This Festival is the envy of the world", said adjudicator George Pratt. "It doesn't feel like a competition", said participant Anna Sanders. "The organisers are so friendly and helpful".
Compliments for Music for Youth from both sides of the fence during the first of the orchestra days at the festival. Anna is a member of the Wessex Youth Orchestra, which many would envy for the quality of ensemble and dynamic control which it demonstrated in the Rossini-Britten Soirees Musicales.
Another highlight of the music centre orchestras class was the performance, by the Birmingham Schools' Symphony Orchestra, of John Adams' Short Ride in a Fast Machine. For the complex metric and timbre combinations of this brilliantly conceived work were managed with panache and professionalism. Dudley Schools' Symphony Orchestra produced some resonant string tone in Malcolm Arnold's Peterloo Overture and there was some effective rhythmic playing from the North East Hants Schools' Orchestra in Hadov's Russian Folk Songs.
Highly Commended in the class was the Wessex Youth Orchestra. The Outstanding Performance award went to the Birmingham Schools' Symphony Orchestra.
No awards were offered during the open class for orchestras, although the overall standard of playing was remarkably high. One of the highlights of the afternoon was a dramatic performance of Sibelius' Finlandia by the Oxfordshire County Youth Orchestra. Even more impressive was Southampton Youth Orchestra's management of Gershwin's marvellous Cuban Overture. Incisive and full of verve, this was playing of a standard which would be envied by professional orchestras.
"One of the things about being in a percussion ensemble is that you have to be able to play so many different instruments so well," says Graeme Taylor, a member of the Berkshire Youth Percussion and Marimba Ensemble. And, indeed, the ensemble's first-rate performances during the senior music class demonstrated not only the versatility but also the virtuosity of the members of this 12-strong group.
Adjazz played excellently, too, their Night in Tunisia being full of disciplined dynamic and timbre contrasts, and containing some interesting solos. A complete contrast was provided by the Aeolus Consort whose recorder intonation and ensemble control were exemplary during their performance of a Byrd Fantasia.
Highly Commended in this class were Shades of Harmony and Northampton County Clarinet Choir. Outstanding Performance awards went to Berkshire Youth Percussion and Brighton Youth Orchestra Strings.
The New Music class provides a platform for original compositions in a variety of styles and genres which, this year, included scat-singing (Jazz Extra) and rock (Shotton Hall Band). Highly Commended were Longley Project and Egglescliffe Woodwind Quartet, and Outstanding Performance awards went to Groves High School Femme (for electro-acoustic work) and GHS Blues Band.
The National Festival of Music for Youth is supported by The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, the DFE, Marks and Spencer, Music Industries Association, National Union of Teachers, The Department of Education for Northern Ireland and the Welsh 0ffice, in association with The TES.