Stoneleigh Youth Orchestra get to grips with new music

Players of the Stoneleigh Youth Training and Main Orchestras reflect on getting to know Ben See's music for Adopt a Composer as they rehearse the real thing in preparation for December's concert.

Words by two sisters, one in each orchestra:

Both main orchestra and training orchestra have been lucky enough to take part in this scheme, and everyone involved has enjoyed it immensely! It’s been a truly inspiring experience to be able to work with a composer who is, for once, alive, as it’s allowed the orchestra to really take part in the composing process and make the pieces our own.

In training, it’s been a really creative process, and great fun.

First, Ben came in and asked us all for our favourite ways to play our instruments, and then he went away and put them all together into a wonderful piece that everyone loves. Highlights of the piece include bringing in our own percussion instruments to play on, and eating biscuits during the piece!

In main orchestra, we’ve also enjoyed putting our own ideas into the piece, and creating something unique and exciting. After sending around a questionnaire to discover how we wanted our piece to end up, Ben led workshops with each section to explore our ideas further. These workshops, in which we discovered different ways to play our instruments, were great fun, and it was really great that everyone was able to give their input into the composition.

"It's incredible to finally see how Ben's brain works and how his ideas take form. I've been doing things I never thought I would in a piece!" - Stoneleigh Youth Orchestra MO, oboist

When Ben then returned with the completed piece, it was really exciting to see how our ideas had been woven together and become something that reflected us both as individuals and as an orchestra as a whole. We’ve all enjoyed the process immensely, and can’t wait to continue developing the piece for the performance in December.

Words from a flautist of the Stoneleigh Youth Orchestra TO:

Ben’s piece ‘We want’ is a very different piece to any I’ve played before. We start off singing and doing some body percussion (e.g. using our fist, chest or stamping).  Then we start to play our instruments... 

The music is innovative and unique.  My piece, on the flute, sometimes repeats what we sing and at other times it works to compliment the main tunes played by the other sections.

It’s a completely different take on music; a bit more modern and experimental. We get to eat biscuits (which is great!) and shout out random words (which can be interesting!) during the piece. There’s also a part when we bring in our own percussion from home (e.g. pots, pans, saucepans etc being hit with drumsticks, chopsticks, or simply using our hands).

It has been a very interesting experience learning this music. I have found it challenging and it has pushed me out of my comfort zone to do something so unusual, as this is not my normal taste in orchestral music. However, it has given me a different perspective on how music can be composed and it has been a great opportunity to work with a modern composer such as Ben See. I can’t wait to see how it comes together for the concert!


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