Mayo Youth Orchestra – IAYO Youth Orchestra Achievement Awardee 2019

The Youth Orchestra Achievement Awards are presented awards annually to youth orchestras at the Festival of Youth Orchestras. The awards aim to acknowledge the particular accomplishments of IAYO member orchestras which have contributed significantly to the development of these orchestras and to highlight the great work they have done.

The 2019 accolades were awarded by the President of the European Orchestra Federation, Jüri-Ruut Kangur. There were three awards this year, the one of which went to Mayo Youth Orchestra for their live orchestra and ballet performance.

Mayo Youth Orchestra’s Live Ballet

Anne Moriarty, Conductor and Music Director of Mayo Youth Orchestra receiving the Youth Orchestra Achievement Award. Photo by John Soffe Photography.

Mayo Youth Orchestra collaborated with Jete Youth Project (a ballet dance programme in association with Victoria Walker Dance) to present highlights from The Nutcracker in the Royal Theatre, Castlebar in December 2019, joined by guest professional dancers Ayumi Maezawa (Atsuko Ballet Company) and Leigh Alderson (Ballet Northern Ireland).

The project was initiated by the orchestra as they wanted to expand their repertoire to include live ballet and to collaborate with a group of dancers of the same age. With the dance school based in Carrick-on-Shannon, County Roscommon, this was a distance-collaboration, especially as the lead female dancer, Ayumi Maezawa, is based in Japan! The choice of the pieces was dependent on the sourcing of suitable scores for youth orchestra and included Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

All of the pieces were Grade 5 plus standard and this meant challenging the musicians to extend their expertise in performing and the introduction of new instruments to the ensemble. The project, though daunting at first, was very exciting. To see the development of members as musicians, from the newest to the most experienced was amazing. They developed an understanding of performing with live dancers and of what performance is for them!

The orchestra rehearsed weekly for three months, rehearsing and recording each piece to send to the dancers who then choreographed the moves to match the orchestral arrangements. Their first joint rehearsal took place one week before the performance where they were joined by their guest dancer from Japan, Ayumi. Their sold-out performance was an outstanding success! Through this artistic collaboration of two arts disciplines, music performance and dance, they accomplished so much; raising the technical standard of the musicians, developing performance skills and composition skills (improvisation) as well as increasing their membership and instrument range. As a result of the success of the project, Mayo Youth Orchestra hopes to travel to Japan in the summer of 2021 (they were invited for 2020 but this had to be deferred) to continue work with Ayumi Maezawa and her ballet school.

Mayo Youth Orchestra was planning on using the money to fund a trip to Japan where they were due to perform in a performance of The Nutcracker alongside Japanese, Ukranian and Irish dancers however, this has now been deferred to 2021 as their invitation was extended.