As the house lights came down to begin the performance, the enthusiasm in the room was evident, with young people sat in the choir stalls waving their torches.
Concert Run Down: Tuesday 15th November 2022
Walthamstow School for Girls Y11 Band opened the concert with ‘Sunrise’ from Also Sprach Zarathustra composed by Richard Strauss and arranged by their musical director Richard Murphy, this was well-received by the entire audience. The piece not only symbolised the beginning of a chance to shine for the young people performing this evening, but also a wonderful beginning to the varied mix of performances we saw this evening, bringing Strauss together with its, perhaps more recognisable to the audience, use in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Aside from the symbolism evident in the clever repertoire choice, the students on stage brought energy to the hall and seeing them dance and smile at each other was a fantastic expression of how much they enjoyed playing together and performing.
Following the performance from Walthamstow School for Girls Y11 Band, this evening’s presenters Remel London and Rachel Broderick took to the stage to share the incredible feat of Music for Youth who have put together two proms, showcasing over 3000 young people. Rachel Broderick is an example of the support MFY provides for young people – having come through the frequencies programme which supports young people finding a variety of roles in the music industry - she was confident and charming, and clearly represented how much talent there is to be seen by Frequencies. Remel London introduced the audience to MFY’s new CEO, Phil Castang who summarised the proms as “fantastic” and reminded the audience that we should be making every opportunity for young people to perform, and as audiences, supporting their development. The development of young people was evidently a theme throughout the two evenings, with children as young as 7 performing alongside young adults between 18 and 21, showcasing the unity music can provide which is unlike anything else.
Next to take the stage was the Bishop Stopford School Brass Band and their conductor Brad Turnbull. Now, I must admit a little bias towards brass bands, but these young people had a huge amount of talent to showcase. Their first piece Pie Jesu from the John Rutter Requiem featured Olivia Wild with a stunning cornet solo. Olivia took the stage with confidence, and her gorgeous sound drew the entire audience in – a player to watch in the coming years. The band finished off with Mission Impossible, where one of their young players solved a rubik’s cube on stage – a great example of the creativity young people bring to everything they do, and something you’d find it difficult to see with another ensemble. A fabulous young band, with an admirable history of alumni, it was wonderful to hear them perform in a large space, and of course where the Championship section of the British Brass Band Championships are held in October every year, I have no doubt we will see some of these young players amongst the highest calibre of banding in the not-so-distant future.
A testimony to the universal language of music, Rubik’s Cube were next to take the stage. Rubik’s Cube is an ensemble from the Osborne School in Winchester, a school that specialises in young people with learning disabilities. Rubik’s cube performed with MFY at the National Festival in July, and they brought back all the same enthusiasm plus more. Their ensemble was introduced by a student and the use of Makaton alongside singing reminded us that music truly is a universal language that everyone can enjoy. The fantastic lighting combined with their bright hoodies was an incredible sight and they really did hold the attention of everyone in the hall. The solos from individual students, as well as those playing percussion and guitar was a fabulous display of talent and a representation of a commitment from all the staff who have made music a priority in these young people’s education.
Next up, Adey Grummet and Michael Henry took the stage in the first of tonight’s snippets of the creative project before the finale. Adey explained that her inspiration came from the excitement of coming back together for in person rehearsals “there was a spark when we first got back together.” The audience participation, particularly in a venue such as the Royal Albert Hall did feel quite surreal, even after society seems relatively back to normal – and the vast number of young people involved was a marvellous show of eagerness and unity.
After the hubbub of the hall during the creative project, the Gwent Music Harp Ensemble was a magical way to draw the audience back to the stage, in a reminder that we are there to listen to the young people and their incredible talent. The Gwent Music Harp Ensemble was exceptionally musical – and the bravery of the younger students (aged just 11!) to be on a large stage in front of an audience playing in such an intimate group was a reminder of the confidence music can grow in young people. So far this evening we have seen a huge amount of creativity, and the harp ensemble in their long black dresses with well-executed presentation was a great show of the ability of young people to perform to the same calibre and professionalism of traditional music ensembles. The Gwent Music Harp Ensemble finished their performance with Hên Wlad fy Nhadau (The Welsh National Anthem), which was a lovely reminder of the talent and enthusiasm coming from all areas of the UK.
The Rainbow Connection Junior Choir then entered the stage, with an abundance of grace and control. The young voices which filled the Royal Albert Hall were an important reminder that special equipment and expensive instruments are not the only way to add a huge amount of value from music to children’s lives. The projector above the stage did a fantastic job of focussing on the most expressive facial expressions, showing just how musically inclined the young singers were. They impressed the audience with part singing, and clear diction and were evidently completely trusting of their music director who led them onto the stage and through a very successful performance which certainly tugged on the heart strings of the audience.
