Ulster Youth Orchestra Emerges from Lockdown!

Ulster Youth Orchestra were delighted to finally meet in-person for the first time in 18 months in August for the finale of their annual summer course!

The online part of their course began on Monday, 16 August and finished on Friday, 20 August 2021. Every activity was held using Zoom with UYO’s new Administrator, Maebh Martin, at the helm making sure that everyone knew what to do and where to be! Their musical programme centred on the magnificent Symphony No. 1 in E minor by Sibelius. Also on the bill was the second movement of Shostakovich’s Second Piano Concerto featuring young UYO pianist Niamh Brown from Newry.

Ulster Youth Orchestra, conducted by David Brophy, at the Hill of the O’Neill.

Over the five online days, UYO held 95 hours of sectional rehearsals led by their team of highly respected and experienced professional tutors. The students worked hard as the tutors sorted out wrong notes and advised on topics such as articulation, bowing, style, rhythm, confidence and the art of listening to each other. They were a formidable team of enthusiastic and passionate musicians who led the orchestra professionally, yet sensitively, through the process of performing online, learning new repertoire and advising how best to record their parts from home. There was much to learn from a technical aspect as well as the challenge of performing in front of others often through just a mobile phone.

As well as sectional rehearsals, the online part of the course featured all of the other favourite elements from the 2020 course – lessons, masterclasses, performances, talks and of course, the fabulous welfare team kept everyone entertained in the evenings with quizzes, bingo and talent shows! The students also had classes with violinist Ciaran McCabe, pianist David Quigley and with Irish conductor, David Brophy in preparation for their return to the rehearsal room – the beautiful and historic Hill of the O’Neill in Dungannon.

On Saturday, 21 August the full orchestra finally got to meet at the Hill of the O’Neill in Dungannon for a day of rehearsals and recording under the baton of David Brophy. A series of short films are due for release later this month.

The rain poured all day however that didn’t dampen their spirits and below are just some of the responses from the UYO players when they were asked what they enjoyed best from getting back together in person again:

“Getting to feel like a full orchestra again! The atmosphere was lovely and getting to hear the Sibelius live was the first live music I’ve been at since before Covid-19 so I really loved it. I also was really glad to finally meet the people I’ve seen online for two years!”

“Hearing everyone come together and pour their heart and soul into the music was magical.”

“The energy you are able to draw from the rest of the orchestra which improves your own playing in turn, as well as being able to see people in person again.”

“There was no favourite thing, just playing with UYO again in general was probably the highlight of the summer.”

Congratulations to Ulster Youth Orchestra on what sounded like a fabulous course and it is wonderful to see the orchestra together again! We look forward to seeing the short films on their release!