcutter's song is sung in the second movement: Vivance.

A Fairy Tale begins with a beautiful violin solo, played by Amanda Bruce, which represents Mahulena. It then moves on to the second movement: Folk dance that, as the name suggests, could be easily danced to, with quite an upbeat rhythm. Soon after, we move onto a sad and solemn section: Funeral Music. The final movement is the happy ending where the lovers are reunited. This song also included a stand-out clarinet solo. A great feature of this piece was that at the end it repeated the violin solo played at the beginning although coming towards the end of the movement the volume was raised with a striking finish.

With a very well chosen and rehearsed programme, talented soloists, a passionate conductor, the winter Concert did not disappoint me, even though I now have very high expectations of the Nottingham Youth Orchestra!

Anya Aujla Jones - Freelance Reporter - Minster School Southwell


St. Mary's Church 30th July - Post Normandy Tour Concert

Former NYO member James Lowe, now featuring in a Channel 4 documentary, has spoken of discovering the music behind the notes. And that was something this year's orchestra repeatedly achieved under Derek Williams at their concert in the Lace Market.

They opened with the spooky frolics of Mussorgsky's Night on a Bare Mountain - a test of the full ensemble which was passed with panache.

Brass and percussion enjoyed the limelight in a stirring pavane by 20th-century composer Vaclav Nelhybel, before the cor anglais took centre stage in the atmospheric tone painting of Debussy's Nuages.

Directed by Michael Palin, Richard Strauss' youthful Serenade in E flat brought out the lyrical best in woodwinds and horns. And there was no mistaking the ardour underlying the Adagietto for strings and harp from Mahler's Fifth Symphony.

It was to Normandy that the NYO made their first trip overseas, back in 1988. And their return there this year prompted the showcasing of several French composers. Fergal Duggan played glittering saxophone solos in the Latin-American ambience of Darius Milhaud's Scaramouche.
Saint-Saëns was as French as they come, even though his famous Organ Symphony had its premiere in late-Victorian London. The orchestra blended admirably with John Keys at the Marcussen organ, mixing poetry and drama to gripping effect.

Leader Anna Redgate received a well-deserved farewell present before the exhilarating encore - Debussy's Fêtes. These musicians are among Nottingham's finest ambassadors abroad.    

Peter Palmer - Nottingham Evening Post


Albert Hall 24th April - A Russian Spectacular

There were several reminders on Saturday night of just how much talent is packed into the NYO. First and foremost was the playing of the orchestra: warmly expressive and tight in ensemble. Then there was conductor James Lowe - not only his energy, insight and concern for detail but also what he represents: a professional musician whose membership of the NYO as a teenager did so much to inspire him. And then there was pianist Tristan Melen, former NYO percussionist, first-class Cambridge mathematician and now brilliant soloist in Rachmaninov's 2nd Concerto. This high concentration of youthful talent and potential was both moving and invigorating.

Conductor and pianist were at one in their vision of the Rachmaninov concerto. From the soloist's opening chords one sensed that the work was in safe hands and this proved to be true. This was not just a technically assured performance, however. This concerto would be high on anyone's list of the most poignant, romantic and yearning music ever written - and it was played with all the full-blooded passion one could have wished for.

In this all-Russian programme the NYO also performed Rimsky-Korsakov's atmospheric Russian Easter Festival Overture (offering plenty of opportunities for individual players to shine) as well as Prokofiev's little-played and delightfully quirky last Symphony which spins rather dizzyingly from pain to nostalgia, from bitter-sweet waltzes to merry galops. For it to work it needs orchestral virtuosity and a conductor fully in tune with the composer's mercurial personality. It received both on Saturday.

William Ruff - Nottingham Evening Post


Albert Hall 24th April - A Russian Spectacular

"Thank you for taking me to see the NYO. I really enjoyed it, my favourite part was the piano soloist's piece in the middle........"

