Posted by Niki Johnson
Monday 14th April, 2014

Piano solo-for four percussionists? Telling a poem through rhythm? ……………………?

A week or so before the camp began we were all sent practise parts and the excitement and anticipation for the camp amongst the musicians was rising.

The percussionists were emailed some curious practise parts for the chamber work. The first of these was the experimental piano score for Six Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm from Bela Bartok’s Mikrokosmos and the other a contemporary percussion ensemble piece entitled ‘Living Room Music’ by John Cage. This piece includes a movement where the quote ‘Once upon a time the world was round and you could go on it around and around’ by Gertrude Stein was put to rhythm. These two seemingly strange and wonderful compositions made me extremely curious. How exactly were four percussionists going to play a solo piano piece? I am also very excited about learning a piece where we would be using our voices, without singing - I knew this would be an incredible experience. I am also excited to get to work with Rick Miller, the percussion tutor, as anyone who would set such interesting and challenging pieces must be an innovative musician and valuable tutor.

We arrived at Mt Eliza after a one and a half hour bus ride to a cool sea breeze and beautiful school grounds. Our location was particularly exciting because we are a five minute walk from a sheltered, sandy beach!

Our orchestral music, just as exciting as our percussion repertoire included Nuages and Fetes from Debussy’s Nocturnes, the Fanfare from La Péri by Dukas, Symphony no 2: A London Symphony by Vaughan Williams and Autumn from Glazunov’s The Seasons. It was clear from our first rehearsal that as an orchestra we have so much potential to create some beautiful music. This is one of the things that is so wonderful about being a part of AYO. It is one of the rare opportunities where you can learn a piece together and reach such an excellent standard so quickly.

AYO gives you the opportunity to make friends with people from all over Australia where you have something special in common. Not only do you get to make friends with people from across the country who play your instrument, but you get to meet people from other instrument groups and make long-lasting friendships. These are the sorts of things that make the experience at AYO stand out in my memory.

Our conductor Max McBride is so much fun. His knowledge of our repertoire is impressive and his passion for music is contagious, and all this I gleam from just the first few sessions with him.

Playing with the orchestra has been so rewarding so far. There are so many incredibly talented musicians and I am so honoured to be a part of an orchestra that makes such a beautiful sound. I can’t wait to see what the rest of this week has in store.


- Niki Johnson, percussion