Posted by Felix Wallis
Monday 21st July, 2014

Looking back over my past two weeks with AYO I feel almost overwhelmed by the sheer scale of what has been achieved by the orchestra musically, socially and professionally. There have of course been many highlights; from the first day and arrivals of Simone Young and Ray Chen to various priceless slips-of-the-tongue and even the creation of Ray Chen's most popular online video yet!

When he played with the orchestra for the first time on Tuesday, it did not take long to see that Ray Chen's contribution was going to be one of the season's most memorable features. His charisma, charm and of course musical fluency and virtuosity were captivating for everyone, even causing many of the violins to miss entries as they were too busy swooning. Being young enough himself to be a member of the AYO, Ray's fresh vitality and friendliness was appreciated by everyone and really came through in everything he did, from a brilliant and entertaining masterclass on Wednesday to his stirring yet quirky and beguiling encore in the concert.

Unarguably, what AYO does best for its participants is to coax an even better orchestral musician out of them than they may have believed was possible. This is something I can personally attest to, as I learnt to be a true part of the bass section and see the musical elements that have been so skilfully interwoven for us by Stravinsky, Sibelius and Tchaikovsky, on both a more intricate and greater scale.

This has been my first year with AYO, and it was interesting to compare this season with National Music Camp, which took place in January. The AYO seasons take things to a more professional level; we were given plenty of freedom, with an allowance for all meals that weren't provided at the QPAC green room, not to mention the luxurious accommodation. A series of professional development segments were also an important part of the second season, providing insight into the profession and providing health and safety advice, an important part of any musical lifestyle. The higher level of orchestral experience at AYO was also such a pleasure to be a part of, with many people involved who were about to (or had even already begun) dipping their toes in the profession. This made for a truly inspirational and enjoyable two weeks, which were beneficial to my musicianship and approach to music in general.

The depth into which we were able to explore the orchestra's repertoire over the two weeks was itself a real highlight of the season. It was a pleasure to be part of a high-powered orchestra led by such a musical figure as Simone Young, and during the intensive two weeks we were able to go into real detail and explore musical ideas to an extent that many professional orchestras would struggle to find the time to do. I think this really showed in the concert, accentuated by the energy and enthusiasm that only a youth orchestra can deliver.

I look forward to what AYO has in store for next year!


- Felix Wallis, double bass