Final Concert

The MYO’s Final Concert

The following text is reproduced from the souvenir programme of the MYO’s final concert on Sunday 11 July 2004 in the Adrian Boult Hall, Birmingham.


1. Programme Cover

2. A New Future

3. The MYO Society

4. 48 Years of Joyous Music-Making: The MYO and its Achievements

5. Goodwill Messages

6. Concert Programme

7. Guest Players

8. Soloist: Andrew Saunders

9. Orchestral List

10. The Orchestra Gives Thanks

11. The MYO of 1956 – Where are they now?

12. Reminiscences of past members

[Press Review]

1. Programme Cover

President: The Lord Mayor of Birmingham

[MYO Logo]

Founded in 1956 by Blyth Major

Chairman: Stephen Williams
Music Director & Conductor: Anthony Bradbury

To Be Given In The Presence Of
The Deputy Lord Mayor and Deputy Lady Mayoress of Birmingham,
Councillors JOHN and DEIRDRE ALDEN




Sunday, 11th July, 2004, at 7pm
in the Adrian Boult Hall, Birmingham Conservatoire

Souvenir Programme: Two Pounds

2. A New Future


A New Future

As is now generally known, this evening’s concert by the MYO will be its last because the orchestra is to be superseded by, and incorporated into, a new CBSO Youth Orchestra from the autumn of this year. Our concert will therefore, in one sense, ‘bring down the curtain’ on the MYO by celebrating its 48 years of joyous music-making. In another sense, however, the occasion marks the preparations to ‘ring up the curtain’ on an exciting new adventure which will bring even greater opportunities to the present and future gifted young musicians of the region. Not only will every section of the new orchestra benefit from the intensive coaching given to them by instrumental experts from the CBSO, the orchestra as a whole will have the exciting prospect of coming into regular contact with conductors of national and international repute.

The new orchestra will operate differently from the MYO in that, rather than being a ‘Saturday Afternoon Orchestra’, it will concentrate its activities into two or three courses every year during half-terms. The six-day courses will each lead to a public concert on the last day. As a result of these intensive days of preparation for each concert, a very high standard of performance is anticipated.

The first such course will commence on Tuesday, 26th October and it will end on Sunday, 31st October with a concert in the Adrian Boult Hall at 7.30pm. The conductors will be Sakari Oramo and Anthony Bradbury, and the programme will consist of excerpts from Khachaturian’s Spartacus, Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations for ’cello and orchestra (in which the soloist will be the CBSO’s principal ’cellist, Eduardo Vassallo) and Sibelius’s Second Symphony.

Without in any way minimising the vast and unique achievements of the MYO over the past 48 years, Anthony Bradbury and Stephen Williams are delighted to be associated with this further step forward in the opportunities for the high-quality practical training of young Midlands musicians. Both of them will have places on the Advisory Committee for the CBSO Youth Orchestra, and Anthony will continue to have a practical role to play with the new orchestra.

Those wishing to audition for the new orchestra should visit its website:

or please contact:
Richard Bratby, Events Officer,
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra,
CBSO Centre,
Berkley Street,
Birmingham, B1 2LF
Tel: 0121 616 6522

Email address:

3. The MYO Society

The MYO Society

President: The Lord Mayor of Birmingham
Vice-Presidents: Mrs Myriam Major & Mrs Beryl Langley

Trustees: Peter Morley (Chairman), Sylvia Davies, Richard Jephcott, Jeremy Patterson, Hon. FBC

Management Committee: Stephen Williams (Chairman), Anthony Bradbury (Vice-Chairman), Clive Jones (Hon. Treasurer), Phil Garner (Hon. Secretary), Anna Downes (Asst. Hon. Secretary/Librarian), William Cheung, Stephanie Cole, Michelle Garner and Katie Walter.

Parents’ Committee: Medina Cole (Chairman), Marina Brown, Elizabeth Collins, Marie & Phil Garner, Stephen Taylor.

