26 Jan 2024

Young New Zealand embraces wind power

From Three to Seven, 4:00 pm on 26 January 2024
NZ Youth Symphonic Winds in Concert at Te Papa, January 2024

Photo: Bryan Crump

Every six months, some of the country's finest young musicians gather to make music, and learn how to make it better.

The New Zealand Youth Symphonic Winds is an ensemble of 47 secondary school aged wind and brass and percussion players selected from around Aotearoa.

Earlier this month the group gathered in Wellington to rehearse and perform a couple of concerts in the capital city.

RNZ Concert host Bryan Crump went along to hear the group getting to grips with a rich range of music under the leadership of conductor Jono Palmer.

Jono Palmer conducts the New Zealand Youth Symphonic Winds at Te Papa, January 2024.

New Zealand Youth Symphonic Winds music director, Jono Palmer. Photo: Bryan Crump

When Crump arrived, Palmer was taking them through Holst's Second Suite for Military Band, but the ensemble was also preparing to play music by Leonard Bernstein, Anthony Ritchie, and even a couple of Tongan marches arranged by Sam Uatahasi.

New Zealand Youth Symphonic Winds at Te Papa, January 2024

The band performing for free at Te Papa. Photo: Bryan Crump

What struck Crump first (once his ears had got accustomed to the sheer power that 47 wind, brass and percussion players can pump out) was Palmer's attention to detail.

As Music Director of a band that only gets together a couple of times a year, Palmer wants to focus his time with the players, bringing out the "artistry" beyond the notes written in the score.

"These are some of the finest players from across the country, but they're still developing their musicianship."

The band's bi-annual gatherings are also a chance for young conductors to hone their skills.

Working alongside Palmer to present the two Wellington gigs, is the brilliant saxophonist Peter Lilley, "taking this opportunity with Jono to learn a little bit more about conducting and working with this kind of ensemble".

That includes learning the art of channeling youthful energy, especially when that energy is powering some of the loudest instruments you'll hear which don't plug into an amplifier.

"We only came together for the first time two days ago, and in our first rehearsal we ran through everything. Little bit rough, no balance whatsoever. And, you know, there's a little bit of nervousness. They're coming here thinking "oh gosh, the top players are around, I've really got to up my game".

Sometimes that leads to young musicians playing out more than they need to, to prove they're up to the job.

Palmer's solution; break it down. Lots of sectional rehearsals, with help from members of the Wellington based Royal NZ Airforce Band, to finesse the players, before blending the whole thing back together again.

New Zealand Youth Symphonic Winds in Concert at Te Papa, January 2024

Te Papa visitors take time out from the exhibitions to gaze down on the band. Photo: Bryan Crump

For the young musicians themselves, the wind band is a chance to dive deep into music making, with a community of like-minded teenagers sharing the same goal.

Flute player, Blaze Webster, is back for her second year with the band. Last year she played the euphonium .

"I'm learning so much here as a performer, and as a person myself."

Hamilton based Matthew Colvin is also a returning member, playing in the clarinet section. He hopes to make his career as a musician.

Webster is also interested music education. She's from West Auckland where many schools are starved of access to music instruments.

She's like to share the joy she's got from playing the euphonium and flute with others.

New Zealand Youth Symphonic Winds at Te Papa, January 2024

There's a lot of acoustic energy in that circle. Photo: Bryan Crump

"It's nothing like I've ever experienced. I think playing music and just performing music is amazing 'cos I used to do productions, I used to be a dancer and actor, but playing music is amazing...When you're acting you can obviously put on a face...but I feel like when playing an instrument, there's more raw emotion with it, there's more of you in it."

After its two Wellington gigs, one at Wellington College, the other a free lunchtime event at Te Papa, the group disbands to reconvene in July.

If you'd like to audition, or know somebody who might, you can find out more about the New Zealand Youth Symphonic Winds here.




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