Two Pairs of Hands

Two pairs of hands very close to me.

One at my side bursting with ink
Scriptures flowering – bleeding – under the skin.
Half-human, for sure
Out to observe, absorb. Transform the lines
Of all them masters over whom she will be virtuous mistress.

Two – I hold onto them
(but in my eyes)
As metals do to magnets
As waves do to gravity
That leads the dance
bending the bend
stretching the stretch
pulling the push of invisible currents.

These silky feather-brushes lather paint onto the air
Bleeding colours from here – there – harp – snare –
Add water to the strings,
Chuck oil on the bass-
line to thicken the paste,
Burn the wood, the wind, the brass,
Then tame the flames…

These hands.

I held them all –
within me.


Pair No. 1

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The hands belong to my friend and artist, Iona Roberts.
See her amazing work here.


Pair No. 2

François Xavier-Roth, Les Siècles
Royal Festival Hall 02.11.16

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The Forgotten Youth – a response to David Nice (The Arts Desk)

Location: On the 9-hour plane from Helsinki to Guangzhou

My happiness of the weekend has diminished a little after reading someone’s written words. The good memories on- and off-stage, regardless of their emotive strength and permanence, are now partially smudged out by one particular 5-star review about our BBC Prom – quite ironic I know. Sadly, some of the review was not written in the right way, and I thus feel guilty for enjoying our success and accepting the praise. It also brought my attention to an even bigger issue – NYOS and Scotland’s reputation that has been largely ignored in the classical music scene.

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These thoughts have been brewing in my mind ever since I read it, muffling the glorious music I saw performed this weekend. Believe me it really takes a lot to beat Petrushka, Scythian Suite and The Rite of Spring. So, I am going to let it out.

The disappointing words were from David Nice, writing on behalf of The Arts Desk a joint review on both the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain Prom and the NYOS Prom. Many nice things were said for both orchestras. He lauded them both. He rightly recognised the potential, standard and professionalism of NYOS that have been ignored for far too long by the BBC Proms and everyone else. NYOGB was given a much-deserved 4-stars. However, a few sections render it a distasteful comparative analysis of two fantastic youth orchestras, which bothers me quite a lot. I speak out against it as a young Scottish musician, as an alumnus, friend and former intern of NYOGB, as a friend to some of its current musicians, and finally as Leader of NYOS Symphony Orchestra. Continue reading

About a Violin

Part I

Wake up, wake up …

I wrote my final thank you card today and accepted the fact that I was going to cry very, very badly and uncontrollably in the violin shop. I buzzed the door, entered and greeted the lovely receptionists. Also there, by chance, was the lady who had made all of this happen. She was attending to another violinist – American, I think, judging from her accent – and took a tiny second to recognise me in my granny glasses and state of exhaustion.

Oh dear, I thought, this tragedy’s going to have an audience.

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April: Postcards from Edinburgh, Glasgow and Strasbourg

Edinburgh – 03.04.16

The clock reads 02:59AM and my train is at 07:33AM, but my mind continues to reel round between my temples the pages of music that I don’t know, and my heartbeat is running away. I have tried every corner of the bed. I’ve crooked my back into countless different angles, spread my arms out under the pillows, listened to the radio, gone to the toilet, drank water …

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NYO, yo, yo! Getting down and groovy into concert mode.

It’s currently day 10 on the NYO Spring Residency. We have one more day of rehearsing before we are off to Liverpool for our first concert, wahey.

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Chamber Music on NYO’s Inspire Day

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Oh no! NYO 2013 is over!

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

Yes.

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…

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“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? Continue reading

Back in London: NYOGB meets NYOUSA

Yesterday, several NYO members had the great pleasure of meeting our sister orchestra – the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America! We were invited to watch the rehearsal for their Prom, which took place that evening, and then to lunch.

Us Brits would say we had a very lovely day. Americans apparently prefer to use the word:

“AWESOME!”

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I partied at Buckingham Palace – Days 3-6

Can’t form a substantial account of the past few days. Mind blown. Nose clogged up with hay fever. Turned 18. Slightly sunburnt.

I hope you can understand. If not, you will by the end of this post.

Day 3- Rehearsing at St John’s Smiths Square:
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

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Church of Fot – EUCO Budapest Tour Part 4

(NYO have just published my post – have a read here.)

Meanwhile I have one batch of photos left. Don’t fret, this is the final post on Budapest.

On the penultimate day of the tour we performed in Church of Fot, at the unusual time of 11am. The church service concluded at this hour, leaving us barely any time to set up the stage and no time at all to rehearse! Outside the church, the sun shone fully on a very exhausted EUCO, the heat made worse by our black concert wear. We were all exhausted from the previous night’s antics…

But we still managed to pull it off! (Even if the maestro’s shirt was a bit creased.)

The Church of Fot photos are all courtesy of Michael Tang.

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