NZYSW at the School Of Music
After a mere two days of intense rehearsal, under the guidance of Simon Brew, the NZ Youth Symphonic Winds presented a challenging and stunning programme at the University of Auckland’s School of Music.
The evening started with one of my all-time favourite pieces, “Overture to Candide“. (How much do I love this piece? I sang it in my head as a way to get through unmedicated labour with twins. That’s how much.) Although the beginning suffered a smidge from cold-start nerves, they were soon off in a very creditable performance that had me smiling.
Jacob Fraser, a horn player who is a member of Manukau Concert Band, gave us an entertaining introduction to Abram’s Pursuit. His attempt to describe the back story, and the names of some of the people involved, was inhibited by the fact, in his own words, “I don’t know how vowels work in Hebrew”. The crowd loved it.
This piece was new to me, and I am desperate to play it! It was a frenetic journey which gave me goosebumps as the layers and intensity built. Some seriously fierce trombones (Sarah Rathbun and Rebecca Harris) and a rock-steady tuba (Matthew Harris) stood out to me, but this was a creditable performance from the entire band.
Another MCB player, Morgan Lacey, introduced the next piece, a wind band arrangement of Albinoni’s Adagio. A complete change in style, this understated and delicate work demanded the utmost in balance and intonation.
The band then performed a Richard L. Saucedo piece, Whirlwind(s), which the euphonium player, Stuart Gordon, introduced as being inspired by a cow being lifted aloft by a tornado. While it is technically challenging, the piece didn’t make much of an impression on me, to the point where I couldn’t remember anything about it when I came to do this write-up besides “wasn’t there another piece in there somewhere?”. This is not a reflection on the players or performance at all.
The next piece, however, blew my socks off. NZYSW provided a very satisfying performance of An American in Paris with excellent cohesiveness throughout the band, and respect for soloists. Another shout-out to the tuba player, Matthew Harris, for milking the solo to the utmost (you go!) and to Rangi Hall for doing sterling work with that car-horn-sound-effect-thingy.
Jacob was up again, to introduce Frank Ticheli’s Shenandoah. He avoided the whole “ti-kel-i” versus “ti-chel-i” issue by announcing it as being by “Frank T-I-C-H-E-L-E-whoopsImean-I”. Utterly charming, and the remainder of the intro was on point. As with all of Ticheli’s arrangements, the interwoven melodic echoes build to a intensity that demands responsiveness from all players. NZYSW’s performance was sensitively done, and brought tears to my eyes. Beautiful work.
An ex-MCBer (and excellent babysitter) Dylan Holmes performed an alto sax solo on Embraceable You. His proud mum was sitting next to me, and blubbed her way through. Deservedly so!
Morgan Kibble gave us a highly entertaining speech on why being a third clarinet is just like being the youngest child (everything you get is a hand-me-down which has already been used). I loved the charisma of all the speakers; being a performer is more than just making notes!
She then introduced the final piece as “I’m too young, but I’m told this is about creepy puppets”. Yes, Thunderbirds were go! This cheerful and familiar (to the more senior of us) theme started with the countdown from the TV show, and left us all smiling and tapping our feet. It would have been a very creditable end to a solid evening, but the thunderous applause demanded an encore- and boy, did they deliver!
The encore, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, was an absolutely cheesy crowd-pleaser which had the audience actually dancing in their seats, and featured more outstanding trombone work. A great way to round out the evening!
It was an absolute pleasure to see these young musicians in action, and observe the rapport between the group and the conductor. NZYSW is a terrific initiative which is sure to inspire musicians both young and old-enough-to-remember-Thunderbirds.
NZYSW at Aotea Square
The following day, as part of “Summer in the Square”, NZYSW performed a lunchtime concert in Aotea Square. Understandably, the repertoire was mostly the same as the previous day. I wasn’t able to attend, but a secret squirrel (don’t worry, kids, I think you have to remember Thunderbirds to get the secret squirrel reference) sent me some fabulous photos of the audience and band.