Now in its 70th year, NYO continues to develop as an organization. The highest levels of orchestral performance remain at its heart, but the culture has changed from one of receiving to one of giving. Until a decade ago, NYO solely benefitted its members, but in 2018, 164 NYO Musicians will volunteer over 1000 days as peer leaders, and engage with 10,000 young people, working side-by-side, empowered by their skills and experience to inspire others, thereby redefining what it is to be a member of a national ensemble with increasing capability for social action. Chief Executive and Artistic Director Sarah Alexander’s ‘totally teenage’ vision for the organization was recognized with an OBE in the New Year honours list in 2018.
This Spring NYO will field the largest number of musicians in its 70-year history. For the first time, NYO divides into two ensembles to give concerts by teenagers for teenagers, including UK premiere of The Hunger Games Suite, alongside Bernstein’s epic MASS, conducted by Marin Alsop.
NYO UNLEASHED is a radical revision of Bernstein’s concerts for young people, conducted by Kwamé Ryan. There are performances in Birmingham (7 April) and London (8 April), including music from The Hunger Games, with concerts programmed and introduced by teenagers.
BERNSTEIN’S MASS is a collaboration between NYO, Chineke! Juniors and massed choirs, to perform this musically eclectic and thought-provoking work for huge forces, conducted by Marin Alsop at the Southbank Centre (6 & 7 April), directed by Jude Kelly. Details of Southbank Centre’s Bernstein project and Young People’s Weekend here.
NYO Unleashed presents concerts by teenagers for teenagers, and brings the visceral excitement of live orchestra performance to young audiences at Birmingham Symphony Hall and the Southbank Centre. Kwamé Ryan will conduct the ensemble in a showcase for NYO’s brilliant musicians. Mason Bates’ Mothership, originally written for the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, will see NYO is joined by a young steel pan player from Trinidad and Tobago – linking NYO with Kwame’s recently established Academy for the Performing Arts. James Newton Howard’s Hunger Games Suite from the dystopian young adult cult series of films – one of the biggest film franchises of all time – gets its UK premiere with the teenage forces of NYO. The music also includes Bernstein’s Dances from West Side Story and music from John Williams’ Star Wars.
The experience begins as soon as the audience arrives at the venue, with a welcoming carnival atmosphere and musicians in the foyers who will then lead the audience into the venue. Repertoire and presentation has been led by teenagers, and NYO Musicians will present the concert in a jargon-free way, focusing on the imaginative, emotional, narrative and physical playing challenges of the music. The programme of events will also include a pre-concert NYO Teen Hangout, hosted by NYO’s Young Promoters; Come and Play: Mambo! from West Side Story and an NYO After Party featuring bold new music by NYO composers, performed by NYO musicians - which are all free to attend.
Overall, the weekend will showcase 194 totally teenage musicians, including 14 from Chineke! Juniors for MASS, and 16 from NYO Inspire and other partner organisations. There will be 52 violins, 20 violas and 12 basses across the two orchestras along with 12 french horns and 12 percussionists!
“Teenagers have driven the programming and presentation, citing relatable music and emotional connection as ways to attract other teenagers to orchestral music. They emphasized the importance of talking to the audience to generate an intimate, generous and shared atmosphere.” - Sarah Alexander, OBE, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of NYO
NYO believes in inspiring its teenage musicians with a sense of personal responsibility for giving worldclass performances, and that starts with giving them fantastic role models. And so NYO reflects on the life and work of Leonard Bernstein in what would have been his 100th year. The performance of his huge piece MASS is also part of the ‘teenage takeover’ weekend at Southbank Centre, where NYO is Associate Orchestra. NYO will partner with Chineke! Juniors and massed choral forces for Bernstein’s riotous, irreverent music theatre oratorio at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall. It is conducted by Bernstein protégé and passionate music educator Marin Alsop, and directed by Southbank Centre Artistic Director Jude Kelly CBE.
Much has changed in our world since the premiere of Mass in 1971, composed to memorialise John F Kennedy, but the questions raised in it are equally relevant to millennials as they were to a shocked nation after the assassination of the first Catholic president of the United States of America. The title refers both to the Catholic religious ceremony that forms the spine of the dramatic structure and also to the concept of a mass of people, a crowd, a mob, that without direction can become a terrible, anarchic, potentially destructive force but, through self discovery and with thoughtful leadership, can be a force for good.
“Leonard Bernstein, for me, was the greatest risk-taker in 20th century classical music. Mass is provocative and innovative, embracing our ongoing struggle as individuals to find faith and spirituality in contemporary society. It also sets a challenge: to build harmony from a multitude of voices and cultures – themes which resonate so strongly for young people today.” Marin Alsop
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