Yet another example of the ability to perform music in any scenario, the creative project returned to teach the audience the ‘bridge’ which consisted of body percussion. The preparation and confidence of the young people from a variety of schools involved is a real testimony to their teachers who made time to prioritise arts education and the creative leaders’ ardour and ability to grasp the entire hall made for an exciting development towards the finale and certainly re-invoked energy in the audience before the interval.
Following the interval, the same enthusiasm was back in the hall, and we were joined by the Norfolk Students’ Jazz Orchestra, who immediately drew the audience away from the thoughts of interval conversations and back into the auditorium. Throughout their programme, several soloists took to the stage and every one of these showed an impressive level of musicianship and artistry and of course they were all supported by a strong and stable rhythmic section which was completely steady the entire time, demonstrating the power of communication that is developed through ensemble playing.
The creative team returned to the stage to finish presenting the finale work and the warm lighting which captured every corner of the young musicians performing created a feeling of unity, where it was visually evident to the audience that every single young person singing was of equal importance – from the youngest to the oldest, every voice mattered.
The presenters returned to the stage full of passion, this time with an inspiring quote for all the young musicians taking part, “one of the great things about being a musician is that it gives you an outlet and really supports mental well-being”, drawing the audience, and sponsors, attention to just one of the many benefits of musical opportunities. The presenters welcomed Adey Grummet, the creative project leader to the stage to discuss her inspiration for the finale piece to which she replied, “nothing beats live music” and re-iterated how important young musicians are in reviving the arts industry post-pandemic, and how much talent they have to share with us right now.
Two fantastic examples of young talent took to the stage next, Erin and DT (filling in for Toby) from Pear. The young singer-instrumentalists created an intimate atmosphere, whilst still holding the entire audience in the palm of their hand. Despite their young age, and the gentle nature of their song, neither of them felt small in the massive Royal Albert Hall. Absolutely wonderful musicianship and performance abilities were evident, and I cannot wait to see where these young musicians go next. P.S to all readers, make sure to check out Erin’s debut single Indigo Sky, it’s beautiful and I’ve been listening to it on loop since I found it!
The wonderful Pear was followed with the Love Music Trust Percussion Ensemble. Almost as if they had taken inspiration from Erin, one of their young musicians introduced their first piece with a beautifully poetic background, delivered with confidence, no easy task for a young person in front of a large audience. The ensemble work showed exceptional communication skills and critical listening, a skill difficult to develop without the wonderful opportunities created by music hubs across the country. Another fabulous performance, showing the success stories of providing musical education through music hubs up and down the country.
MFY had a chance to show the audience another success story of Frequencies, this time through Lifeofkwasi, a young musician from London who performed a combination of singing and rapping. Kwasi took to the stage with confidence, and a wonderful electricity was present with both duo partners that joined him on stage. Kwasi was full of energy, and it was a wonderful reminder that we need to continue, as a society, to support the many types of talent present amongst young people. In Kwasi’s interview earlier in the day (available on the MFY website) he shared his gratitude to MFY for the opportunity, extremely aware of the sparsity of these opportunities, and his wish to show all the young people that they should grab every opportunity with both hands and enjoy every moment – an attitude which Kwasi brought in truckloads to his performance this evening.
Returning to the development of young classical musicians, Musica Youth Orchestra took to the stage with a fabulous display of professionalism, much like the Gwent Music Harp Ensemble, and yet the small additions of choreography reminded the audience of the youthful energy present on the stage with the young musicians. Clearly adept performers, they didn’t show any signs of doubt, and their tutti sound filled the hall with a wonderful optimism for the future of classical orchestras. The communication evident to the audience, as well as the full, supported sound, made it clear that every young musician in the orchestra felt equally as important and as proud to be there, an important message to send to all young musicians that their voice is unique and important.
The presenters returned to the stage one final time, to thank the sponsors and Music for Youth Staff, as well as a reminder to parents that they can purchase professional photos, a DVD and merch – another credit due to MFY for what I can only imagine was a massive logistical challenge to organise all the incredible additions to what had already been a fabulous evening that I’m sure none of the young people involved will ever forget.
The evening finished with the Finale, which had been carefully presented to the audience throughout the evening. The combination of singing, instruments, and body percussion clearly demonstrated the power of music to cross boundaries and allow all young people to have a fabulous time – I even spotted one string group using Kodaly, a reminder of the wonderful ways teachers dedicate their time to these young people. The evening finished with the confetti canons - bringing an additional level of excitement and vibrancy to the Royal Albert Hall.
A truly fantastic evening, and a wonderful reminder of the power of music – I hope every person in the Royal Albert Hall left on Tuesday evening feeling just as inspired and optimistic as I did.