NYO Composers are the neutrons of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain - you rarely see them but you know they exist. They are an extended part of the orchestra. The Composers are musicians themselves and also have to audition for their spot by portfolio and interview.
Whenever we meet musicians from the orchestra the first of many questions we are normally presented with is 'What do NYO composers do?'; therefore I have decided to write an article on behalf of the composers to inform the musicians and general public what we actually do apart from eating biscuits, making paper aeroplanes and playing bananagrams.
Our days normally start with breakfast and warm-ups with the orchestra. However instead of going to sectionals or rehearsals, we attend our own special sessions lead by composition tutors, Anna Meredith and Larry Goves. During this time we’re given lectures about contemporary music and sometimes have small 30-minute tasks to complete with regards to the general theme of each lecture.
We are given a few major projects to work on over a number of days. These could be writing a fully orchestrated expansive chord with numerous variations, creating a composition on a single sided A3 piece of paper, writing music that incorporates recorded sound samples and live instruments and also composing an open score composition for a select number of musicians. Some of these projects are then performed and rehearsed in collaboration with the whole orchestra.
In the evening, this is when we prepare music or work on projects for the next morning (even if that means working through the night). This Spring we had our compositions premiered at the Sage Gateshead and the Royal Festival Hall in Creative Hub, our usual composers’ concert that showcases our work.
I hope now you have come to understand more about the role of a NYO composer and what a typical day holds for us on a residency.