Chairman’s Newsletter – February 2015

Chairman’s Welcome to AYO 2015

Here we are at the start of another new year and an exciting new series of AYO concerts.  Last year’s concerts continued to attract large numbers of people and in fact the demand for seats at the final concert of 2014 was so great that it was necessary to open the balcony in order to accommodate the number of people who turned up.  So I am in the happy position of advising that in order to obtain the seats of your choice you will need to get to the concerts in good time.

While listening to Jim Wu’s beautiful performance of the slow movement of the Bruch Violin Concerto, it came to me yet again just what a wonderful asset the AYO is to Auckland, and its young musicians. It has been fascinating to witness how much the orchestra has contributed to the development of Jim as a musician, and his contribution to AYO in return. His commitment and his achievement must be an inspiration to all young players joining the orchestra. Starting in the second violins he gradually moved to principal positions, from there to that of Concertmaster and finally, after winning the AYO Soloist Competition, to performing a concerto in the Town Hall to a capacity audience and a rapturous reception. And of course Jim is not the only brilliant young musician to emerge from the orchestra into the spotlight. Since we introduced the competition we have presented Albee Ai, bassoon; Olivia Francis, violin; Alexander McFarlane, viola; and Jim Wu, violin. All of them have performed magnificently.

This season the winner of the competition was Jacky Siu, who will be performing the Shostakovich Cello Concerto No 1 in the second programme of this year, in May.

The orchestra also provides concerto opportunities to other talented young musicians, not only prize winners. Recently for example we have heard virtuoso performances of Monti’s Czardas by Laurence McFarlane on marimba, xylophone, and glockenspiel, and poetic and moving performances of Schumann’s cello concerto by Edward King, a former member of the orchestra. In 2015 Maria Mo will perform Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No 1 in our third programme of the year, in September/October.

Of course AYO does not exist simply to produce soloists. Its principal function is to nurture and develop the general musical culture of its members. It is always fascinating how actually playing the music of a composer can lead to insights which can be so easily missed just by listening to it, (or not listening, as is so often the case with recorded music, which can be switched on and off like a tap, and become a kind of aural wallpaper). Robert Carrier, the famous chef, in his introduction to “The Robert Carrier Cookbook” wrote, “To discover and to reveal: that is the basis of all art. Until we have learned to explore, our tastes are so limited, our experience is so narrow, that we can make no valid comparisons, can found no true judgements.”

This is so true, and our objective at AYO is to provide our young musicians with the broad experience they need, and which they may never gain if the only music they ever really know is merely that which is written for the instrument they are learning.


MidsummerOur Forthcoming Concerts!

The first programme of the new season is a perfect illustration of what we are about. Being unable to use the Town Hall on our preferred date, we have decided to try something new, giving three concerts in Auckland in smaller venues:  Morra Hall, Waiheke Island, Devonport St Paul’s and St Michael’s Remuera. We hope to reach some new audience this way.

The programme will be an eclectic mix of shorter pieces, featuring different sections of the orchestra:  percussion, brass, strings, and even a piece for five violas!

The full orchestra will play music by Haydn and Humperdinck.  The pieces to be played will range from the 16th century to the 21st and with military references; our thoughts this year turn to Gallipoli, which is mentioned in the programme in a poem by Mike Subritzky.

There will be much to explore, therefore, and much to discover.  As there is limited seating at these venues, we have decided that admission will be by donation on entry (our “Notes for Notes” initiative!), and it will be essential to get there early in order to secure your seats.

The other two programmes this year will be performed in Auckland at the Town Hall as usual. Each will feature a great classic symphony as its basis: The New World by Dvorak with the Shostakovich Cello Concerto No.1 on 23 May, and the Pathetique Symphony by Tchaikovsky with the Mendelssohn Piano Concerto No 1 on 3 October. Two wonderful programmes to look forward to!


Our Brisbane Friends…

With some other members of the AYO Executive Committee, I recently met up with the manager of the Brisbane Youth Orchestras (they have three!), and we found it very interesting to compare their situation to ours. We were amazed to discover that they have three paid administrators, while of course AYO depends entirely on volunteers. They also have their rehearsal and performance venue provided by Brisbane Council free, and in addition they receive $A50,000p.a. from the State Government in support.  As you can imagine we felt very envious but, to put it in some perspective, he told us that the Australian Youth Orchestra receives $A2,000,000p.a. from the Federal Government!

However he was equally amazed when we told him that, like them, we present three programmes a year supported only by limited sponsorship and voluntary donations, and that our concerts are free and fill the Town Hall. Their average audience is around 400. It seems, like so many organisations in NZ, that we can achieve miracles on virtually no money and yet produce results which can more than hold their own with the best, both in the arts and sport. Which is not to say that more support from the powers that be would not go amiss!

Thank you for your continued support and interest in AYO – it is sincerely appreciated.

Alex Cowdell