Rachel Haslam - Aged 10, Cotgrave.
(Rachel attended the concert with neighbour and friend Mrs P. Thomas).


Royal Concert Hall 27th Feb - Time Machine - A Musical Journey

The Freemasons present a donation to NYO at the 25 year celebration concert in Feb 2010 at the Royal Concert Hall Nottingham
NYO went on a Time Machine Musical Journey on Saturday night. Of course, all classical concerts are trips backwards and forwards in musical time - so was this any different? You bet it was!

Ron Grainger's Doctor Who Theme popped up from time to time, in a variety of guises, speeding us on our adventure. Then there was conductor Derek Williams' light sabre trick (lights out, Skywalker weapon wielded aloft and then all the lights back on when Strauss's famous Zarathustra theme crashes to a conclusion).

The balance of the programme was cleverly entertaining: Handel's Zadok,; Tchaikovsky's 1812 (with choir and explosions); Coates' Dam Busters; Respighi's Roman Pines; the opening of Carmina Burana. And from the world of musicals: massed choirs plus brilliant soloists Oliver Metcalfe and Abigail Broughton sang excerpts from Les Miserables and Chicago.

As well as musical energy and expertise there was about this concert an exhilarating sense of spontaneity. To pull so many young people together and to cram in so many musical numbers into limited rehearsal time must be a huge challenge - but once again Maestro Williams and his myriad coaches, organisers and performers not only travelled through time but performed several miracles along the way.

William Ruff - Nottingham Evening Post


Royal Concert Hall 27th Feb - Time Machine - A Musical Journey

Pitch black. What is that red glow? A low rumble of laughter travels through the orchestra. Oh, it must be the conductor's baton impersonating a light-sabre! Derek Williams signals the expectant musicians to order. Lights flash on. And that is when a memorable musical journey began. This was the celebratory performance marking 25 years of the Nottingham Youth Orchestra!

The orchestra, full to the brim with extraordinary talented young musicians, set a wonderful example of what all Orchestras should be like. We travelled through time with the Doctor Who theme, Handel's Zadok, 1812 overture (with canons!), The Dam Busters theme, Respighi's Roman Pines and part of Carmina Burana. The Orchestra also performed with a fantastic choir. The incredible soloists Oliver Metcalfe and Abigail Broughton sang songs from the musicals Les Miserables and Chicago.

And I can't forget NYJO (Nottingham Youth Jazz Orchestra)! The "Get your feet tapping" Band produced some great numbers from Chicago , with the soloist Oliver Metcalfe singing a different genre of music completely.

In both of the performances I have seen, Fright night last year and the recent Time Machine, the youthfulness and exuberance mixed with talent and keenness of the musicians made them brilliant nights out. All of the pieces, in both of the concerts, including their arrangement and the performance made this a show as much as a concert. If you can get a ticket for the next concert, with its Russian theme, it is sure to be a fabulous evening.

Anya Aujla Jones - Freelance Reporter - Minster School Southwell


Royal Concert Hall 27th Feb - Time Machine - A Musical Journey

Thank you so much for your great concert.  I really enjoyed the saxophones and the loud bangs.
I play the clarinet and I hope that one day I will be good enough to play in an orchestra like yours!

Gabrielle Saperia (aged 10)


Reviews 2009

Albert Hall 29th November - An American Extravaganza

The Nottingham Youth Orchestra under Derek Williams was in sparkling form for this evening of 20th-century American classics. Playing a programme of Gershwin and Bernstein is not for the faint-hearted, but these young players made light work of the challenge, their unflagging energy coupled with a keen sense for the intricate rhythms of the pieces and a level of musicianship well beyond their years.

The Symphonic Picture from Porgy and Bess set the tone, with the Orchestra's confident, mature sound equally comfortable in the unhurried atmospheric opening, the tenderness of Summertime and the boisterous conclusion.

Rhapsody in Blue was charged with restless energy, offset by moments of lyrical intensity. Piano soloist Clare Hammond's playing was exquisitely supple and full of expression.

