Wretched news from the English shires. One of the country’s best youth orchestras gave its last concert this week, after a lifeline of local authority funding was cut off.
Saturday the 16th April, marked one of the saddest days of my professional life. As an alumni of Beds Youth Orchestra and a professional violinist, I have watched in disbelief at its plight over the last couple of months, a downfall that culminated on Saturday night. The evening concert that took place at the Bedford Corn Exchange was the Swan Song for one of Britain’s finest and oldest youth orchestras. In perspective, this is an orchestra that could not only boast alumni in every professional orchestra, or one that could proudly talk of tours to Russia, The Czech Republic, Budapest, Cyprus, Italy, it was also an orchestra that gave performances of Mahler Symphonies that would please many seasoned bands, and one that was also broadcast on radio 3. In short this was no ordinary Youth Orchestra, this was a gem, a national treasure.
Beds Youth Orchestra can also boast some fairly successful alumni: I if I could take a moment to name just a few, you will see why the impact of this will be felt through the music world, and will have repercussions on our musical world forever.
Andrew Manze international soloist was there first leader in the early 1970’s.
David Hext Principal percussionist with the Halle Orchestra.
Michael Hext Principal Trombone ~ Royal Opera House.
Philip Hesketh is currently Musical Director of the London Children’s Ballet.
Greg Malcangi is now a BAFTA nominated composer/producer of music for TV/Film.
Andrea Quinn was until recently Musical Director of The Royal Ballet, and is now Musical Director of the New York City Ballet.
Leslie Pratt a producer for BBC Radio 3.
Christopher Yates Principal viola with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
Sam Walton Young Musician of the year finalist
Judith Templeman Associate concertmaster RPO
Brendan Thomas Horn player BBC
Catherine Templeman Orchestral manager ECO
Ben Lane Scottish Chamber Orchestra in Edinburgh.
And this is just a snapshot of perhaps the most high profile former students. You can go into almost any orchestra in the UK and find someone whom used to play in Beds Youth Orchestra. For myself, I can say without hesitation, that without Beds Youth Orchestra I would not have achieved what I have, the opportunities to study at the RNCM, to go to the USA and join a professional quartet would just not of happened.
What does this say for our country, and our present Conservative led Government? That they could allow such a resource to be lost, and lost forever?I have repeatedly written to Michael Gove about this, with no real response, for their part the Government seems to be saying that this is a local decision, by the local council. Which indeed it is, but how can the Government allow this to happen?This is part of wider cuts, in
fact Beds Youth Music has been completely cut from this August, the council want music to this awful phrase “cost neutral”! Again this is a travesty of the highest order, unless we have music services then our music profession stands no chance, and again this was not any ordinary youth service, it was the best one. It embraced the triangle principal, namely that you need to have thousands of children starting an instrument to get maybe a 100 that are any good, and only one or two that go on to do it as a job. Coupled with outstanding teaching and a dedicated team this is what Beds Music did so well for years. Each holiday was packed with courses, 5 orchestras, 3 bands a Jazz Band a Youth Choir a Youth Opera a Chamber Music Course with the Magginni Quartet, all of which is now largely gone.
It is with great sadness that I write this letter, and I am not sure how much I can do, but at the least I think the country deserves to know that this butchery is happening.
Yours in Disbelief