“Let’s run through all of Beethoven 9!”

Hello from Derry! NYO played through Beethoven’s 9th Symphony for the first time in its history – how cool is that?

When news spread that we were going to run through the symphony in its entirety – sans chorus and soloists – faces gasped and gawped, mouths agape, eyes wider still, and heads turned left and right to meet the gazes of their friends who were in the same disbelief. Could they really do that to us?

I was equally astonished, but secretly, deep, deep within my strange mind, the idea of playing through thousands of notes – well, trying to at least – which put together created arguably the single most epic piece of music ever written couldn’t have made me happier. Note-bashing, as they say, is not a favourable way to approach music, especially in an orchestral context.

But I love it! It’s like sight-reading chamber music: absolute freedom. And anyway, we need to have an overview of the whole work. When better to run it all than Day 1?

Photo courtesy of @nyotweets

Photo courtesy of @nyotweets

Whether I completely overlooked the serious matter of things, I did maintain a solid concentration during all the rehearsals today. Beethoven symphonies are an abundance of different bow strokes, textures and lines. There are passages where you think,

“What a nutcase.”

…because it’s clear Beethoven ignored, for several bars, the practical side to playing an instrument, and wrote down only what he heard in his head, which on a violin would mean crossing strings every quaver, broken octaves, at crotchet = 999999999. Any moment of relapse, you are dead meat.

In this instance I understand why a play-through would aggravate some. Most of the orchestra travelled to Ireland together, their journey taking them from Liverpool to Wales, crossing the water to Dublin, then to Belfast, and finally Derry. A long journey followed by 2 hours of Beethoven’s music written at his maddest, is, understandably, an unfavourable combination.

The aforementioned route went through a few too many countries in 48 hours, so I flew from Edinburgh to Belfast, which took about 30 mins. Muah-ha-ha-ha-ha…

I also had an extra day to practise my part – mega bonus. My energy is thus explained by my efficient travel method.


Tomorrow: more rehearsals. I’m also involved in Inspire Orchestra, and from reading the list of participants I realise there are a crowd of young violinists turning up who I’ve never met before, whose lovely Irish names I cannot pronounce yet. I must sleep in order to prepare myself, as my enthusiasm needs to be recharged. Be strong brain, be strong.


Hm, guess who’s looking joyous on the brand new Summer Concert leaflet?

Inline images 1


As usual, I’ll be writing and tweeting on behalf of NYO.


May I also add that I am very content at the moment, not just because there is a shop just beyond my flat door selling all sorts of biscuits, but because I am about to have an incredible fortnight with incredible people. Goodnight.


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