This year marks significant birthdays for two of New Zealand’s most highly regarded youth music ensembles.
The New Zealand Youth Choir turns 40, and the NZSO National Youth Orchestra celebrates its 60th birthday.
The groups are celebrating this week with two special anniversary concerts in Wellington and Auckland. It’s the first time since 2012 that the two ensembles have performed together.
NZSO Music Director Emeritus James Judd and artistic director of the NZ Youth Choir David Squire are front and centre, helping give young New Zealanders opportunities to play up and sing up.
While the participants are young, Judd expects the best from them, but still providing a bit of extra time to allow them to get their heads around the demands of the work.
“I think the whole approach to youth orchestra should be to treat them as musicians,” Judd says. “You have this extra time, which allows you to explore different colours and different things… and just after a couple days, you suddenly feel that the sound is theirs, they're inside [the work].”
Judd says not only is it wonderful working with young orchestral players, but also the Youth Choir. “It's an inspiration working with singers of this quality, because all of the orchestral music is singing, it really is,” he says.
Squire has been working hard with the choir to prepare them for the concerts. He’s then handed the reins to Judd, who will conduct. “It is one of those things where you kind of hand your baby over. But it's a great privilege to do it,” Squire says. “These young people, be they the singers or the instrumentalists, they have this fresh optimism.
“We've given them the authority to be professional and commanding and declamatory, in the way that they're, they're putting forth these ideas that are just as relevant now as they were in Elgar’s time.”
The performances mark the legacy of those who have gone before, including Guy Jansen, a founder of the choir, who died recently. Squire says the choir have so much to thank him for. “It’s really nice to honour him and honour his memory,” he says.
The NYC and NZ Youth Orchestra will perform works by Downie, Sibelius, Elgar and Wehi at the Michael Fowler Centre tonight and the Auckland Town Hall on Saturday July 6.