The Midland Youth Orchestra gratefully acknowledges the most valuable assistance given by the following professional musicians: David Gregory Ken Shifrin, Caroline Jones, Ted Watson (Shakespeare Memorial Theatre), Ian Ludford (CBSO)

Web site address:

All general enquiries regarding the MYO should be directed to the Chairman, Stephen Williams, at:

3, Armour Close, Burbage, Hinckley, Leics., LE10 2QW
Tel: 01455 890528, Fax: 01455 612288

Throughout its forty-eight years of existence the MYO has been financed only by its Annual Subscriptions from members, by donations and by whatever profits it could make from its concert-giving activities. The educational work of the orchestra could not have been maintained without the support and recognition given by many trusts, businesses and individuals. The orchestra sincerely thanks all of those who have assisted it over the years and, in particular, the following are warmly thanked for their major contributions over the past year:

Charles Brotherton Trust
The Millichope Foundation
Baron Davenport’s Trust
Edward & Dorothy Cadbury Charitable Trust
John Feeney Charitable Trust
The W.E.D. Charitable Trust
Lord Mayor of Birmingham
IMI plc.
William A. Cadbury Charitable Trust
The Bewley Charitable Trust

4. 48 Years of Joyous Music-Making: The MYO and its Achievements

Forty-Eight Years of Joyous Music-Making: The MYO and its Achievements

by Stephen Williams

It may seem somewhat fanciful for one to claim that the Midland Youth Orchestra is, and has been, a unique institution, and yet this is an assertion that I confidently make. I do not, for instance, know of any other youth orchestra which has existed for so long on an entirely voluntary basis; particularly one that has aspired to set the standards that the MYO has sought to achieve and to have, at the very least, a regional appeal.

When Blyth Major (the then General Manager of the CBSO) conducted his first rehearsal of the MYO (on 25th February, 1956) he did so believing that it was only by volunteering himself fully to the task in hand that a conductor could entirely give of his best to the young players before him; in other words, to realise that the players are far, far more important than the ego of the conductor. This inspirational belief has remained the philosophy of the orchestra throughout its history, with everybody from its music director, sectional coaching staff, right through to the “ninth assistant librarian’s mate” volunteering his/her services for the good of the whole. Indeed, I personally liken the structure of the MYO to an upturned pyramid, of which the music staff form the inverted apex (if that is not a contradiction in terms) in support of that huge structure of young players above it. Quite apart from the truth of Blyth’s central belief, this philosophy has also had the happy bi-product of helping to husband the orchestra’s slender financial resources so that they could be readily used to enable the ‘band’ to take part in big international festivals such as IFYO (of which more later), the Banff Festival in Canada, and by regular concert-giving in prestigious venues such as Symphony Hall.

A further aim for which Blyth hoped for was a smooth continuity of operation for the orchestra, and this has been remarkably achieved in that the MYO has had only four music directors in its entire history. Blyth’s successors, James Langley, the present writer, and then Anthony Bradbury, all benefited from being initially members of the orchestra (in the cases of James and myself, founder-members), before each, in turn, became Associate Conductor, Principal Conductor and then Music Director. This continuity of service given by these highly qualified musicians created an atmosphere of stability which has lasted throughout the orchestra’s 48 years of existence. Indeed, the quite remarkable 38 years of continuous service given to the orchestra by James, a most wise and highly respected musician, is worthy of special praise.

For forty-eight years the MYO has created opportunities for:

  • The best of young Midlands orchestral instrumentalists to experience a high standard of orchestral playing, and to explore and perform a wide range of works from the concert repertoire.
  • The best of young Midlands soloists to be given a concert platform upon which to perform works from the great concerti repertoire.

Just how has the MYO measured up to these aims; aims that have appeared regularly in its programmes in recent years? They beautifully encapsulate, I believe, Blyth’s philosophy and, ever since, they have been pursued by successive MYO music directors.

