Winter 2019 Course
"Probably the most successful first concert we have had on a VaCO course"
These were the concluding words of musical director Xen Kelsey following our first concert of the 2019 Winter course in Stokesley as he addressed the orchestra and all involved, back at our residence at Cundall Manor School. Amongst other such addresses (and songs) this of course is where the "behind the scenes" action that goes into making successful VaCO courses and concerts happen, not just for audiences, but also for the next generation of young musicians.
Having been one of these young musicians to have ventured through the VaCO canon, to return to the course to play the Finzi Clarinet Concerto was nothing short of special, however also a somewhat enlightening experience. I hesitate slightly to label myself as the "soloist" in this case, as one thing that makes this piece so special is that it really does marry the solo clarinet with the orchestra and sees both engaged in conversation constantly, whether it be a fiery tantrum or exchanges of feelings of intimacy, grief or longing. The end product is an unapologetic and varied landscape which, unlike a lot of concerto repertoire, does not seek to be a showpiece to wow audiences with a virtuosic fireworks display. With this in mind, the whole experience becomes one massive group effort that sees "soloist" and orchestra deliver these ideas as one unit, or person, an idea that just screams "VaCO" in my head. For this reason, I felt very much a part of this course as everyone else, which to me, is one of the many things that a VaCO course is all about. Like others, I made new friendships, took part in evening chamber music sessions and continued to learn and grow as a musician through intense and in-depth rehearsals. Let me tell you, this bunch are worked very hard indeed by conductor Xen and their respective visiting section tutors, which I can say, having been on plenty of courses, gets results. The fact that this is also a chamber orchestra means that there is nowhere to hide, meaning that every players' contribution is vital and many fundamental skills that go into playing with other musicians are learned and practiced, skills which are sometimes more difficult to learn through playing in a humungous symphony orchestra setting.
The phrase "Wow, what a large audience!" seemed to echo around the orchestra following both concerts in Stokesley and Skipton. The atmosphere and turnout contributed to indeed a very memorable couple of concerts. In fact, I think out of all of my VaCO concerts, these two will stand out as highlights in my musical career (and that isn't the Whisky that was generously gifted to me by the orchestra talking)
With thanks to Xen Kelsey, Jane Lomax, Josh Hall, Peter Banks, Peter Dykes, Tim Lowe and every single player who provided such a beautiful bed of sound for me to sit on in the orchestra,