Bernstein's Prelude, Fugue and Riffs provided an impressive showcase for the exciting, technically superb playing of the Nottingham Youth Jazz Orchestra under Phil Smith.

In Bernstein's Candide Overture the Orchestra played with sparkle and a light touch, revelling in the big, sweeping melody. The Symphonic Dances from West Side Story were full of excitement and vivid drama, elemental outpourings of energy juxtaposed with the tender longing of Somewhere.

Grahame Whitehead - Nottingham Evening Post.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ St. Mary's Church 31st July - Post Tour Concert

Nottingham Youth Orchestra have been soaking up the spirit of the Viennese classics at first hand, with concerts in a famous Austrian palace and cathedral.

They brought back several musical souvenirs of their trip, from Franz von Suppé's Poet and Peasant overture to the lilting rhythms of Johann Strauss.

Helen Ray-Jones, Patrick Dickinson, Fergal Duggan and Jamie Hammond were the accomplished wind soloists in a Sinfonia Concertante consigned to the appendix of the Mozart catalogue.

Mozart composed it for some of the finest players of his day, concluding with variations that showcased the oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn both singly and also in euphonious partnership.
Amid the collective high jinks of the Suppé overture, the principal cello played a poetic individual role.

The concert also featured the delicate "Blumine" movement which Mahler discarded from his First Symphony. Benjamin Britten thought it too good for the dustbin; the NYO endorsed his view under conductor Derek Williams' direction.

The second half began with the lively contrasts of Four Cornish Dances by Sir Malcolm Arnold. Shostakovich's mercurial Ninth Symphony tested the admirable resource of the orchestra on a broader scale.

Peter Palmer - Nottingham Evening Post.


Albert Hall 25th April - A Night at the Opera

When shoe horned into an orchestra pit, players tend to be starved of the limelight. For once, the NYO and their singers shared an opera platform on equal terms. This medley tested their versatility - and they came through with flying colours. On their own, the orchestra evoked the mostly regional styles of dances by Verdi, Bizet, Smetana and Borodin. Conducted by Derek Williams, they also distilled the essence of the Intermezzo from Leoncavallo's I Pagliacci and the exhilarating Prelude to Act 3 of Lohengrin.

All the singers used to perform in the NYO. Zoe Brown introduced herself fetchingly with Siebel's flower aria from Gounod's Faust. Not to be outdone by Marcus Farnsworth's virile Count Almaviva, Geoff Williams pinched from the baritone locker the costume of Mozart's Don Giovanni.

The part of Olympia in Offenbach's Tales of Hoffmann was wittily embodied by Anna Snow. Later, the quartet combined sweetly in Mir ist so wunderbar from Beethoven's Fidelio. And soprano Elisabeth Meister switched on the fireworks, recreating Wagner's Elisabeth and Bizet's Carmen before electrifying the house with In Questa Reggia from Puccini's opera Turandot.

Peter Palmer - Nottingham Evening Post.


Royal Concert Hall 28th Feb - Fright Night

DESPITE the date, this turned out to be the biggest and spookiest Hallowe'en party you could imagine. There was lots of creepy music, of course, but there was so much more to tingle the spine: ghouls on the stairs, vampire-like conductors, ghastly graveyard noises, images of blood-stained shower curtains and dancing skeletons. The NYO does not do things by halves.

The orchestra had chosen some fiendish (in all senses of the word) music, Berlioz' March to the Scaffold and Witches' Sabbath, Grieg's Hall of the Mountain King, Mars from The Planets and the tormented theme from Psycho were all played with relish and expertise under conductor Derek Williams. Joining them were pianist Murray McLachlan, the diabolically virtuosic soloist in Liszt's Totentanz, and the brilliantly dynamic members of Nottingham Youth Dance.

