Grace Notes: NYOW 2015 – Fancy Dress!

There wasn’t a concert for the majority of the orchestra yesterday. We spent the day in Aberystwyth having some free time while the composers rehearsed with their ensembles for their first concert.

After we’d finished watching their concert we had a mad dash back to Lampeter because the ‘Nash’ was having a feature on the BBC Radio Wales Art Show. I was interviewed along with Matt Jones (NYAW Manager (Youth Music)) about what it’s like on the course and why it’s such a special experience. You can listen to it for the next few days here.

Then in the evening was fancy dress, one of my favourite events of the course. I’ve talked about previous years here, but this year the theme was ‘La Peri’. So we decided to go as a submarine with a periscope (get it??… A tad tenuous I know, but it’s a hard theme!). We then all dressed as scuba divers and piled in the cardboard submarine.


The finished costume! The flippers were so hard to walk in!

I’m pleased to say we won! And I’m very proud of our efforts! The rest of the night was great, especially negotiating the SU with cardboard flippers attached to your feet!

We’re currently driving to Hereford and I’m really looking forward to the concert this afternoon!


Grace Notes: NYOW 2015 – One down…

Last night we had our first concert in the space we’ve been rehearsing in all week in Lampeter. Everyone was a little on edge and excited as it was our first one, so it wasn’t perfect, but the energy felt great! We’re currently travelling to Bangor for our next one this evening and I’m really excited as I haven’t been to this hall since my first year in 2009.

I feel the whole programme has really come together since Paul Daniel arrived to conduct on Friday. The pieces now make a lot more sense to me and I’m starting to feel like I’m able to get my teeth into them, rather than skating around, trying to play some of the right notes in the right place… I have grown to really enjoy playing Rite of Spring (I have to admit that I wasn’t 100% keen on it when I had my first listen) and I think it’s my favourite piece in the programme (and one of my favourites I’ve ever played on the NYOW)!


The first rehearsl with Paul Daniel (I do not own this image)

After playing in Bangor this evening, we’re heading to Aberystwyth tomorrow to listen to the composers concert, before on to Hereford on Thursday. I’m really looking forward to this concert as it’ll nice to be be back playing at the Three Choirs festival there.

Grace Notes: NYOW 2015 – The first day

So, we have had one full day of the course. It started with registration, where we get given the essential information and then we split off into our welfare groups (who we meet with every morning to discuss the upcoming days events and if there are any problems, it’s a chance to voice them) for a few more pointers on what to expect.


The boot of the car packed with all our stuff for the tour! Can't believe this is the last time I'll make the journey to Lampeter!

After that, we headed off to our first sctional rehearsal. I’m in the first violins who are tutored by Adrian Dunn. We mainly worked on some of the trickier passages and working out all the different time signatures and beats so that we could survive in the full orchestra rehearsal later!

The evening session was with everybody. We played through two of the three pieces (the Schmitt and the Stravinsky Rite of Spring. Both are very rhythmic in places and I found that playing on all the right off-beats far more challenging than the actual notes!!


My view of the orchestra during a full rehearsal.

In the evenings there are various activities involved (such as fancy dress mentioned here) and the event tonight was a few small ice breakers within our welfare groups. It gave us a chance to meet new members, and once they were over we were able to relax and have a catch up with (or get to know) the other members of the orchestra.

I’m looking forward to getting stuck into rehearsals today! Hopefully I’ll be able to get me head around a few more of the complicated rhythms….

Grace Notes: The beginning of the end.

On Saturday I had my last concert as a member of Cardiff County and Vale of Glamorgan Youth Orchestra. After seven years it feels strange to no longer be a part of it, but it also nicely marks the point where I’m technically no longer a ‘youth’ and I feel strangely free (although I can sense this ‘freedom’ starting to feel scary when I have to start thinking about life after college…..!). We ended the concert with Symphonie Fantastique and I can’t think of a more epic (for want of a better word) way to go.


My deskie Morven Graham and I waiting for our final concert. We’ve been sat next to each other for nearly seven years and it’s strange to think we may not desk partners in orchestra for a very long time!

