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"A Wonderful Experience"

The first ever Opera North Orchestra Academy has been taking place this week at Leeds College of Music.

Talented young musicians aged 14-19 years have gathered from across the UK for the residential week of orchestral music-making under the guidance of members from the Orchestra of Opera North. The week culminates in a concert there this Saturday. We spoke to two of the participants as they took a break from a side-by-side session with the orchestra in the Howard Assembly Room.

Keith Bray at Opera North Orchestra Academy © Justin Slee

Keith Bray, 17, has been playing the viola for three years and is currently at Grade 8 standard. Based in Shipley, he has been travelling into the Academy each day.

“I’m already a member of the Opera North Youth Chorus so I head about the Orchestra Academy there and decided to give it a go. I’ve been to chamber music choirs, but this is my first orchestral week.”

Hannah Faulkner, 19, is taking advantage of the residential option for the week having travelled from her home town of Chester. A flute player for nine years, she is about to take her Diploma. This is also her first time at an orchestral camp and being in the Howard Assembly Room brought back memories of the auditions the young musicians had to do to gain a place.

“I was really nervous. There were so many flautists at the audition, I didn’t think I’d get in. They all sounded so good!”

Hannah Faulkner (second from left) playing flute at Orchestra Academy 2018 © Justin Slee

Over the course of the week, Keith and Hannah have taken part in sectional rehearsals with the other violas and flautists, as well as in wider groups with the string and woodwind players. There were also sessions which challenged them to try new things. As Hannah said:

“I’ve really enjoyed the sectionals – they’re great and you learn so much. We’re also going to be doing some chamber music though which is a bit nerve-wracking.”

When asked what they have enjoyed most, they both agreed that playing with the Orchestra of Opera North had been a particular highlight. Keith commented:

“I’ve enjoyed playing next to the orchestra most. It’s really useful to watch and learn from them. You pick up all kinds of tips and techniques, including how to move when you’re playing.”

When asked to sum up the week in three words, Hannah simply said:

“A wonderful experience!”

The youth orchestra are now preparing for their first concert together, which is taking place at The Venue, Leeds College of Music, at 3pm this Saturday, 1 September. Conductor Lee Reynolds will lead them through Mozart’s enchanting Overture to The Magic Flute, the dark, earthy sounds of Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 (Unfinished) and Copland’s colourful Appalachian Spring. Tickets are just £8.


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