Then it was the turn of Mike Palin to conduct numbers from Phantom of the Opera and Sweeney Todd, both of which featured highly impressive solo singing and acting talent as well as a chorus that packed a powerful punch.

Holding all this together was multi-talented singer, actor and ghostly story-teller Simon Theobald,

William Ruff - Nottingham Evening Post.


Royal Concert Hall 28th Feb - Fright Night

What a treat! A musical event performed by the very talented young musicians of the Nottingham Youth Orchestra. Supported by both drama and dance students with pieces chosen with the theme of fear, the performers gave a bone chilling performance of pieces from Pictures from the Exhibition, Phantom of the Opera and Sweeney Todd Demon Barber of Fleet street amongst others.

It was also thrilling seeing a fully fledged orchestra before my very eyes. The difference between these committed, dedicated young artists, and teenagers on Nottingham streets at night, shows the huge importance of studying, and learning D.A.R.E. It is not hard to choose what I would rather do. I would most definitely want to play and practice in an orchestra.

A wonderful experience.

Live music is great!

Anya Aujla-Jones - The Wong and Only (The newspaper of Lowes Wong Junior School Southwell).


Reviews 2008

Albert Hall 30th. November
A SURE-FIRE way of turning winter mist and murk into bright Mediterranean sunshine on Sunday night was to bask in the warm glow of the NYO.

The music-making was so vividly colourful that you almost needed sun-glasses to listen to it.

Respighi's Fountains of Rome is one of the great orchestral showpieces, its effects so mercurial and kaleidoscopic that every player is pushed to his or her limits. The fact that the youngsters of the NYO negotiated the complexities of Respighi's Fountains of Rome with such apparent ease is a credit to them and conductor Derek Williams.

Kodaly's Hary Janos suite - complete with Hungarian cimbalom - was similarly vivid. The spectacular introductory orchestral 'sneeze' ushered in much memorable playing, including splendidly fruity contributions from the trombones in the battlefield movement.

Yasmin Rowe was the soloist in Dohnanyi's Variations on a Nursery Theme - and a very witty, glittering performance it was too.

William Ruff - Nottingham Evening Post.

St. Mary's Church 1st. August
One youthful listener wondered if there would be ice cream in the interval. Disappointment there, perhaps, but otherwise Friday's concert had everything. It followed the NYO's summer tour (this year to Italy), which enables players to bond in a way that occasional concerts can't really do.

And any stranger chancing upon their incisive performance of Tchaikovsky's Pathétique Symphony could have taken them for pros, not least because the large string ensemble was one of their best ever. Under conductor Derek Williams, the symphony's volatile substance was just kept in check. The delicacy of the waltz-like Allegro con grazia provided some respite from the dramatic upheavals.

Earlier, the NYO offered a firework display of orchestral colours. Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel overture, with its beguiling scene painting, preceded the courtly dances from Britten's Elizabethan opera, Gloriana. In Manuel de Falla's Nights in the Gardens of Spain, 14-year-old guest pianist Mary Ann Wootton showed a flair and assurance that belied her age.

Peter Palmer - Nottingham Evening Post.

Royal Concert Hall 1st March.
Some people would say a three-hour concert - even if it is celebrating "The Best of British" - is too much of a good thing. But those who drifted out towards the end missed a major landmark in the NYO's distinguished history, when jazz legend Sir John Dankworth took to the stage and challenged the young players to improvise with him. It brought the house down.

He was there for the world premiere of his Jazz Concerto, commissioned by the NYO and played by top jazz violinist Christian Garrick whose breathtaking ability to improvise was married to the exciting melodic and rhythmic ideas supplied by the composer.

Conductor Derek Williams directed no fewer than 16 other pieces ranging from Elgar, Holst, Parry, Walton and Addinsell (with Enpei Qu as brilliant soloist in the Warsaw Concerto) to The Beatles and Queen. About 250 musicians were crammed on to the stage, including a mass choir. Their size was not always enough to penetrate the enormous sound created by the NYO but they shone in works by Karl Jenkins, and their version of Bohemian Rhapsody (soloist Oliver Metcalfe) was certainly a crowd-pleaser.

