Oh no! NYO 2013 is over!

Wait, what, where, how, why?! Really? Has it come to an end?


The NYO Prom happened last Sunday. A culmination of a year’s work; the highlight on our calendars. They say our concert was the first ever to be completely free to the public, tickets, programmes and all. Even I failed to grab hold of extra tickets. After only 8 minutes, they were completely sold out. On top of that, it was celebrating bicentenary of the Royal Philharmonic Society, offering a world premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s “Frieze”, and NYO’s first go at Beethoven 9.
– “Simply unmissable” – as one Irish newspaper put it.

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Photo courtesy of BBC Proms: “Ode to joy, ode to joy, ode to joy, ode to joy!”
Yes, those are the words to the 4th movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, as declared by certain members of the NYO.

Strangely, I was not feeling very nervous about playing the notes live on Radio 3 (filmed for TV broadcast next month). There was another matter which occupied my mind: my new concert dress. I had been pretty adventurous in my choice of performance outfits overall, pushing the boundaries further and further in each successive concert.

This one, however, was my most daring yet. Not because it was short, or big; but because it was excessively, spectacularly, sparkly. Endearing as it sounds, I feared it would attract unwanted attention and make me stick out, like a naive girl who tries too hard to attract people at primary school Christmas discos.

As we made our way onto the stage at 7:30pm, I was still questioning the appropriateness of my attire.
“Jacob, are you sure it’s fine? It’s so sparkly, arghhhh…” Soon I forgot about trivial things, and found myself heavily engrossed in the music.

Oh my god, it was so amazing…

Right from the eye-watering opening of the Vaughan-Williams, to the jazzy, seductive riffs in the Turnage, to every plump pizzicato in the slow movement of the Beethoven.

I brushed away the ugliness and unhappiness pervading my daily life and switched to happy-cheesy-idealistic-passionate mode for the next two hours.

Three days on, I can still hear the screams from the crowds and the unceasing applause which followed Beethoven 9’s ecstatic finale. Once last chord rung away into oblivion, the fireworks exploded, and my ears kept ringing, as if the piccolo refused to let go off it’s shrill top D.

Oh my god… It really was so amazing.


It feels like only days ago we were rehearsing in Derry – nine hours a day!

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With the National Youth Choir of Great Britain…

I felt like we had almost established an NYO way of living. Rehearsals, dinner, dancing around, speaking gibberish; then in the evenings, sight-reading chamber music, trips to Sainsbury’s, climbing up lampposts, ordering pizza at 10:45pm.

Here’s an example: Robert looks like he’s sliding down a pole from a spaceship.

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Little by little, our real life habits disappeared, leaving us inept at basic tasks, such as eating lasagne with the correct utensils. Poor Jacob…

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Then came the concerts.

In Belfast’s Waterfront Hall:

Copyright: Jason Alden

Copyright: Jason Alden

In Derry’s Millenium Forum:

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Michael’s photo!

(First time I’ve ever worn a jumpsuit in a performance, let alone a gold belt!)

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Before we knew it we were flying back to mainland UK for our final performance at the BBC Proms. The orchestra was split in half, one flying in the morning, the other in the afternoon. Unfortunately, I was in the group who had to wake up before 6am…

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Another of Michael’s…

Still as perky as ever:

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The final day of NYO 2013, August 11th – BBC Prom time!

Fashion coordination in two members of the front desks, a good omen for the concert, I’d say.

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Rehearsal time! Desks 2 and 3 of the second violins in the shallow corridors of the Royal Albert Hall, cheery as always.

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Tuning, as directed by Robbie. In this photo he resembles some kind of deity…

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You’re probably curious to know why I only managed to compose two blog posts about this residency. Well, alongside everything else that was going on, I stubbornly decided to undertake an ambitious and strictly confidential project, named Operation Tony.

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At the end of every NYO year, each section usually gives their principal a gift to say thank you. They deserve to be rewarded for being amazing, and being able to withstand bad intonation in rehearsals, our reluctance to play in the right part of the bow, not to mention the impromptu concerti that often erupts from individuals at the beginning of the day. NYO don’t pressure us into preparing presents, nor is it an established ‘tradition’, but you’d just look plain weird if you didn’t do it.

So Operation Tony was a project which led to the creation of a present for Jacob George, Principal Second Violin. The inspiration grew from a conversation I had with a fellow colleague, Elmo, in which we agreed that Jacob, an ardent devotee to all things woolly and sweater-shaped, should be given a jumper from the section.

