End of year performance 2021

Two of our members are here to tell you about our year-end performance in September 2021. Elsa reflects on this as the culmination of her time at RYO, and Hannah describes the performance in more detail below.

- By Elsa Crook, Cello

Cellists at St Joseph's College

I joined RYO at the beginning of 2019 at the encouragement of my cello teacher. It was my first experience playing in an orchestra that wasn’t at my school, and although I was nervous to begin with, I quickly felt at home thanks to everyone being so friendly!

Although lockdown soon relegated our rehearsals to being purely held over Zoom, we created a multitude of recordings now found on YouTube – my favourite was a lively Halloween medley!

While we eventually managed to continue rehearsing in person, COVID restrictions delayed our end of year performance to early September, where we performed music from Les Misérables, The Chronicles of Narnia and Saint-Saëns’ haunting Danse Macabre.

It was an amazing opportunity to demonstrate how far we managed to come despite limited in-person rehearsals, and RYO as a whole has massively improved my musical ability!! I am incredibly grateful to Mel, who runs RYO, and am looking forward to carrying over what I have learned in this orchestra to others I may join at university.

- By Hannah Lyon, 1st Flute

On Saturday 11th September, RYO performed its first concert since the start of the pandemic, having worked hard over the lockdown rehearsing the pieces virtually! The concert took place in St Joseph’s College Hall in Reading, where the high roof created some excellent acoustics that helped the music reach its full potential.

Reading Youth Orchestra rehearsing at St Joseph's College main hall

The theme of this concert was ‘Music for Stage and Screen’, as all the pieces played came from either films or operas.

The concert began with the Danse-Macabre by Saint-Saens, an eerie yet lively piece, depicting ‘Death’ appearing at midnight on Halloween to awaken the dead. The Danse-Macabre was led by a violin solo by Euon, the 1st violin. As the piece needed a lot of dissonance through clashing chords, Euon had to retune his violin’s E string a semitone lower to help give the piece its spooky feel!

The next piece played was Intermezzo by Pietro Mascagni, from the opera ‘Cavalleria Rusticana’. This is a much slower, calming piece as it was composed for an orchestral interlude between scenes in the opera. The opera is about betrayed love and jealousy, so whilst this piece is calming, it is also intensely filled with emotion.

The next two pieces were arranged by our lovely 1st clarinet, Pippa:

The third piece we played was One Day More by Claude-Michel Schonberg from the musical ‘Les Misérables’. The musical is all about the French revolution, and this song is sung by many characters each wondering what will happen to them tomorrow. 

The instruments in our orchestra each played the parts of the different characters, for example the 1st oboe player Abbey played Monsieur and Madame Thénardier’s theme, and the second flute Jasmine played Marius’s tune.

The final piece we played was ‘Only the beginning of an Adventure’ by Harry Gregson Williams, from the popular film series ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’. As the 1st flute, I had the honour of beginning the piece with a high-pitched melody accompanied by the harp and the strings. While a few years ago this would have seemed daunting, my time at RYO has boosted my confidence and as I am supported by my friends in the orchestra, it was not scary at all! In fact, I enjoyed it a lot, as the melody was beautiful, and as the piece progressed, I could forget any fears and focus on the playing the wonderful music!

Overall, the day was very enjoyable, and everyone left feeling really pleased with what we had accomplished over the year when we were mainly rehearsing over Zoom at home. It nicely wrapped up the last year and made everyone look forward to whatever is next in store for the orchestra!

Year end performance Sept 2021 at St Joseph's College