Audience comment:

What an excellent concert. Our 10yr old daughter thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it as did myself and my wife. The NYO performed excellently and didn't seem at all overawed to be playing with the Jazz maestros. John Dankworth and Christian Garrick's evident enjoyment at jamming with the youngsters was a real highlight and a great encouragement for the young musicians. If you missed it you missed a treat. Gareth Dickens, Aspley

Southwell Minster 28th. April
Just when you think that the NYO cannot possibly top their previous astonishing performances, along comes another concert which leaves their audience open-mouthed.

The long silence which conductor James Lowe maintained after the mystical end of Vaughan Williams' London Symphony was just one example of the emotional commitment he expected.

In Dvorak's The Noon Witch there was a similar concentration on the drama of the narrative and on vividly conveying the musical imagery. The NYO also took in their stride the structural complexities of Concentricity, a brilliant new work. The name of violinist Jian Ren, 15, is one to look out for. There can be very few soloists of his age who have managed to impress with such technical assurance and emotional maturity.

William Ruff.


Reviews 2007

St Mary's, Friday 29th. July

Post Tour Concert - Variety and bit of spice

A wise conductor will only select Rossini's William Tell Overture when he had a first- rate cello section. The NYO cellos provided the richly atmospheric opening to Friday's concert in the lace market.

Solo flute and cor anglais sketched a Swiss idyll before the trumpet call to military action and the spring-heeled cavalry charge.

A first half of extraordinary variety next visited the Highlands of Malcolm Arnold's Scottish Dances. Here the second movement's tipsily sauntering bassoon stole the show - to the extent of repeating the feat later on.

Delicately supported by the orchestra, principal cellist Hannah Edmonds revelled in the Romantic passion of Max Bruch's Kol Nidrei.

A French offering had profited by the NYO's visit to Paris . Among other delights the saxophone added spice to extracts from Bizet's incidental music for "L'Arlésienne". In their whirlwind finale, the ensemble maintained a great sense of rhythm.

The main demand for Sibelius' dramatic Fifth Symphony is concerted interplay of the greatest cohesion. In-depth preparation made this one of the orchestra's most impressive performances to date under the baton of Derek Williams

Peter Palmer (Nottingham Evening Post)

3rd March

Royal Concert Hall

From Gone with the Wind and The Great Escape through to Pirates of the Carribean and Gladiator, this concert of well-known film music struck exactly the right chord with performers and audience alike.

Derek Williams drew some superb playing from the members of the Youth Orchestra, their full-blooded vitality matched by excellent control to produce an exciting sound which also had depth. They revelled in the drama and energy of John Williams' Star Wars theme and the medley of John Barry's James Bond music but exuberance was always coupled with discipline and precision.

The chorus of some 170 pupils from local primary and secondary schools rose well to the challenge of parts which ranged from a Disney medley to Vois sur ton Chemin from Les Choristes and Orff's O Fortuna from Carmina Curana.

With almost 250 young people performing and with two pieces on the programme by recent orchestra member Luke Freeman, the evening was a striking celebration of the musical talent and energy of the young. Simon Theobald, standing in at short notice was an informative and effective compère.

Grahame Whitehead (Nottingham Evening Post)

3rd March

On 3rd March NYO ran a string chamber day with some terrific input from members of "Pro Corda". The four guest tutors were led by Ioan Davies who used to be the cellist in the internationally known Fitzwilliam String Quartet. The kids students took part in workshops on improvisation, ensemble/quartet playing, and eurythmics. a short performance was held at the end of the day and all had a great time. Click here to see some photos.


Busking in the ArcadePerhaps not strictly classed as concerts but each year members of all three orchestras get togther to 'busk' at various venues during the month of December. All the old Christmas favourites get played and money raised to support the orchestra!