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Was it going to be as simple as buying one from a high-street store, or even a vintage one? No. Of course not. That would be boring. We, the second violins, are a bunch of enigmatic, charismatic individuals; thus we created our own jumper for Jacob.

Initially, I had the idea of buying a plain coloured garment from a store and personalising it by drawing/painting two Js on either side, front and back. (Having made the final product, I am so glad we didn’t do that…) Then another second violin volunteered to knit two Js instead. This concept was then developed into ‘Patchwork Js’, having each member make a small contribution to sew onto the woolly Js, such as an intimate design, a rag, or a collection of buttons.

“Aw, wow! Let’s do that!”

Completely overwhelmed my premeditation of the jumper, I decided to lead the way. I did not anticipate how challenging and time-consuming Operation Tony would be, and how much needlework was required of me. Luckily, all of our rooms in Ireland were supplied with mini-sewing kits…

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Bella, Natalie and I working on the jumper on the penultimate day…

In the first week of the residency, I collected the woolly Js and several personal designs, and affixed them onto the jumper with safety pins. Then came the sewing, the most difficult part, which consumed most of my evenings. Meanwhile, the other challenges were avoiding Jacob and retiring to bed early without rousing any suspicion, in order to continue work on the project.

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Photo courtesy of Georgina: Tadaaaaa!

Obviously, this was not a one-man job, and I was fortunate to have lots of assistance from several members of the section! They sewed on the Js and some of the buttons and designs. But still many of my evenings were occupied and I hadn’t the mind to write here, or anywhere in fact, because I was sleeping rather late.

I sewed the final button on the morning of the final concert and present it to Jacob on the stage of the Royal Albert Hall. I think he liked it. Look at his happy face!

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‘I love you all!’

As we preceded to play the rest of Beethoven 9, I couldn’t stop laughing at how crazy it actually looked on him – or on anyone! The jumper was the most beautiful thing in the universe, with a single golden leaf, pretty bows and many haphazard clusters of buttons, to describe some of what was stitched on. But I wouldn’t be surprised if someone fainted from seeing the psychedelic jumper; the result of the everyone’s wonderful imaginations crammed into a relatively small surface area is pretty shocking.

After the final rehearsal, we retreated outside and onto the walkway leading to the Royal College of Music. Our bodies, stone cold from Irish rainy weather, finally met with London sunshine, putting us in even brighter spirits for the Prom that evening.

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My photo: Four fifths of the Scottish lot – backdrop, Royal College of Music

We took our final photos…

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Photo courtesy of Natalie

…had some more laughs…

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Photo courtesy of Sophie: “Oh, I see. Robert is the one taking the photo and won’t be in it. That’s how it’s going to be, is it?”
*precedes to take a selfie in which his face is predominant*

…and made ourselves glamourous and ready to play Vaughn-Williams, Mark-Anthony Turnage and Beethoven in a fully packed Royal Albert Hall.

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Thank you NYO for making 2013 one of the best years of my life! I am missing it terribly. All I can do now is wait, practise and audition for 2014. Fingers crossed.

(I bet some of you are thinking, YUSS FINALLY SHE CAN STOP TALKING ABOUT NYO… Sorry. Not happening.)

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Now I am in Atlanta for a month before starting university in September. Until then, I am revelling in the memories of recent events…

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Photo courtesy of BBC Proms: “Applaud for this genius.”
I am quite clearly in the same league as the two other gentleman in this picture – Vasily Petrenko and Ludwig van Beethoven.

…teaching myself how to cook again, whilst becoming increasingly impatient for the TV broadcast of the NYO Prom on September 8th, BBC4 (tbc). Additional tasks for the rest of my summer holiday include studying, exercising and making to-do lists.

Oh actually, I think I’m getting my A-level Music result tomorrow? I forgot about that.


148th blog post done: one thing to cross off my list.

Happy birthday to ‘The Diary of a Noggin’! It’s been two years since I started it.

Throw a party for us please.


4 thoughts on “Oh no! NYO 2013 is over!

  1. Dear Blog…please make sure your author takes a copy of this whole blog and keeps it safe offline somewhere safe. Because in 50 years time she will want to read it again and remember these days and how it was back then.

      • Printing is an idea – but it’s known that laser printed pages fade over time. I cut and pasted my blog into a word-processing software, but who knows how long that or any software will still work, or be readable on our devices in the future? There is an option in WordPress to copy a blog, but I found the result was simply something in code – but maybe it’s a code that will last!

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