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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The Joys of Studying Law

Hello blog. As you’d expect I have a lot to say after such a lengthy period of silence. Be prepared to read many fanciful, preposterous words.

A lot of students complain about a law degree being dull, dry and soul-destroying. Pages, journals, cases, textbooks, lecture notes, current affairs, dictionary – oh my lord it’s a vicious cycle, get me outta here. From time to time I pass a bunch of glum faced people in the corridor looking terrified. And I just want to stand on a chair in the middle of the landing and sing, as tunefully as possible,

There is more to life than plain reading, my dear legal companions!

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Monday October 7th – a funny, emotional wreck

The highs and lows from the previous week. Another one of those random, unstructured, blog posts, for which there isn’t a particular purpose other than to exercise creative writing skills and escape from present life.


    • Hello Jacob!

We ate a pint of sausage rolls and snooped around a second hand book sale by Southbank.

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  • Good news!

I’ve been chosen to lead the King’s College London Symphony Orchestra this year, argh! The phone call from the conductor sure brightened my dull evening.

This term we are playing Tchaikovsky Symphony No 5, and next term it’s Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov, in which there is quite a big violin solo. Yikes.


  • Listening to music made me cry

I’m not usually one to weep along to music. Even in extremely moving live performances it’s rare for me to be pushed beyond the emotional threshold. After memorable concerts I am likely to be profoundly inspired by the artists, or sunk into a state of oblivion. And hearing pieces I’ve performed myself, especially in an orchestra with friends, always causes my skin to feel a little more sensitive, as the goosebumps shiver to the surface and come in contact with the fibres of my sleeves. Somehow the voice and music of a woman called Carole King coaxed out all the negative feelings in my brain.

She made me cry, and smile, a lot.

Then of course I saw that BBC had finally uploaded a video of NYO performing Vaughan-Williams Towards the Unknown Region, and burst into tears again.

Hilarious, emotional wreck.

  • This week I’ve been tackling my first law essay, which has turned out to be an absolute failure.

My work shouldn’t even be classed as discursive writing. It falls under a category unknown in any academic field called Read Everything And Type It Out. The essay is completely hopeless; a ten year old could have constructed a more convincing and eloquent piece. I have attempted to create a structure with subheadings, but the bold typeface just looks like a mere effort to cover up and refine my pathetic attempt at legal lingo. I read and read and read as much the brain could cope to find supporting and opposing arguments. Afterwards however I was left with what seemed like two piles of overcooked, bland, lifeless noodles.

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I decided after many hours of sitting and staring blankly at the laptop screen that any more time and effort spent on this essay would not benefit me or my writing whatsoever. If I didn’t have a clue what to do, then so be it. I am going to submit this ‘essay’ – I’d rather call it a piece of used toilet roll – to my tutor, listen to her unhelpful advice and get on with life. It will probably fail, but at least I will understand how to improve. After all, accepting failure makes you more resilient and persistent. I’m hoping to gain some grit.

To be frank, a few of the lecturers frustrate me. They have been very harsh to throw us an essay when the majority, like me, are still struggling to settle into university life…

My flatmate and I forged through the night with our assignment. She boiled broccoli to eat as a midnight snack. Last night I boiled peas and sweetcorn. We should be featured in documentaries about student life in London.

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It’s time to face another week.


London life – Glitter and jazz and dancing

Living in London is a popular topic among students who have received an offer from one of its universities. This is mainly because life here differs from anywhere else in the world, let alone the country, and that moving here brings you into a global hub which doesn’t suit every student. If you’re not aware of the pros and cons, they are pretty straightforward:


  • One of the greatest cities in the world
  • Endless opportunities
  • Forefront of style, innovation, technology, education


  • Spending money money money every day
  • Noisy and dangerous
  • Stressful and tiring

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Welcome to London: Freshers Week Musings

A law student here writing. Prepare yourself for dry sentences and stony frankness.

This time last week I was packing my life away into seven Morrisons heavy-duty Shopping Bags, two suitcases and two rucksacks. The synthetic grocery bags were each assigned to a category and one suitcase contained shoes, and the other accommodated a 3-month Fall/Winter wardrobe. Winter clothes are a nuisance because they take up masses of space.

Collecting and collating my belongings proved an enjoyable last evening with my mother. Surprisingly our moods and ideas appeared to synchronise and there was little or no memorable dispute all night. If there was it would have been over a pair of shoes or a packet of disinfecting wipes and quickly resolved by me accepting her contributions. I knew how easily the final hours at home could turn sour…

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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…

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NYO Week 1: “I’m not tired and never will be!”

Okay, I have a question for all of you, especially the NYO folk.

When you ask someone,

“Hey! How are you?”

…how many times, I repeat, how many times have you received this reply?

“I’m good thanks… Tired though.”

Yes, you’ve heard it before, the typical unimaginative answer so often uttered by an orchestral musician.

Nobody has been the exception to this yet. Not one person in this orchestra. I am determined, however, to avoid using this phrase and construct spectacular alternatives every time. Please, let’s inject some positive energy, as they say here. We haven’t even reached the end of the residency yet.

Anyway, here’s a quick summary of week 1. Enjoy.


Sectionals finished yesterday morning, and we said goodbye to our incredible tutor, Kyra Humphreys.

We will miss hearing the barking dogs outside the building and the deafening rain against the windows that swamped our pianissimo playing.

I love our section; we work so well together. Our productivity seems to have improved greatly as we were even making progress by Day 2:

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N.B. This photo does not reflect the quality of Natalie’s playing at all. Gi was just tired.
(See what I’m getting at?! Tired!)

Mealtimes have been a joyous occasion.

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I’ve been mauled by a Scottish Big Bear many times:

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Break times are well spent, on playing our own instruments…

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After a few days, we were reduced from our full string sectional format (violins + violas + cellos + basses) to smaller ‘octet’ style ensembles, which enabled us to become more aware of interweaving textures in the music and communicate with players seated further away. Desks from the front were grouped with those from the middle and back of other sections. My group was aptly named Lions – such ferocious players, we must be.

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From 10am – 1pm today, we had our first rehearsal with NYO Principal Conductor, Vasily Petrenko. We thought we were working hard already, and then he arrived only to make us play spikier, shorter, and prettier, like in this movement.

Everybody also took part in the community projects for the Derry City of Culture celebrations. The majority were involved in Play at Our Place and Inspire Day. Play at Our Place consisted of NYO members working with young musicians to create a mini-concert in the young musicians’ living rooms.

Inspire Day, the activity I did, similarly invites local young musicians to work with NYO members side-by-side, but in a full orchestral setting. On this occasion we were lucky enough to be conducted by Vasily as well! (I need to start writing about/editing material from today… Eeeek.)

My friends take a well-deserved flop on the mats after a crazy day:

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And then we all went a-bowling…

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Borrowed from friend's Twitter

Photo taken from a friend’s Twitter

…and walked to the river, eating MacDonald’s fries as the rain began to pour down.

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Tomorrow: a lie-in, and also the arrival of the choirs! Waah!

“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:


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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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