For more information on our December 2007 busking activities and to see some photographs click here.


Reviews 2006

Not strictly a concert but click here for details of December 2006 Busking efforts when members raised over £1600 for Orchestra funds.

6th December - Albert Hall


Russia and Bohemia were the source of the music presented by the Nottingham Youth Orchestra under Derek Williams on Sunday.

In Shostakovich's Festive Overture the NYO brought out the wit and merriment of his instrumentation in a performance that was notable for the balance of the sound.

Khachaturian's three pieces from Gayane contain some familiar tunes and the well-known Sabre Dance. The bright and bouncy first piece was full of the composer's favourite scoring and rhythmic devices; the second had an Eastern feel, with plangent oboe sound prominent. The Sabre Dance had all the brio anyone could want.

Rachmaninov often made the piano sound, on its own, like an orchestra. Add the orchestra itself, as in the second piano concerto, and you have a uniquely majestic sound. Tom Poster and Derek Williams demonstrated enviable rapport in a sensitive and passionate performance, from the opening piano chords to the tender second theme of the first movement and the powerful recapitulation of the first theme. The second movement brought well-nuanced clarinet playing and a dramatic pause in the cadenza. Altogether, a memorable performance by a superb soloist and an enthusiastic orchestra. Dvorak's New World Symphony brought the concert to a close.

Colin Wolfe

29th April - Southwell Minster

Nottingham Youth Orchestra has produced its fair share of professional players. Now it has also produced an established conductor in James Lowe.

The NYO committee must surely want to ask him back after this guest appearance.

How many Italianisms are there in Capricco Italien? Nobody knows. Undisputed though, is the piece's status as a caprice, and Tchaikovsky's mercurial rhythms were neatly observed.

The Poeme for violin and orchestra is not a staple of the concert repertoire, so all credit to the NYO for staging Ernest Chausson's evocative piece. It had a small soloist with a big heart - and a big tone - in Canadian-trained Eugene Nakamura.

Nature sweeps through Sibelius's orchestral writing. In the First Symphony, Lowe allowed the music time to breathe.

The spaciousness was united with dramatic tension with every orchestral section in top form.


Reviews 2005

4th September 2005 - Royal Concert Hall

This Nottingham Orchestra comeback concert was wonderful in so many ways and was so much more than just the music, inspiring though that was.

Gathered together were former members of the orchestra together with their families and friends, many meeting up for the first time in years.

Conductor Derek Williams was in his element, coaxing some lovely ensemble playing from his forces

Highlights included Britten's Young Person's Guide, Malcolm Arnold's Peterloo Overture and two movements from The Planets.

The evening's soloist was Chloe Hanslip. She may only be 17 but she is still one of the world's super-virtuose violinists, playing both Waxman's Carmen Fanyasy and Ravel's Tzigane to breath taking effect.

How do you end a concert with so much brilliance on display? Well, why not play The Dam Busters March and 688 Squadron really fast and loud? And you bet it worked. Not only did the audience stand and cheer but the players got a tad emotional too. What an evening...Here's to the next 20 years.

William Ruff (Nottingham Evening Post)

String Quartet Coaching Day 24th April 2005

String Quartet coaching dayDerek and Trevor (our first violin tutor) are great fans of quartet playing. Apart from the fact that the greatest music ever written was for string quartet (Beethoven’s late quartets, of course), they are a wonderful way of learning to play with a small group of other people. If you’re a string player in a large orchestra, it often seems that you’re not very important — after all if there are 31 other violins, what difference can you possibly make? Unlike wind and brass players, who are always soloists, even in a symphony orchestra, string players get very nervous if they have to play by themselves without the support of their section. In a quartet, however, there is no hiding place; all four players are equally important.

