Yorchestra celebrates 30 years of holiday courses and concerts for young York musicians. Applicants welcome for August

Flashback: Yorchestra holiday orchestra members at rehearsals at the Sir Jack Lyon Concert Hall, University of York, in August 2014

YORCHESTRA will celebrate its 30th anniversary of running holiday orchestras for young musicians in and around York in late-August and September.

Yorchestra was founded in 1992 by the late Lizzy Edmondson, otherwise known as author Elizabeth Pewsey. On a visit to Cambridge, she had encountered one such holiday orchestra that had been running since coronation year, 1953.

On the train back north, it suddenly dawned on her that York would benefit from something similar. Gathering friends and fellow parents at the Minster School, they organised the first session there for 27 players.

Lizzy’s vision went much wider, however. She wanted all schoolchildren in the area to benefit, with courses every school holiday that included music for smaller groups – chamber music – not covered by other children’s orchestras.

Within five years, the senior orchestra had won a first prize at the European Festival of Music for Young People in Belgium, a feat repeated two years later.

Since then, Yorchestra has gone from strength to strength, proving that Lizzy’s vision was no mere flash in the pan. It has expanded its activities to include five orchestras at different levels of achievement.

All five will be celebrating Yorchestra’s 30th anniversary at the course from August 30 to September 2, in the well-appointed facilities at the Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, University of York, or the lovely setting of Heslington Church.

Maestro, the senior orchestra, includes players who are Grade 6 to 8 level and above, and suits budding musicians and experienced players alike, who benefit from working with seasoned professional tutors.

The maestro course will run for the full four days, culminating in a concert on the final evening, September 2. Past repertory has included the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story and Shostakovich’s Festive Overture.

Mezzo, the second orchestra, covers Grade 3 to 5 students, who play arrangements of music from assorted periods in a variety of styles, such as Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia on Greensleeves and Dukas’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Members enjoy quality time in the company of top-notch tutors and the upcoming course will run for three days from August 31, leading to involvement in the September 2 concert.

The junior of the main orchestras, Primo, is for students aged eight or older of Grade 1 or 2 standard with at least six months’ playing experience. Its role is to give first timers the chance to discover the joy of playing in groups; recorder players are welcome too.

This summer’s Primo course will be for one day only, August 30, and will end with a concert for family and friends later in the afternoon. As with Mezzo, the course will take place in Heslington Church.

Two starter groups complement the main orchestras, one for string players, Young Strings, known colloquially as “YoYo”; the other for wind and brass, Young Winds, alias “YoBlow”. These are ideal for youngsters beginning to find their way around their instruments, keen to benefit from small private and group sessions.

Each course will be held over two mornings, YoYo on August 30 and 31; YoBlow on September 1 and 2, both at the Lyons. Informal concerts will follow the second sessions.

Applications are open for all courses. The deadline is August 6, but if payment is received by July 22, an “early bird” discount will apply and first-time applicant will be given an even larger discount. Please note, no-one should be put off on grounds of cost; Yorchestra has a bursary fund to help anyone otherwise unable to take part.

“Any musical children should be encouraged to join, have a lot of fun and meet new musical friends,” says Martin Dreyer, Yorchestra’s chairman of trustees. “The anniversary celebrations promise something extra-special.”

For more information on applications, head to: yorchestra.org.