All those years ago both Blyth and the CBSO’s then music director, Rudolf Schwarz, had been appalled at the poor knowledge of the core repertory and weak standards of sight-reading displayed by would-be CBSO candidates. Blyth resolved to create a youth orchestra which would strive to minimise these difficulties and the MYO was born. In the intervening years literally scores of our young musicians have gone on to enjoy careers as professional performers, whether as soloists, orchestral musicians or chamber/ensemble players. A name that immediately springs to mind is that of the late lamented Thomas Igloi who joined the back-desk of ’cellos, aged 11, before quickly becoming principal and an outstanding soloist (in Dvorak’s ’cello concerto) and who was, at the time of his tragic death at the age of 27, a fully accomplished virtuoso with an international reputation. (Dare I suggest that, were he still alive today, he would eclipse most, possibly all, of the world’s contemporary ’cello soloists?). Another very well-known figure, and equally lamented, was that Pied Piper of Early and Ethnic Music, David Munrow, who, in the 1970s, seemed to have the whole globe eager to hear his music-making. David had been a bassoonist in the orchestra. An MYO trumpeter, Brian Ferneyhough, later became a composer now much revered by the avant-garde – his new opera Shadowtime was premiered at the Ninth Munich Biennale only last month – and, after an extended period working in Germany, he is now Professor of Music at Stanford University, USA. As one goes through the decades one can recall so many players who have firmly established themselves in the world of music, from the orchestra’s very first leader Barry Griffiths (who, after a career as leader of the BBC Northern Orchestra, then of the RPO, finally retired only yesterday as leader of the ENO orchestra) through to more recent members: tenor trombonist Mark Templeton, outright winner of the 1997 World Trombone Association Competition in the USA and a frequent guest principal with the LSO, and bass trombonist Christian Jones who, only 18 months ago, became the youngest member of the Philharmonia Orchestra. Each intervening decade has produced its own “stars” of whom I will name only three: Pauline Lowbury (ex-MYO leader and now a soloist, recording artist and leader of the Britten Sinfonia), Joy Farrell (former MYO principal who is well-known as a soloist and professor of clarinet at the Guildhall School of Music) and Robert Bishop, (ex-MYO leader) who was until recently associate leader of the BBCSO and whose figure dominated our TV screens during succeeding Prom seasons.

For me to claim that the professional success of these musicians – and those many others whom I have not named – was due to their membership of the MYO would, of course, be quite absurd; so many diverse and competing factors are involved in the creation of a fine musician. What I do know, though, from the deeds and words of so many of them, is that the orchestra was a vital formative influence in their decision to pursue music as a career. Likewise, it would be quite wrong of me to create the impression that Blyth set up the MYO only as a test-bed for embryo professionals; he had a much wider and wiser purpose than that. This enlightened man fully realised the potential of ‘classical’ music as a force for social good and the giver of inner well-being for all who took the trouble to take its disciplines to their heart. Thus many hundreds of MYO members have enjoyed these fruits without necessarily wishing to become professional musicians.

There is another MYO hallmark which Blyth deliberately fostered; that is the capacity of the orchestra to generate friendship and happiness. Rehearsals have always been about the joy of making music together rather than attempting to achieve standards by sheer ‘slave-driving’. Young players did not become members of the MYO because they “had to”; rather, they joined because they “wanted to”. The joy of making music together has resulted in countless enduring friendships, in some cases over many decades and, more than that, the MYO has unwittingly, but happily, acted as a Marriage Bureau to numerous couples and, in several cases, has later become a host to their offspring! It is interesting, also, to note the countless sets of brothers and/or sisters who have been in the orchestra. Let the Cole family be representative of them all. The MYO’s current leader, Stephanie Cole, is the third of four sisters – all violinists – who are, or have been, members of the orchestra. Indeed, three of the Cole sisters will be on the platform together for this evening’s concert.

