Grace Notes: Looking back to a summer of Bernstein

In the summer of 2012 I got the amazing opportunity to perform at the BBC Proms with the National Youth Orchestra of Wales in collaboration with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. The piece being performed was Bernstein’s Mass. (No, I had never heard of it before either, but have since become a huge fan. It has some amazingly catchy tunes, and bits of it definitely remind me of West Side Story!) This was the premiere of the Mass at the Proms, with a huge ensemble that included multiple choirs and soloists as well as the orchestras.  I was particularly impressed with the choirs. Alongside the BBC National Chorus of Wales and the National Youth Choir of Wales there was a children’s choir made up of children from 4 primary schools throughout Wales. I was amazed and delighted at how the children behaved (they each had a Kazoo for one song and there was no unplanned hooting from them!) and sang. It made all of us older performers up their game. (

This was a challenging project for me, not only because I was playing alongside professional players but because of the rehearsal schedule. The performance was in August but due to the fact that the NYOW orchestra normally has their course end of July/beginning of August we weren’t able to rehearse close to the prom. Also, the ensemble was so large that we didn’t get all the performers together until the day of the concert, which was scary but added a huge level of excitement as well.

I had never been inside the Royal Albert Hall before, so this was another new experience for me. The view from the stage was incredible and I felt tiny because of the thousands of seats around me. The conductor Kristjan Järvi knew the piece inside out and helped us all to understand its true meaning.

The concert was a great success. The hall was almost completely full, and with the choirs behind the stage there was a face in every direction I looked. What I found the most odd was that because it was being recorded for TV broadcast there were video cameras situated throughout the orchestra. It was strange to be in the middle of a difficult passage and to have a camera zoom-in on your face! The performance received good reviews ( and I am so grateful and proud to have been a part of this Prom.

If you fancy seeing this prom I have posted a link below (I don’t own this video).

I hope you enjoy this music and this post. Next time I’ll be writing about a concert I’m taking part in with YMSO at St John’s, Smith Square in London on October the 8th. If you’re free, would be lovely to see some friendly faces!