Somerset County Youth Ensembles celebrate 50 years of music-making

Somerset celebrated half a century of music-making when the current members of the County Youth Orchestra and the Concert Band joined forces with former members to present a varied programme of music to mark the milestone anniversary.

More than 100 performers gathered at the Johnson Hall, Millfield School in Street to celebrate 50 years since the formation of both ensembles, proving that that music-making still flourishes in Somerset five decades on.

The large and enthusiastic audience was treated to a mix of popular and standard classical pieces. Both the Orchestra, conducted by Andrew Sherwood and the Concert Band, conducted by Paul Denegri, showed that the players were equally at home in the ‘lighter’ music as in the ‘serious’ pieces. Both conducted the mass ensemble pieces.

Cllr Tessa Munt, Executive Lead Member for Children, Families and Education, said: “This special concert to celebrate 50 years shows that music is flourishing in Somerset. It is so important that young people have the chance to work and play together and maintain our tradition of music-making in Somerset.”

Kevin Rogers, a founder member of the Youth Orchestra from 1973, said: “You have to be good to play the ‘fun’ pieces well – including coping with the humour of accompanying soloists on domestic appliances like vacuum cleaners in the opening Overture by Malcolm Arnold! That quality shone through when the strings made a glorious and well-balanced sound in ‘Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus’ by Vaughan Williams. The joint wind, brass and percussion then produced an equally strong performance of Holst’s Eb Suite, following more contemporary pieces by Saucedo and Buckley.

“In the second half, orchestra and concert band combined on stage to play Gershwin’s ‘American in Paris’ and ‘Jupiter’ from Holst’s ‘The Planets’ These are both challenging pieces at the best of times, but even with such huge forces, the players were able to produce vibrant, well-shaped and confident performances. As an encore, there was time for a new piece written especially for them by the evening’s compère (wind tutor Julian Breeze) – a fantastically uplifting end to a grand evening of celebration.

“Youth Ensembles like these are both socially and musically important: it was wonderful to see so many young people fully immersed in the fun of being with a large group of friends, and yet also working together so effectively to present such high-quality music-making. Here’s to the next 50 years!”