National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain
The National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain (NYO) creates thrilling orchestral opportunities for the teenage musicians and audiences that need them most.
No other orchestra in the world achieves such high standards with such young musicians. No other organisation does so much to enrich musical life in the UK with such modest resources.
NYO, the world’s greatest orchestra of teenagers, is 70 years young in 2018. Motivated by passion for orchestral music and excitement at the astonishing potential of our teenagers, NYO supporters enable musical miracles to be performed.
Three times a year, 164 NYO musicians from every part of the UK come together for residential rehearsals. The orchestra is diverse as the nation’s teenage population. Female and BAME (black and minority ethnic) musicians often take leadership roles. Creative preparation leads to a series of concerts of breathtaking energy and technical accomplishment, which regularly earn 4- and 5-star reviews in the national press.
NYO reaches well over 10,000 in the concert hall, hundreds of thousands more through BBC Radio 3 broadcasts, and our annual BBC Prom attracts TV audiences of up to 2 million. NYO is Classic FM’s Orchestra of Teenagers and a Classic FM audience of millions regularly enjoys NYO archive recordings.
Ruth Railton (later Dame Ruth King) founded the National Youth Orchestra in 1948. Subsequent NYO directors have included Ivey Dickson (1966–1984), Derek Bourgeois (1984–1993), Jill White (1993–2002), and Jonathan Vaughan (2002–2007). Sarah Alexander OBE was named the NYO's director in 2007 and is now titled Chief Executive & Artistic Director.
Each course is directed by a distinguished conductor. These have included Vladimir Jurowski, Marin Alsop, Jiri Belohlavek, Pierre Boulez, Sir Adrian Boult, Sir Malcolm Sargent, Semyon Bychkov, Paul Daniel, Sir Andrew Davis, Sir Colin Davis, Sir Mark Elder, Ivan Fisher, Edward Gardner, Antonio Pappano, Hugo Rignold, Andrew Litton, Keith Lockhart, Sir Roger Norrington, Tadaaki Otaka, Geoffrey Paterson, Sir Simon Rattle and Mstislav Rostropovich. Walter Susskind was a founder conductor of the NYO and was the main conductor on several courses, well into the 1950s. Later in the NYO's history, Christopher Seaman was the main conductor on a number of courses.
Residencies & Concert Tours
The orchestra assembles thrice-yearly during school holidays, at New Year, Easter and Summer for two-week residential courses, coached by tutors. Repertoire includes a wide variety of works by Romantic, 20th century and contemporary composers including James MacMillan, Thomas Adès, and most recently Julian Anderson, Judith Weir and Gabriel Prokofiev. In addition to the main orchestral activity they have time to participate in a range of activities including chamber music, physical workshops, dance, singing, improvisation and establish friendships.
Venues for their concerts include Barbican Hall, (London), Symphony Hall, Birmingham, Bridgewater Hall, (Manchester), The Sage Gateshead, Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool and Royal Festival Hall, London. Every year they play in a Promenade Concert in the Royal Albert Hall to celebrate young British talent. Performances in 2011, for example, included Gabriel Prokofiev's Concerto for Turntables & Orchestra with DJ Switch, Britten's Piano Concerto and Sergei Prokofiev's Romeo & Juliet televised at the BBC Proms, Leoš Janáček's Sinfonietta (which required an enlarged brass section) under Kristjan Järvi and Gustav Mahler's epic final masterpiece, Symphony No. 10, completed by Deryck Cooke, as part of the Southbank Centre's Mahler centenary celebrations.
Contemporary music is also an important part of their repertoire. In August 2010 as part of their performance at the BBC Proms (marking the conclusion of their Summer course) the orchestra gave the London premiere of British composer Julian Anderson's latest orchestral showpiece,Fantasias, under Semyon Bychkov, which had been commissioned specially for the highly virtuosic Cleveland Orchestra who gave the world premiere in November 2009. The NYO also gave the European premiere of the same work at Birmingham Symphony Hall.
In April 2010 the orchestra expanded to a huge 173 players to focus on the entire orchestral works of Edgard Varèse, including the first UK performance of Varèse's most famous piece in its original version from 1921, Amériques, under Paul Daniel. Their concert at Royal Festival Hall was the climax of the Varèse 360° event, in which the NYO and London Sinfonietta (under David Atherton) performed the entire works of Varèse over one weekend as part of the Southbank Centre's annual Ether festival. Courses also feature encounters between NYO members and younger musicians so they can pass on their passion and expertise to the next generation.
NYO members have always had the opportunity to benefit from specialised training in composition and to have their works performed on NYO courses, usually on an informal basis. A Composers course (consisting of 7 young composers), from 2010 directed by composers Anna Meredith and Larry Goves, now runs in tandem with the orchestra during the residential courses, writing pieces for a small group of instrumentalists and running short workshops with the entire symphony orchestra. In more recent years the composers' pieces have been more formally performed as a pre- or post-concert event to the NYO's main concerts - the Creative Hub.
Other National Level ensembles from different organisations.
- National Youth Wind Orchestra of Great Britain
- National Children's Orchestra of Great Britain
- National Youth Jazz Orchestra
- National Youth Wind Ensemble of Great Britain
- National Children's Wind Orchestra of Great Britain
- National Children's Wind Sinfonia of Great Britain
- National Youth Orchestra of Scotland
- National Youth Orchestra of Wales