The experience of taking part in and even performing chamber music can really boost players’ self-confidence — at least that what we’re hoping will happen after our quartet coaching day last month. To do the coaching we were lucky to have South African viola player Louise Lansdown, a tutor from the Royal Northern College of Music, who had previously worked with the orchestra at our RNCM workshop day in October. She brought with her five other young South African players, who together make up the Mzanze Ensemble. Ten groups from NYO spent a day practising works by Mozart, Haydn, Brahms, Beethoven, Borodin and Dvorak, helped by the Mzanze Ensemble with support from our own staff Derek, Trevor, Paul and Sian. At the end of the afternoon we were joined by parents for a short informal concert by six of the groups who were brave enough to perform (and performing quartets is one of the most scary things a string player can do!). As a surprise finale, he Mzanze played a movement from the Brahms Sextet in B flat. Then they put away their music and stands to thrill us all with two pieces of African or “Kwela” music arranged by their leader Samson Diamond. It was a great end to an exciting day. And well done to all the NYO quartets who performed so well.

16th April 2005 - Southwell Minster

The NYO's taste for adventure shows no signs of fading. Every year, its members are not only invited to show off their talent and commitment by playing the familiar classics of the repertoire but to stride off down unfamiliar routes as well.

This time it was the turn of English composer Percy Whitlock to be dusted off and given an airing. HisSouthwell Minster Organ Symphony (written 1936-7) is a rarity which calls for virtuosity from soloist and orchestra alike. Organist John Keys coaxed an alluring range of tonal colour from the Minister's instrument - matched by full-blooded playing from his youthful colleagues and their conductor Derek Williams. But was the piece worth reviving? My own opinion: Whitlock was essentially a miniaturist whose 'symphony' might have sounded more coherent if it had been half the length.

We were on much firmer ground with Malcolm Arnold's richly colourful English Dances (lots of strong contrasts: rhythmic bounce and yearning nostalgia in quick succession) and with Elgar's Enigma Variations, Elgar demands tight discipline and draws on a huge palette of sounds as the music captures widely disparate characters. The NYO had all the flexibility one could ask for - as well as reserving extra energy for the ebullient finale.

Coate's Knightsbridge March came as a very jolly (and welcome) encore.

William Ruff (Nottingham Evening Post)

27th February 2005 - Royal Concert Hall

Brass rehearsalsWhat a pity Grieg never attempted a Peer Gynt opera. Last night's uncut and uncensored performance of the incidental music he wrote for Peer Gynt left one avid for more. Especially as sung by the NYO's principal guest vocalists: Stephen Williams as Peer Gynt, Samantha Hay as Solveig and Anthea Kempston as exotic dancer Anitra. Prefaced by an unaccompanied choral hymn, Solveig's cradle song was an intensely moving finale.

The two Peer Gynt suites for orchestra are fine in their way. But they miss some of the heartache and all of the stormy and raunchy elements in this Nordic epic. Narrator Simon Callow filled us in on the main events of Henrik Ibsen's drama. His enthusiasm was a major asset. Elizabeth Bruce, Elizabeth Hetherington and Dawn Foxall sang alluringly as herd girls. The graceful Becky Dunning performed most of the dances. From aloft in the choir stalls, members of Nottingham High School, Nottingham Girls' High School and the Bluecoat School added a whiff of pure mountain air. Well chosen projections and surtitles complemented the action. Under the guidance of conductor Derek Williams, the orchestra were undoubted co-stars, as was solo violinist Michelle Taylor in the role of folk fiddler.

String rehearsalsWorks by Sibelius took up the first part of the concert. There's a point in Finlandia where you feel the music ought to break into song. Well, thanks to the combined choirs it did, and quite poetically, too. In Sibelius's Violin Concerto, indisposed soloist Chloe Hanslip was replaced by another teenager, the Russian-born Alina Ibragimova. Her Slav temperament seemed wholly suited to the score's light and shade. The orchestra's horn section stood out for its soft playing. The Royal Concert Hall, you felt, was built for just such adventures as this NYO 20th anniversary concert.

Peter Palmer

The Nottingham Youth Orchestra