Vic Hoyland

Essex Youth Orchestra

Essex-Xingu souvenir programme pages 2

Essex-Xingu souvenir programme pages 3

An introduction to the Orchestra and its work by Joan Collins (1979)

In this country today, the piano is coming back into the living room, the guitar hangs on the young person's bedroom wall, while up and down the street small children can be heard practising their recorders. Sir Robert Mayer's 100th birthday reminds us of the encouragement given to young music lovers by Youth and Music. The Schools Prom. fills the Royal Albert Hall for several nights every autumn, and musical and non-musical families alike follow the fortunes of the BBC's Young Musician of the Year.

Essex Youth Orchestra in rehearsal for Xingu, 1979

Young people's music making in Essex is part of this reawakening of live music, Music teaching in schools and in Area Music Schools encourages music making from an early age, and school orchestras, chamber ensembles, area youth orchestras, choirs, brass bands and wind bands flourish, many achieving a national reputation. On this local foundation is built the pyramid of the Essex Schools Strings Orchestra (for 11-13 year olds), the Second Essex Youth Orchestra and the Essex Youth Orchestra (both for 14 - 21 year olds), all administered and financially supported by the Essex Education Committee.

Their purpose is to give to gifted (and hardworking) young musicians in Essex the opportunity to study, together with their peers and under the guidance of distinguished musicians, works of the classical repertoire and those in a contemporary idiom, and to learn the self discipline and sensitivity to others which are essential in the members of a large orchestra. To perform the major classical works makes stringent demands on young players' techniques and stamina, while to study a new work by a living composer, with the composer present at rehearsals, adds another dimension to their understanding of music. The orchestra has been fortunate to have new works written for it by Gordon Jacob, Alan Rawsthorne, Bernard Stevens, Stefan de Haan and Elizabeth Maconchy. Vic Hoyland’s Xingu, commissioned with funds supplied by the Arts Council of Great Britain, is the latest in this exciting series of new works.

Essex is fortunate to be within easy reach of London and to be able therefore to call upon the services of internationally known instrumentalists mostly soloists and principals of the London Orchestras, who offer their experience and fund of musical knowledge as tutors on orchestral courses, frequently staying in residence with the young people and freely continuing their tutoring role unofficially in the evenings.

Residential orchestral schools offer the opportunity not only for concentrated study of the year's repertoire, but also for the formation of chamber music groups (some of which, such as The Elysian Wind Quintet, stay together professionally), while the orchestra can always be relied on to provide its own dance band for parties and has been known, on tour, to be invited to take over from the professional dance band in the local night spot!

Instrumentalists are essentially performers and every opportunity is taken, particularly with the First Orchestra, to give them concert and touring experience. A regular series of concerts in Essex, London and Aldeburgh is interleaved with concert tours abroad. In part due to the extensive network of international contacts of the Community Education Service in Essex, the Essex Youth Orchestra frequently breaks new ground on its tours abroad. It has visited not only almost every country of Western Europe, the USA and Canada, but has been the first County Youth Orchestra to visit Czechoslovakia, Poland, the USSR and Israel and the Second Orchestra the first to visit Romania), In 1980 its members hope to be able to accept an invitation to visit Japan. On these tours, the members of the orchestra do not merely give concerts; they are usually the guests of a similar group of young people in the host country, and thus not only have a programme of sightseeing and study of that country, but frequently visit and stay in private homes and establish relationships which in many cases become lasting friendships.

When traveling abroad, the orchestra members often face a lack of comprehension on the part of their hosts as to how such a youth orchestra can function while they are clearly amateur, their standard is almost professional; almost all members are school pupils or students, but only a small proportion are music students — far more are studying medicine, education, law, engineering, economics, languages etc. In most countries such a mixture of backgrounds is unknown and while the standard of ensemble playing of a Conservatoire orchestra abroad is incredibly high, their members sometimes envy both the vitality of the approach to music of the Essex Youth Orchestra and the cross-fertilisation of ideas which is the stuff of discussion among the orchestra members.

While the majority of members of the orchestra have, over the years since its inception in 1957, gone out into the world to become successful teachers, doctors, lawyers, industrial chemists, diplomats, computer technologists, etc., etc.. it is satisfying to know that many of those who have opted to become professional musicians are now in the front rank of their profession. It is pleasing to recall John Lill, then an Essex schoolboy, playing a piano concerto with the Essex Youth Orchestra on tour in Holland and Germany, former leaders of the Essex Youth Orchestra now leading (or having led) major orchestras — John Georgiadis, of the London Symphony Orchestra, Peter Thomas of the BBC Welsh Orchestra; Christopher Adey, now making a name as a conductor, Christopher Rowland leading the Fitzwilliam Quartet; Ian Jewel, viola in the Gabrieli Quartet; and many players in all sections of every major orchestra in this country and many abroad who gained their first orchestral experience with the Essex Youth Orchestra.

Essex Youth Orchestra in rehearsal for Xingu, 1979

Joan Collins is Principal Officer (Youth) with the Essex Education Authority, and has been the Orchestra's administrator since 1967.