Blyth’s enlightened approach to musical education did not end with the creation of the MYO. He was also the musical inspiration behind the International Festival of Youth Orchestras (IFYO) of which he was also music director and which, for a decade or more, was a ‘Mecca’ for youth orchestras from the world over. At each festival the cream of the participating orchestras formed an International Orchestra to be conducted by the guest maestro of the year, be he Guilini, Abbado, Stokowski, Susskind, Schwarz or even Aaron Copland. The MYO acted as the Host Orchestra at several of these annual festivals and thus its finest players had the opportunity to perform under the direction of many of these maestros. IFYO in turn spawned many imitators and it proved to be the inspiration for Claudio Abbado to set up the wonderful international orchestra that we now know as the European Union Y.O.

Throughout its near-half century of existence the MYO has explored and performed a vast array of music composed from the 18th century through to the present day: symphonies from Beethoven to Sibelius and Nielsen, concertos from Telemann to Bartok and Rodrigo, plus a vast repertory of suites, overtures, ballets; the list seems endless. The orchestra has commissioned works (e.g. Threads of Gold – a trombone concerto by Ruth Byrchmore) and even received a much valued and welcome gift of a work, (the song-cycle Celtic Rhapsody by the internationally recognised composer Andrew Downes). It has also generated something of a personal relationship with that fine English composer, Sir Malcolm Arnold, through its performances of his symphonies and other works; it has performed many times in prestigious venues such as Symphony Hall as well as more humble concert halls all over the country, and it has raised literally tens of thousands of pounds for worthwhile charitable causes (as, for instance, the Macmillan Nurses) by its concert-giving activities. In this respect the orchestra has been very proud of its 30 years’ association with the Birmingham Branch of the Friends of Vellore and its fund-raising activities on behalf of the Christian Teaching Hospital at Vellore in S. India. The MYO has travelled abroad on many occasions to international festivals, the most recent such ‘highlight’ being our visit to Canada’s Banff Festival in 2000, and the orchestra has enjoyed the privilege of being coached by its Patron, Paul Daniel, on numerous occasions; the last being only last month in a Masterclass on Humperdinck’s Hansel & Gretel prelude and Walton’s Henry V suite. Additionally, the MYO has benefited from being directed in concerts by guest maestros such as Sir Simon Rattle and Patrick Strub. Moreover, the orchestra has provided a nursery for countless youngsters who each sought to extract from it the maximum musical opportunities that it could offer them.

It would now seem that, after these 48 years, the life of the Midland Youth Orchestra is at an end. Far from it; this is only the beginning! Every musician worth his salt knows of J.S. Bach’s Forty-Eight, (the 24 preludes and 24 fugues). I do hope that it is not too fanciful of me to liken the MYO’s forty-eight years to a double-helping of Bach’s 24 preludes which are now to be handed on to the new CBSO Youth Orchestra for it to provide the fugues – hopefully Bach’s symbolic twenty-four multiplied many times over. Let Blyth Major’s inspirational and pioneering spirit live on in the creation of this new orchestra, and may the young musicians of the Midlands – as in a fugue – “chase” after these even more rewarding opportunities which are about to be created for them. I therefore ask you all to toast the future with enthusiasm.

5. Goodwill Messages

Goodwill Messages

“This great pioneering orchestra has already bred generations of talented and busy musicians and now stands at the gates of a new and exciting era. I have been very proud to be associated with the orchestra and its inspired chief, Stephen Williams, and send everyone my best wishes for the future.”
Paul Daniel, CBE, (Music Director, English National Opera), Patron of the MYO

“I am delighted that the Midland Youth Orchestra will be ‘coming home’ when the new CBSO Youth Orchestra gives its first concert in October this year. At CBSO we are all committed to continuing and developing the fine tradition of music making established by the Midland Youth Orchestra over nearly 50 years and warmly welcome young musicians of the highest calibre into the CBSO family.”
Sakari Oramo, (Music Director, CBSO)

“It was at the International Festival in Banff/Canada in April 2000 where I came together for the first time with the Midland Youth Orchestra. We were working intensively on Verdi’s overture La forza del destino and I felt from the very first moment that in this orchestra everyone is full of energy and great joy at making music. Our sympathy turned very quickly into a real friendship and I felt honoured to be invited to conduct the summer concert 2003 of the MYO in Birmingham.