I’m currently on my way to my final NYOW course. It’s strange to think that this will be that last time we load up the car and drive along the wiggly roads to Lampeter. I have spent the last seven summers of my life there and it’ll be strange to not spend any more time there. Over the next two weeks I’m going to be doing a number of short posts about the course. I’ll be talking about what we’re up to, the music, differences between this and previous years and how I feel about this being my last year as a ‘youth’.

Grace Notes: How to survive playing in the summer heatwave.

If you’re in the UK, you may have noticed that we had a little heatwave a couple of weeks ago. I would have loved to be outside enjoying the sunshine, but instead I was stuck inside from 2.30-10.30pm every day doing the Trinity Laban Opera. Not only was I missing the sun, but I was in a dark windowless room, which about 30 stage lights pointing in all directions nicely heating up the place. It was almost unbearable! So in case you ever end up in a situation like that, I decided to write down some tips of how to survive playing in hot conditions.

  • Dress sensibly. I wrote a whole post on concert dress here, but you have to be sensible when it comes to dressing smartly in the heat. We had to wear floor length black (which I think looks the smartest), but that doesn’t have to mean a super thick concert dress. Go for something like a one-layer maxi skirt that is cooling and loose. Comfort should come first rather than wearing than your brand new skin-tight jumpsuit and the performance suffering because you’re so uncomfortable.
  • Drink lots and lots! I have a really bad habit of not drinking enough water throughout the day, but I make a point of making myself drink if it’s hot. It’s even more important if you’re having to concentrate for a performance that you don’t find yourself getting all faint and woozy, so drink as much as you can and if you’re allowed take a bottle of water on stage with you and drink in your rests!
  • Try not to dwell on it. People all around you will be complaining about the heat, but the more you think about it, the worse you’ll feel. Try and focus on the performance, and get lost in the music, not bogged down by the heat.
  • Don’t count time passing. You won’t (or shouldn’t) have your phone on stage with you, but if you wear a watch, or there is a clock in the room, don’t watch every second. As the saying goes ‘a watched pot never boils’, so the more you can restrain yourself from wanting to look at the time, the faster the performance will feel and the sooner you can get out into the fresh air.

The NYOW in action in Berlin! (I don’t own this image)

Hopefully if you ever get stuck playing a concert in a stupidly high temperature, these tips may help. I’m currently back in Cardiff preparing for my last ever NYOW course which starts in less than a week! I still can’t quite believe that my time with the orchestra is nearly over!

Grace Notes: NYOW blog

As well as writing (almost….sorry!) weekly for this blog, I’ve been doing a few posts for the National Youth Orchestra of Wales Blog.
They’ve given it a real push this year, with new and old members (at 21 I’m most definitely an old member) writing bits and bobs for them.

I thought I’d share here the most recent post I have written about my fancy dress experience on the course!


One of the awesome examples of our fancy dress!

I’m currently on a coach home to Cardiff and am looking forward to the CCVG Youth Orchestra concert on July 18th and then the start of the NYOW course two days later. Hope you are all having a wonderful summer!

Grace Notes: Stuck for something to do?

I just want to start by saying sorry for being late/infrequent with posts recently. It’s been mad in college and I haven’t been able to find the time to write! One of the reasons for this I mentioned in my last post. I have been working with a large group of people to put together the Trinity Laban opera, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.


A taste of the theme of the opera… (I do not own this image)

Tonight is the opening night and I’m so excited for audiences to finally get to see it! We’ve had hours of rehearsals sweating away under lights and smoke, and the hot weather we’ve been having hasn’t exactly helped either! But it’s all come together and the first performance is 7pm at Blackheath Halls tonight.

Excitingly, tonight is sold out, but if you are interested in seeing it (which I’d recommend. It’s one of my favourite operas and I’m having a great time! But just a warning, I’d probably put an age rating of 12+ on it because of some of the content.) then check out the website and maybe get yourself a ticket.

It’s funny, witty, glam and has some amazing music. There isn’t a dull moment! If you happen to be in the area, you should definitely come along.