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National Open Youth Orchestra presents debut performance and world premiere at Milton Court

A group of young people in a orchestra, one boy is playing the trumpet and two girls in the background are playing the violin.

The National Open Youth Orchestra (NOYO) will perform a relaxed BSL-interpreted performance at Milton Court Concert Hall, London on Sunday 24 April at 4pm, marking the beginning of its first ever series of concerts taking place across the UK from April to June 2022.

This concert will be the first performance from a ground-breaking national youth orchestra, where talented, young, disabled and non-disabled musicians play together. The performance will include a live premiere of What Fear We Then? by Alexander Campkin, co-commissioned with Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Some of the musicians play electronic instruments including the Clarion, LinnStrument and Seaboard RISE, others play more familiar acoustic instruments.

The National Open Youth Orchestra (NOYO) is a world-first. The ambitious orchestra launched in September 2018 to provide a progression route for some of the most talented, young, disabled musicians in the UK. A pioneering ensemble, NOYO promotes musical excellence and inclusivity, supporting 11–25-year-old disabled and non-disabled musicians to rehearse and perform together. Some of the NOYO musicians play acoustic instruments; others, play electronic instruments such as the Clarion, which can be played with any movement of the body. NOYO collaborates with cutting-edge composers to create new and exciting music for a diverse range of musicians and instruments. With four regional NOYO centres spread across the U.K., the Barbican and Guildhall School of Music & Drama are delighted to partner with NOYO in hosting London’s NOYO Centre.

In April, over 20 of the UK’s most talented, young, disabled and non-disabled musicians will take to the stage together for the first time under the NOYO banner, to play exciting new music inspired by the diversity of the orchestra. NOYO will present a broad-ranging, contemporary classical programme, allowing the audience to enter a captivating musical universe where the familiar merges with the unknown. Alongside Alexander Campkin’s new work, the programme also includes Liam Taylor-West’s Day One and Oliver Cross’ Barriers, as well as new arrangements of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Variations on an African Air, Harold Arlen’s Sleeping Rainbows and Yann Tiersen’s Comptine d'un autre été, l'après-midi.

Commenting on the collaboration with NOYO, Alexander Campkin says:

“It took me on a journey of discovery - a journey of questioning myself and my own background. I've used my own personal journey to depict the story of this piece. I started playing the viola when I was a child, but then when I was 17, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Suddenly I was told, no, you can't play anymore because you have this disability. I didn't tell anyone I’d been diagnosed with MS. It was a secret that put an extra barrier. I was hiding for almost 20 years. And it was only a couple of years ago that I was open and suddenly the world felt a bit easier.

This process [of writing the piece] began with me attending rehearsals in NOYO’s three centres in Bournemouth, Bristol and in London, to get to meet the players and them showing me their talents - what they could play on their instruments, some of which I'd never come across before, for instance the Clarion. I then wrote some sketches. We tried them out. There are so many things that we can do to level the playing field, to really give people the opportunity to perform music where perhaps traditional acoustic instruments wouldn't be possible. It's so inspiring seeing NOYO work around any barriers that musicians might have to be able to realise their artistic visions.”

The afternoon’s music will be a joyful celebration of diversity as a creative force that can push the boundaries of classical and contemporary music in new and exciting directions.

NOYO harpist, Holli, who is in her third year with the orchestra, says “I like the word influential to describe NOYO. A lot of the music we play, you wouldn't really get that in a stereotypical classical music concert. It brings a different kind of element of programming.”

Will Gompertz, Barbican Artistic Director, commented:

We are thrilled to support this incredible orchestra. The Barbican has been a space for artistic exchange, learning and performance for 40 years and, with the National Open Youth Orchestra’s inaugural live concert fast approaching in April, we’re especially proud to have them within our community of talented young people at this pivotal moment. As we continue to invest in our Creative Learning programme, witnessing this remarkable orchestra perform and grow while working to improve access and encourage creativity, is as inspiring as it is affirming.”

Sean Gregory, Vice Principal and Director of Innovation & Engagement, Guildhall School of Music & Drama said:

“We are excited to be hosting the National Open Youth Orchestra’s inaugural concert at Milton Court in April. Since first becoming involved with this inspirational ensemble over four years ago, I have been nothing short of amazed by its innovation, musicality and pure tenacity, as well as struck by how much there is still for us to learn with regard to the provision of access and excellence for all in our sector.  This event heralds a significant next phase of national artistic and educational collaboration for NOYO, which we feel privileged to be part of, both as Guildhall School and through our creative alliance with the Barbican.”

What Fear We Then? Alexander Campkin
Day One Liam Taylor-West
Variations on an African Air Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (new arr.)
Sleeping Rainbows Harold Arlen / Traditional (mash-up)
Comptine d'un autre été, l'après-midi Yann Tiersen (new arr.)
Barriers Oliver Cross

Tickets for the National Open Youth Orchestra concert at Milton Court Concert Hall, London, on 24 April are on sale now, bookable from the event page.

Applications to join the orchestra from September 2022 are open until 31 March. Visit for more information.

Video assets can be found on NOYO’s Vimeo page including a recorded performance of What Fear We Then?, an interview with composer Alexander Campkin and an interview with NOYO members.

Press imagery and a PDF of this press release are available in this folder.