It is my strong wish that the wonderful spirit of this orchestra might always be a fundamental part of the newly restructured one into which the MYO is to be incorporated – the CBSO Youth Orchestra.

With my very best wishes for the future! Fondest regards.”
Patrick Strub (Artistic Director of the Arcata Chamber Orchestra, Stuttgart, & Christopherus Y.S.O., Germany); Conductor of the MYOs Concert in July, 2003

6. Concert Programme

Prelude: Hansel and Gretel – Humperdinck
Rhapsody: A Shropshire Lad – Butterworth
Horn Concero No. 1 in Eb – R. Strauss

Addresses by:
Stephen Maddock (Chief Executive, CBSO)
Sir John Manduell, CBE (Chairman, National Association of Youth Orchestras)
Stephen Williams (Chairman, MYO)


A Somerset Rhapsody – Holst
Larch Trees – Arnold
Suite: Henry V – Walton

The works selected for this evening’s concert have been chosen to reflect various threads and links that the MYO has pursued throughout its history. The Humperdinck prelude is a work often performed by the orchestra, and it does so this evening to mark the 150th Anniversary of the composer’s birth. Likewise, the Butterworth rhapsody has become very much an MYO work; it was given a much admired performance as recently as last July under the baton of guest conductor Patrick Strub. The Strauss concerto has been selected in memory of the orchestra’s much admired long-serving second Music Director, James Langley, himself a horn-player in the very first MYO. James conducted several performances of the concerto (including soloists John Pigneguy and Robert Blackburn) and it was performed again at the James Langley Memorial Concert in 1995 – with Gary Smith as the soloist and Stephen Williams directing.

Holst’s Somerset Rhapsody, itself performed on many occasions by the orchestra, reflects a long association with the composer and one remembers a stunning account of The Planets (with women’s chorus) under Blyth Major in the early ’70s. The MYO has many times performed a variety of the exciting works of Malcolm Arnold and the orchestra has been honoured by Sir Malcolm’s enthusiastic and inimitable presence at performances of his symphonies: No. 8 (conducted by Stephen Williams) in 1990, and No. 2 (by Anthony Bradbury) in 2001, the latter in honour of the composer’s 80th birthday. The orchestra first played the uncharacteristically restrained Larch Trees some two decades ago; a performance that we understood to have been its first since the work was premiered many years before that. Further research suggests that that MYO’s performance was the actual world premiere, since the previously supposed premiere was, in fact, an LPO rehearsal conducted by Arnold himself. Walton’s suite Henry V is another work much performed by the MYO, most recently at the Banff Festival in Canada in 2000. This, together with the evening’s other English works, well illustrates the orchestra’s long-held policy of propagating English music.

7. Guest Players

Guest Players

Because of the celebratory nature of this evening it seems appropriate that a number of professional string players whose formative years were spent in the MYO should be invited to join the orchestra for our final concert.

The MYO is pleased and delighted to be able to welcome back some or all of the following musicians as our guests. We are honoured that their time with the MYO was such that they wish to mark their membership by giving their services to tonight’s concert.

David Gregory. Joined the MYO, aged eleven, in 1966 and became its leader when sixteen years old. Took up the violin at the age of six. After ‘A’ levels read Music at Christ Church, Oxford and received lessons from Manoug Parikian. Later a scholarship to the RAM led to lessons with Hugh Maguire. Joined CBSO in 1977. Quite apart from his orchestral life, David is very committed to chamber music and has sung with the Tallis Scholars and Ex Cathedra. For over 20 years David has been the highly valued section tutor of the MYO’s 1st violins and he is married to ex-MYO violin contemporary, Susan Nunn. They have two daughters.

Jonathan Taylor. MYO (1962-69). Leader from 1965 on tours of Frankfurt, Zermatt and the first International Festival of Youth Orchestras. Graduate of Birmingham University. Subsequently co-leader of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and then the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Presently in the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra of which he has been a director. Soloist with the MYO on several occasions.

