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Interview with National Youth Orchestra performers coming to B:Music Symphony Hall
By Diane Parkes
National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain (NYO) is performing their summer concert at B:Music Symphony Hall in central Birmingham this August it will be a return to one of their favourite venues for two talented musician brothers from Kenilworth.
Eighteen-year-old Patrick O’Reilly and his 17-year-old brother Andrew are looking forward to performing at the world-famous concert hall which is on their doorstep.
Both joined the NYO when they were 13 and enjoy the time they spend with the orchestra, learning not just from the experts but from the other young people who are all aged between 13 and 19.
Patrick who plays Viola recalls:
We both joined NYO as soon as we could, so I joined in the 2018/19 season and Andrew joined a year later.
Right from the beginning it’s very different to anything you’ve ever done before. Firstly it’s enormous, there’s 160 of us, so it’s a sound which you can’t exactly create anywhere else and to be in the middle of that sound is quite something.
And it’s really nice to see a progression through your time with NYO, just to work your way through the orchestra, and then there’s all the various roles you take on with leadership. So you see all the new people coming through and think ‘I used to be one of these so I’ll try and help out’.
As well as the amazing musical experience you get from it, it’s also great that you make lifelong friends and learn skills that you can take with you elsewhere.”
Patrick and Andrew, who have both attended Kenilworth School, grew up in a musical family. Their mother Barbara played violin with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (The CBSO) and their father Chris runs a music shop.
Music has always been such a big and important part of our lives, we’ve been with it right from the outset. Before even we were born, we were listening to our mum play in the CBSO and we’ve worked very hard, practicing from when we were very young.
Our mum, her uncles, our grandparents, they’d all been through NYO so we’ve got quite a strong link there so I think it had always been something we’d wanted to do.”
Both brothers are hugely dedicated to their music. They began performing with the National Children’s Orchestra before joining NYO and between them have also played with a host of other organisations including the Coventry and Warwickshire Youth Orchestra, Warwickshire Symphony Orchestra, Leamington Sinfonia and with Kenilworth School orchestras. Plus on a Saturday they travel to London to play with a string quartet. Both have studied at the Birmingham Junior Conservatoire with Patrick also receiving teaching at the Junior Royal Academy.
Andrew, who plays Cello, says music is in their blood:
I think our upbringing was really important as you see it and want to get involved in it. We’re really thankful for all the encouragement we were given at home because now we both love it so much we want to keep playing. I practice pretty much every day for a couple of hours. The only day I don’t practice is Saturday because I’m going up to London.”
Andrew was keen to join NYO and develop his skills and experience.
Being a year younger I had seen Patrick go through NYO for one year and I’d been to all the concerts for Christmas, Easter and summer. I had seen how great they were, the pieces they get to perform, the conductors they have and the great atmosphere that it has and that pushed me to want to be part of the organization.
Being there for a number of years you can progress through. Playing in an orchestra or an ensemble, especially with people our own age, it’s where you develop the most. Being able to learn from other people your age is so important. And the number of different pieces we get to do and we’re playing all across the UK.”
Both brothers can also play the piano and violin. While Andrew currently has his sights set on a career as a professional musician, Patrick, who is awaiting his A-level results, hopes to work in the maths field but continue playing music as an interest.
In the meantime they are encouraging other young people to come along and enjoy the concert at B:Music’s Symphony Hall which features Copland’s Symphony No 3, Hindemith’s Metamorphosis and Strauss’ Four Last Songs with former Cardiff Singer of the World Masabane, Cecilia Rangwanasha.
“NYO is completely unlike anything you could hear anywhere else, 160 teenagers from across the country who all share the same passion – you don’t get that sort of level of excitement anywhere else.
There’s a real energy from a group of people so young. My hope is that it might brush off on some other people who will be inspired by that.”
And Symphony Hall is a special venue, adds Andrew.
We’ve been there to watch many concerts and we both played in the CBSO Youth Orchestra in the past but this is my first concert at Symphony Hall with NYO, It’s going to be really exciting. It’s such a massive hall and playing with such a big orchestra.
There’s something very special about playing locally. We’ve grown up in this Birmingham and Warwickshire area so to be able to perform in Birmingham feels like an opportunity to give back to the area and the community which has supported us and all our music for our whole lives.”
NYO plays B:Music Symphony Hall on Wednesday 2nd August 2023. All tickets for young people aged 19 and under are free. See bmusic.co.uk for more information and tickets.