When 775 teenagers from all corners of the UK come together to create music, great things happen! This February, in our biggest ever digital activity, we invited young people to connect with each other and perform a piece of music, live, over the internet. The piece, called Jigsaw and composed by Dani Howard, was specifically commissioned for this activity and is designed to be playable by any combination of instruments: every performance is slightly different, brought to life in different ways by musicians in different areas.
After the end of our nine-day activity, we caught up with NYO Inspire musicians Chloe (flute) and Esme (clarinet) to hear their reflections of NYO Lift Off & Lift Up and what they’ve enjoyed the most during their participation.
How did your involvement with NYO Inspire begin? Have you taken part in previous NYO Inspire projects?
Chloe: I play the flute and I have been part of NYO Inspire for two years now, after my teacher recommended NYO Inspire Ensembles to me to improve my orchestral skills. My first ever activity was in Liverpool at the start of 2020, which was a 3-day residential activity for woodwind and percussion. I had no idea what to expect but the atmosphere was so comforting in a way which was, safe to say, extremely unexpected, because I literally knew no one and for me, it took a lot of strength to step off that train and into an unknown location to me, completely alone. Of course, the initial fear was all worth it – the opportunity was so inspiring, and I have made some friends for life.
Esme: This February, alongside 774 other young musicians, I took part in the NYO Inspire activity NYO Lift Off & Lift Up! As it was my first-time taking part in an NYO project, I was nervous, but the kindness and gentle encouragement from the NYO musicians and tutors made me feel comfortable to contribute and share music with others.
What did you enjoy about NYO Lift Off & Lift Up! and digitally meeting fellow teenage musicians from around the UK?
Chloe: The digital activity of NYO Lift Off and Lift Up was different from the NYO Inspire Ensembles activity I had previously participated in, but I enjoyed doing it from the comfort of my own home in Birmingham and meeting other people from the area.
Esme: Throughout the day, there were opportunities to meet new people and hear about their relationship with music. Despite the activities being delivered online, we even managed to compose in groups a short piece of music about flying! We were unmuted on screen, and the unpredictability of the timings and sound was one of the reasons the piece was meaningful, as we connected through the music regardless of the difficulties of technology. In the afternoon, we rehearsed and performed Jigsaw, a piece composed specifically for this project by Dani Howard. We also had a chance to learn more about the piece by the composer herself, in a short Q&A session during the day.
What was a major highlight for you?
Chloe: A major highlight of my day was creating a short composition using our storytelling skills to come up with a rocket-inspired piece, which we performed on Zoom with three other wind instruments in my creative group. That was so nice for me, as like many other musicians, I haven’t played with anyone since early March last year.
Esme: I particularly enjoyed the process of playing Jigsaw: ‘live’ and all together on screen, and how all these 16 different performances of the same piece will end up slightly different, it reminded me of quilting and stitching together layers and textures.
How have you been keeping your music going at the moment?
Chloe: I am lucky enough to have a musical family so playing duets and trios has enabled me to keep up with ensemble skills, but the extra time has given me so much freedom to practise and to a certain extent, I think it has actually been really good for me. That is, other than the extreme lack of motivation sometimes... but that is inevitable, whether in a global pandemic or not. Joining NYO Inspire has been one of the best musical experiences I have ever had, and I hope to be a part of the NYO community as much as I can!
How do you think music can help us during these challenging times?
Esme: Participating in NYO Lift Off & Lift Up was overwhelmingly rewarding and inspiring as it allowed me to share my love of music and create connections with new people. The activity reminded me that, despite the difficulties of the past year, music can bring people together, through the acts of listening and playing. I look forward to the future opportunities NYO will bring!
Join us on a journey to explore music-making together and share the results on our social media platforms by following #NYOLiftOff.