Sunday 22 July saw the start of a two-week residency here in Birmingham for the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. Bringing together 165 of the countries most talented teenagers, the NYO summer residency culminates with an epic concert at Symphony Hall on August 1, ahead of their performance at this year’s BBC Proms.
Joining the Orchestra in Birmingham will be Nico Muhly, whose new BBC commission, Gait, will recieve its world premiere at the Symphony Hall concert. Specially written for the NYO, and featuring an individual part for every member of the Orchestra, the award-winning composer explains his inspiration below:
I love watching animals walk and run; speed is achieved not just by moving faster, but by a change in the repeating rhythm that underlies each step. With horses, different speeds require different number of feet to be on the ground at the same time. Humans’ and horses’ gaits have been lovingly studied and photographed for years: the stop-motion photographs of Eadweard Muybridge are a very early example, but now, racehorses’ gaits are analyzed by amateurs and professionals alike. I thought a piece for the NYO would be a perfect place to explore a stranger bestiary: many-tentacled creatures all blissfully writhing and working in teams with and against one another. I decided to split the orchestra at first into homophonic ensembles (as in, just flutes, just oboes, just clarinets), and as a result, the opening sections of the piece function as a sort of concerto for orchestra. As the piece develops, there is a fair amount of hybridization; brass instruments get involved in the flutes and the percussion antagonise everybody. There is a slightly more meditative section in the middle of the work that focuses on human walking patterns in the extremes of life: infancy and infirmity.
The National Youth Orchestra’s Summer Prom takes place on Wednesday August 1, 7.30pm, at Symphony Hall. For more information, or to book tickets, go here.