Ceinwen Silverbrooke. MYO member (variously from 1961 to ’72) including being leader. Youngest member on first MYO tour abroad (Frankfurt, 1962). Music/French degree at Southampton University and studied at the RAM on a Leverhulme Scholarship. Formerly member of the BBC Midland Radio Orchestra and now a freelance violinist/violist and teacher.

Caroline Jones: Though not actually a past member of the MYO, Caroline has been a most valued tutor to the orchestra’s second violins in recent years. She is a graduate of the RNCM and, after a period in Italian Opera, she now freelances with orchestras such as the RPO and the Orch. of St John’s, Smith Square, etc.

Howard Breakspear. MYO (1963-65), first on violin, then viola. After studying with Lena Wood, joined the BBC Radio Orchestra, then spent four years in Holland with orchestras in Arnhem and Enschede before joining Opera North in 1979. He has been principal viola of that orchestra since 1982.

Ian Ludford. MYO (1966 to 1974) including being principal. Studied at Birmingham School of Music with Antonia Butler, followed by post-graduate studies at the Hochschule für Musik in Cologne under Siegfried Palm. Joined BBC Academy orchestra in 1975 and has been a member of the CBSO since 1977. Ian has a ’cello/piano partnership and regularly performs chamber music with CBSO colleagues. Like David Gregory, Ian has been a stalwart of the MYO’s coaching staff, having tutored the orchestra’s ’cello section for over twenty years.

Jonathan Kitchen. MYO (1984-92), including being principal. Studied at RCM with Christopher Bunting and Felix Schmidt. Since graduation has free-lanced with most of the famous London orchestras and he is co-principal of English Touring Opera. MYO soloist at Aberdeen Festival (1996) in the Dvorák concerto.

N.B. During the second half of the concert the orchestra will be led by David Gregory, and the second violin, viola and cello sections will be led by Jonathan Taylor, Howard Breakspear and Ian Ludford respectively.

8. Soloist: Andrew Saunders

Andrew Saunders – Horn

Born in Dundee, Andy began playing the horn whilst at high school in Staffordshire as an excuse to miss science lessons! A member of the Midland Youth Orchestra from 1993 to 1996, he then went on to study at York University, where he had the opportunity to perform several times as a soloist, including the premieres of a number of new works by composers based at the university. Andy then moved to Glasgow to complete his Masters degree at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama with Hugh Potts.

Soon after graduating, he was appointed as principal horn of the Slovenian National Opera and Ballet Orchestra in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Since returning to Glasgow, he plays regularly with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Scottish Opera and the Paragon Ensemble. He has also worked with the Hallé Orchestra, Northern Sinfonia, Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the Royal Ballet Sinfonia.

As a soloist he has performed most of the standard repertoire concertos for the instrument, in venues ranging from muddy fields to York Minster and the Edinburgh Festival.

In addition to horn playing Andy is involved in the youth work of his church and enjoys travelling, walking and squash.

9. Orchestral List

Midland Youth Orchestra
11 July 2004

(* indicates recent past member of MYO)

First Violin
Stephanie Cole (Leader)
Vanessa Cole
Anna Downes*
Anja Fietzek (Deputy Leader)
Charlotte Green
Anna Jephcott*
Katrina Moore*
Detta Smith
Charlotte Taylor

Second Violin
Michelle Garner
Philip Gibbs*
Sarah Hamilton
Stacey Hsiao (Principal)
Eleanor Jones
Reika Nakagawa
Nicola Stimson
Alice Thorneywork

Martin Crozier*
Deborah Dickens*
Natalie Mason (Principal)
Eva Miechova
Angela Moran*
Chris Orton*
Laura Pugh

Louise Branch
Christopher Brown
William Cheung (Principal)
Jonathan Dodd
Rachel Hanbury
Janet Lindsay*
Nicola McAteer
Claire Stevenson*
Daniel Todd
James Vine

