Since my initial introduction to the orchestra I’ve been back quite a few times. It has been a treat to sit in on a handful of rehearsals and soak up the spectrum of different sounds. SYO is a friendly environment, and I’ve enjoyed being around to get to know everyone and see how it all works.
Dan and Rob (the two conductors) have generously made space for me to have a bit of time with both orchestras - the training orchestra (TO) and the main orchestra (MO). I’ve worked with each orchestra in sectionals, which has been a valuable chance to learn a little bit more about the individual instruments but also to connect with the players in small groups.
I’m really keen to tap into the wealth of talent and creativity within the group, so working in smaller sections has been a great way to harvest ideas from individuals and make everyone feel involved.
Since I’ve had the chance to collaborate with both orchestras I’ve decided that I’m going to write a piece for each of them.
Stoneleigh Youth Training Orchestra (TO):
When I’m writing a piece of vocal music I always start with the words, and I thought it might be nice to approach this collaboration in the same way. In my first workshop with the TO we came up with some words - I asked them a question and they had to write down one word in response. We then turned those words into shapes, and eventually those shapes became the basis of a melody or a pattern of notes. It was a fun exercise, and I was impressed with how forthcoming all of the sections were. We had some great words (and some funny ones) but the players were at their most creative when those words became musical phrases. At the end of the afternoon I had an amazing catalogue of short riffs to play around with.
You might be interested to know that the most popular word in the TO was ‘biscuit’ which appeared a grand total of seven times!
For my next meeting with the TO I had written out some of their musical ideas from the first workshop, and together we turned them into miniature pieces. Each of their original phrases became a loop and we became a ‘human loop-machine’ adding new patterns and harmonies to accompany the original phrase. All of the groups got stuck in and we had some brilliant layers and ideas. It was a really collaborative process and it was great to hear the music develop in lots of different directions. I finished the day with enough new material for several compositions!
My piece for the training orchestra is going to be called ‘We Want’. Back when I first met the TO I asked them to tell me what they wanted to get out of the collaboration, and one young violinist immediately responded with, “we want to be heard”. I knew in that moment that I had the beginnings of the piece.
‘We Want’ balances the everyday things that young people want (like delicious biscuits), with bigger-picture desires about being taken seriously and being listened to. In this age of referendums, and world leaders who deny the existence of climate change, do our young people have enough of a voice?
Read part II of Ben See's blog.