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World’s first disabled-led national youth ensemble, National Open Youth Orchestra, presents Feel The Music, a relaxed concert from the Barbican and Guildhall School of Music & Drama

National Open Youth Orchestra classic shot

The world’s first disabled-led national youth ensemble, the National Open Youth Orchestra (NOYO), returns to the Barbican with an uplifting programme for 2024 before continuing their tour in Bristol, Poole and Birmingham. In a relaxed performance at Milton Court Concert Hall, the orchestra will welcome a diverse audience inclusive of disabled and neurodivergent concert goers and families to a joyous afternoon of music presented by the Barbican and Guildhall School of Music & Drama. 

Following the triumph of their debut public performance at Milton Court Concert Hall in 2022, twenty-four of NOYO’s brilliant young disabled and non-disabled musicians will perform a lively programme on acoustic, electronic, and accessible instruments. Among more traditional instruments, NOYO musicians also perform on some instruments not often found in orchestras, such as electric guitars, accordions, or on accessible instruments that may be completely new to audiences - from the Seaboard RISE to the ClarionTM, which some performers play using head movements.

NOYO’s young members’ voices are central to the programme; whether through their choice to perform Ennio Morricone’s theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, or through their introduction of bold interpretations of audience favourites such as Anna Meredith’s Nautilus, Antonio Vivaldi’s Autumn from The Four Seasons, and Michael Nyman’s Timelapse. 

NOYO will also give the world premiere of new works that speak to themes close to their hearts: 

They will present Elements by award-winning film composer Alexandra Hamilton-Ayres, a new piece chosen to be commissioned by NOYO’s young musicians that communicates the devastating impact of climate change through four musical movements - Flood, Air Pollution, Landfill, and Wildfire. Speaking about the work, Hamilton-Ayres says: "The piece I created is about the elements - but the destructive elements - to drive awareness of the reality of climate change and what we truly face.” 

The orchestra will also present another commission: Ben Lunn’s Wittgenstein’s Chorale, which carries the orchestra’s message of inclusion, poignantly celebrating the contribution of disabled people to the arts. It pays homage to a virtuoso pianist, Paul Wittgenstein, who, after losing his right arm in the First World War continued to play left-handed, commissioning and performing new works by both Ravel and Hindemith.

The final new work, Soaring through Sparks is written by composer Michael Betteridge for the ClarionTM, the first-ever digital instrument to be assessed by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) and of which, this year, there are four players in the orchestra. Betteridge says “I wrote Soaring through Sparks when I was on the ABRSM composer mentoring programme. I was so excited to be writing for a relatively new instrument, which has allowed a whole range of musicians to excel where other more traditional instruments might pose barriers. I was blown away by how beautiful and powerful the instrument was in creating a wide variety of sounds. It's so expressive.” 


Programme to include:

Autumn from The Four Seasons Antonio Vivaldi
Arrangement by Liam Taylor-West, Charlie Groves, Julia Koelmans and Ellen O’Brien

Elements (premiere) Alexandra Hamilton-Ayres
Arrangement by Doug Bott, Charlie Groves and Rhian Davies

Nautilus (premiere) Anna Meredith
Arrangement by Julia Koelmans and Charlie Groves

Wittgenstein’s Chorale (premiere) Ben Lunn 
Arrangement by Charlie Groves, Doug Bott and Ellen O’Brien

Soaring through Sparks (premiere) Michael Betteridge
Arrangement by Doug Bott and Julia Koelmans 

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Ennio Morricone
Arrangement by Julia Koelmans

Timelapse Michael Nyman
Arrangement by Charlie Groves and Ellen O’Brien


National Open Youth Orchestra musicians:

David Mac, Accordion
Ziya Haji, Bass guitar
Connor Bates, Cello
Alessandro Vazzana, Clarion (Quha Zono head mouse)
Denizhan Kiddle, Clarion (Quha Zono head mouse)
Evie Read, Clarion (touch screen)
Leo Manh-Carstensen, Clarion (touch screen)
Charlie Hyde, Drums and Percussion
Ethan Heer, Electric guitar
Jake Carswell, Electric guitar
Bethan Cole, Flute
Georgina Spray, French Horn
Alexander Davies, Marimba
Luke Christian, Saxophone
Ben Evans, Seaboard RISE
Torin Van Breda, Tenor horn
Oscar Abbott, Tuned percussion and Piano
Jonah Lace-Braun, Trombone
Bert Newitt-Regan, Trombone
Sam Carter, Trumpet
Cass Alabaster, Violin
Francesca Shannon, Violin
Sophia Breeze, Violin
Sophie Capen, Violin

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