School might be out for the summer but there are still plenty of students working hard during the holidays, and many of them are musicians performing in the Midlands over the next few weeks.
Tomorrow the National Youth Orchestra of Wales makes its debut at Birmingham Town Hall for a meaty programme of 20th-century “British classics”, beginning with a work by Welsh composer William Mathias.
His Celtic Dances are followed by Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, and the evening is completed with Vaughan Williams’ atmospheric, brooding A London Symphony.
The popular Owain Arwel Hughes is on the rostrum. I remember his conducting a highly successful account of Britten’s War Requiem from Bedfordshire Youth Orchestra forces at Symphony Hall many years ago.
On Saturday youth takes to the fore at the Three Choirs Festival, currently being held in Worcester. The CBSO Youth Orchestra Academy is conducted by Michael Seal in a mornng concert in the cathedral, with a programme again almost entirely 20th-century.
It begins with Arvo Part’s Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten, followed by Ligeti’s Concert Romanesc. The young guitarist Morgan Szymanski continues with the most popular guitar concerto of all time, Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, and the morning ends with Beethoven’s energetic, rhythmically driving Symphony no.7.
This concert is repeated at Birmingham Town Hall on Sunday evening, but meanwhile the youth interest at Worcester continues with two Saturday afternoon performances of Britten’s Noye’s Fludde at Worcester Baptist Church.
The culmination of a week-long training for nine to 13- year-olds on a “Singworks” course, this production of Britten’s church-parable, with slots for hymn-singing audience participation in the manner of the composer’s earlier St Nicolas, is conducted by Sue Hollingsworth (who will be appearing later this month at the Presteigne Festival) and is directed by Peter Leslie Wilde.
Also on Saturday the Virtuoso Violin course at Stratford-upon-Avon, centred on the performance of works by Bach and Paganini, presents its students in a recital concert at King Edward VI School in the town.
On Monday course director Rimma Sushanskaya (herself a world-class international violinist who was the last pupil of the great David Oistrakh) conducts the Stratford Virtuosi, a chamber orchestra drawn from course members and friends, in a programme of Samuel Barber (the famous Adagio), Vivaldi (two movements from the Four Seasons, Dmitri Smirnov (Partita no.4 for Violin and Strings), and Holst (his lovely St Paul’s Suite). Soloists will be selected from among the students on the course.
Later this month the remarkable National Children’s Orchestra hits Birmingham with two celebratory concerts.
On Saturday August 23 the NCO Under-13 Orchestra (there are no fewer than five NCO ensembles altogether, the oldest age-limit set at under 14) plays at Birmingham Town Hall, with Roger Clarkson conducting an ambitious and attractive programme: Borodin Overture Prince Igor, the BarberAdagio for Strings (the very same as in the Stratford Virtuosi concert), Tchaikovsky Romeo and Juliet Overture, Dukas The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Laidler Wookey Hole and Henry Wood’s Fantasia on British Sea Songs.
This celebrated piece showcasing various elements within the orchestra (not least a plaintive Tom Bowling cello solo), and ending with a riotous Sailors’ Hornpipe, has of course long been well-known as a staple feature of the BBC’s Last Night of the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in London: but it won’t be racing the handclappers this year, having been replaced on this occasion by the tiny Sea Songs by Vaughan Williams, marking the 50th anniversary of that composer’s death. So this will present a welcome chance to hear it.
Then on Sunday, August 31, this NCO Under-13 Orchestra joins its four other colleague ensembles at Symphony Hall for a gala concert celebrating the 30th anniversary of its founding.
It promises to be quite an evening.