Thousands of young people are set to make music in Birmingham. Terry Grimley reports.
Usually at this time of the year I find myself writing an article which starts with a line about 10,000 young musicians converging on Birmingham.
Well, roughly 10,000 young musicians are indeed about to converge on Birmingham from Monday, the beginning of July being the time when the city now traditionally hosts the perpetually amazing National Festival of Music for Youth. But this year’s festival is even a little more amazing than that.
In addition to the busy seven-day programme which has everything from primary school groups to full-scale youth orchestras, jazz big bands, folk and rock groups performing at Symphony Hall, Town Hall, Adrian Boult Hall and the O2 Academy 2, this year’s event features a unique festival-within-a-festival.
At the Town Hall on July 11, Youth Music celebrates ten years of promoting activities around young people and music of all kinds by staging its first National Youth Music Organisation Festival.
What this means is that for the first time anywhere, the complete roster of National Youth Music Organisations (NYMOs) will be playing on the same stage on the same day. The complete line-up consists of the National Youth Orchestra, the National Youth Choir, South Asian Musical Youth Orchestra, National Youth Brass Band, Youth Music Theatre UK, National Youth Jazz Collective and the National Children’s Orchestra.
The day will consist of a series of open rehearsals from 10am, followed by a showcase performance at 4.30pm. It will feature a new “Encounters” group involving players from across the NYMOs who are creating a new piece especially for the event, which it is hoped will become a permanent feature of the National Festival.
Lucky Birmingham – particularly when tickets for the event are free (though you do need to reserve them at the Town Hall/Symphony Hall box office on 0121 780 3333).
In my experience you can never have too many young people performing music – especially when, to judge from previous Music for Youth national festivals, they frequently perform at such a remarkable level of excellence.
But the plethora of logos with “music” and “youth” in them is more than potentially confusing, so here’s a beginner’s guide to who is who and who does what.
First of all, Youth Music (full name: National Foundation for Youth Music) was set up by the Government in 1999 to open up access to musical opportunities for young people across England and Wales. It’s about music for its own sake and music as a means of developing confidence and social skills, and covers everything from symphony orchestras to DJ-ing classes.
Youth Music in turn funds a number of other organisations, including the NYMOs listed above plus the National Association of Youth Orchestras and Music for Youth.
Founded in 1971 by Larry Westland, whose previous jobs included working as Duke Ellington’s personal assistant, Music for Youth is a charity which promotes a series of regular events around the country giving children and young people an opportunity to perform in public, of which the best known are the School Proms at the Royal Albert Hall and the National Festival.
Previously held on London’s South Bank, the National Festival moved to Birmingham when the Royal Festival Hall closed for refurbishment in 2005. However, Music for Youth was always keen to make the move permanent, attracted by the city’s central location, excellent venues (enhanced by the Town Hall’s reopening in 2007) and welcoming attitude.
For a young city with a proud musical tradition and a more recent tradition of staging big events, the festival is a perfect match. The high-quality venues and accessible city centre are also likely to leave a positive impression with the young people and their families who travel here from all over the country – although it has to be said that after the past few years the festival is overdue some really good summer weather.
* NATIONAL FESTIVAL OF MUSIC FOR YOUTH, JULY 6-12:
Monday July 6:
* Symphony Hall: Infants & Juniors 10.30am-7.20pm
* Adrian Boult Hall: Juniors 11am-6.55pm
* Town Hall: Ensembles 11am-7.35pm.
Tuesday July 7:
* Symphony Hall: Junior Choirs 10.30am-6.10pm
* Town Hall: Senior Choirs 10.30am
* Adrian Boult Hall: Ensembles 11am-7.35pm.
Wednesday July 8:
* Symphony Hall: School Orchestras/String & Chamber Orchestras 11am-7.10pm
* Adrian Boult Hall: Traditional & International Music 11am-7.25pm.
Thursday July 9:
* Symphony Hall: Brass Bands 10.30am-9pm
* Town Hall: Chamber Music 10.30am-8.15pm
* O2 Academy 2: Rock, Pop & Urban 5.30pm-9.50pm.
Friday July 10:
* Symphony Hall: Wind Bands 10.30am-8.15pm
* Town Hall: Adrian Boult Hall: Jazz 10.30am-8.20pm.
Saturday July 11:
* Symphony Hall: Youth Orchestras 10.30am-5.40pm
* Town Hall: National Youth Music Organisation Festival (open rehearsals from 10am, showcase performances from 4.30pm).
* Adrian Boult Hall: Jazz 11am-6.35pm.
Sunday July 12:
* Symphony Hall: Sing for All. Young choral talent from across Birmingham, 6pm. (Free, but tickets need to be booked).
* Admission to National Festival events is by a day pass, available from the Town Hall Symphony Hall Box Office (0121 780 3333), price £8 adults, £4 concessions.