From January 5-19, the Australian Youth Orchestra (AYO) held its annual National Music Camp (NMC). 2014 was my first NMC experience. Here’s part 1 of my report on the 2 weeks at the Australian National University, Canberra.
Around 200 orchestral program participants aged 14-22 were split into three orchestras:
1. Hopkins Chamber Orchestra conducted by Geoffrey Lancaster
2. Bishop Orchestra conducted by Alexandre Bloch
3. Alexander Orchestra conducted by Richard Gill
I played flute and piccolo in the Alexander Orchestra.
Alexander Orchestra repertoire week 1:
Andrew Howes Ichirós
Aaron Copland Symphony No. 3
Ichirós was written by Sydney-born composer Andrew Howes and commissioned by Richard Gill and Silo Collective, specifically for NMC. I won’t attempt to describe the music in my own words. Rather, I’ll leave it for Andrew himself. He discusses the work, and his compositional style in this interview - http://www.cutcommon.com/#!Subverting-Expectations-composer-Andrew-Howes/c1ax0/691D4A9F-A0D5-43CD-B9B1-F439C1B57BC6. It also has a link to SoundCloud where you can hear the performance in full. Listening to the recording made me experience the piece in a completely different way (perhaps because I wasn’t in performance mode). I heard more nuances and understood the work more as a whole. Andrew certainly is developing successful compositional techniques which create interesting instrumental colours. Sitting in the middle of the orchestral sound I wasn’t always convinced, however on hearing the recording I have changed my mind decidedly. Hard to believe he’s only 21!
Before NMC, I had been relatively unaware of Copland’s symphonic endeavours. My listening experience extended solely to his woodwind repertoire. In Symphony No. 3, I played flute/piccolo along with two other flutes and another piccolo. The entire woodwind section was augmented. After the first rehearsal, I don’t think we fully anticipated how much stamina would be required for this mammoth work. Rehearsals were demanding with intonation, balance, and portraying the “bigger picture” of the work as prime challenges. Although it wasn’t spoken about much, on the concert night we - a collective of strangers who had known each other for one week - learnt to trust, lead, follow, and cope when things went amiss. This made me reflect on how different an orchestra is to most other workplaces. Workers (musicians) produce their own slice of creativity (comprising of their own knowledge, skills, past experiences, feelings, emotions, etc.) and are expected to engage with other workers’ slices to create a subsequent, uniform creative outcome (the performance). Honestly, I’m (pleasantly) surprised that more arguments on a personal scale don’t occur. Perhaps that’s why it’s so crucial to have a good leader - of which Richard Gill deserves all credit for. Staggering off stage after the 45 minute performance, a buzz of camaraderie was felt among my fellow musicians - a sure sign that we would step up for the following week’s concert.
“Most people… use music as a couch; they want to be pillowed on it, relaxed and consoled for the stress of daily living. But serious music was never meant to be used as a soporific.”