NYO rehearsal residencies take place all over the UK and last for 8-14 days. Musicians stay in shared or individual bedrooms on campus in a university or school - a far cry from the old days of the NYO, when teenagers were sometimes expected to sleep on a classroom floor and make do. Typically the day starts with breakfast at 8am, followed by warm-ups: breathing and stretching exercises that set everyone up for the hours ahead. Led by the Support Team, warm-up groups include members from across the orchestra. The rest of the day for orchestral musicians might include:
Each NYO instrument group works with a dedicated leading professional musician for four or five days. These focused rehearsals offer the opportunity to break down the finer points of the instrumental parts, and learn specific technique. Teamwork is emphasised, particularly in peer exchange sessions, which invite musicians to pool and share knowledge as a section.
Sections come together for full Strings, Wind, Brass and Percussion rehearsals.
The entire orchestra is led initially by the rehearsal conductor, later by our guest conductor.
Every tutti rehearsal begins with two minutes of silence and stillness: this brings calm into the room, and helps each player to focus. This silence has been an NYO tradition since 1948, it symbolises the respect that the orchestra has for the music, the rehearsal process and each other.
While the instrumental players focus on existing repertoire, composers work to create the new. Typically they are set focused exercises that challenge them to think differently about instrument combinations, and encourage them to find inventive responses to existing works.
There's more to outstanding musicianship than perfecting the notes. Key to the residencies are insight activities and workshops, which use dancing, singing and chamber music to inspire a richer understanding of the repertoire – and of each other.
It's hard to believe, in the run-up to a performance, but relaxation is as important as practice. Evening leisure activities – which range from quizzes to football matches to jazz nights – are optional but encouraged, not least because they foster the shared spirit that makes for great orchestral playing.
These residencies are intensive, and require plenty of rest, so all members are expected to be in their own bedroom by 11pm.