Double Bass
Sara Johnson
Gemma Murray (Principal)
Maddie Owen
Leslie Quarcoopome

Hayley License
Lisa Prevett

Hayley License
Abi McMillan
Lisa Prevett (Principal)
Fiona Slominska*

Nadia Accili
Stephanie Oatridge
Carol Renfrew (Principal)

Cor Anglais
Stephanie Oatridge

Rebecca Owen (Principal)
Joy Pierson*
Louisa Sims

Bass Clarinet
Joy Pierson*

Tsz Fok
Richard Tattam (Principal)

Alison Bach (Principal)
Eliza Collins
Laurence Davies
Laurie Truluck

Chris Jordan*
Richard Moore*
Claire Powell (Principal)

Tenor Trombone
Penny Jackson
Robert Tunningley (Principal)

Bass Trombone
Nick Marr

Bethan Ecclestone*

Chris Bastock*
Jon Ormston
Keith Price (Principal)
Christina Slominska

Helen Barley

Anna Downes

Guest Players
First Violin: David Gregory (Leader, 2nd half); Ceinwen Silverbrook
Second Violin: Jonathan Taylor (Principal, 2nd half); Caroline Jones
Viola: Howard Breakspear (Principal, 2nd half)
Cello: Ian Ludford (Principal, 2nd half); Jonathan Kitchen

10. The Orchestra Gives Thanks

The Orchestra Gives Thanks...

The somewhat bland acknowledgements made to the MYO’s professional sectional tutors at the beginning of this programme are a wholly inadequate way of recognising the impact that they have all made in raising and maintaining the standards of the MYO. They are, after the conductors, closest to the musical action, and their work with the various orchestral sections has been of critical importance. Verbal and written comments made over the years from a wide variety of wind and brass players bear testimony to the inspirational qualities of both Ted Watson and Ken Shifrin and words are wholly inadequate to describe the nature of the contributions of David Gregory (1st violin tutor) and Ian Ludford (’cello tutor). Here are two musicians who, as ex-MYO members themselves – David as leader; Ian as principal – have both chosen to repay the orchestra many times over by volunteering their professional skills, honed in the CBSO, to benefit succeeding generations of young MYO players. This they have both done for over twenty years. Additionally, though she has recently withdrawn from coaching, we are no less grateful to Jill Spurrell for her most skilful guidance of the orchestra’s second violins over very many years.

In acknowledging these professional musicians, as well as a number of trusts, etc who have given their invaluable assistance to the orchestra over the years we are mindful that they represent only a fraction of the many unseen helpers without whose input the work of the MYO could never have been sustained.

The orchestra first rehearsed at the Birmingham School of Music at the express invitation of its then principal, Dr. Christopher Edmunds. However, when that building was pulled down to make way for the present Conservatoire, it was necessary to find alternative accommodation and, after a brief interlude elsewhere, the MYO was invited by the then Vice-Chancellor, Sir Peter Venables, to rehearse at Aston University. This it has done weekly since the mid-’60s, in accommodation provided completely free of charge, by kind permission of succeeding vice-chancellors from Sir Peter through to the present day’s Prof. Mike Wright. Indeed, Sir Peter’s own children were members of the MYO, as was the daughter of a later Pro-Chancellor, Sir Joseph Hunt; the latter serving for many years as a most valued trustee of the orchestra. The importance of the contribution made by Aston University to the orchestra’s wellbeing cannot, of course, be overestimated and the management of the MYO is keenly aware of the privileged position that the orchestra has enjoyed for nearly 40 years. On behalf of generations of ex-MYO members, we warmly thank Prof. Wright and his predecessors for it. Additionally, we sing the praises of the Saturday duty-staff at the university for their unfailing helpfulness, friendliness and patience shown to the orchestra and its members over so many years.

Throughout its history the MYO has been dependent upon legions of voluntary helpers – usually parents – to fill the offices of Hon. Secretary/Asst. Hon. Sec and Hon. Treasurer on its management committee, to fulfil other roles such as publicity officers, or to give valuable support to the orchestra through the MYO Parents’ Committee (an independent, yet vital, body). What is astonishing and deeply gratifying is that many of these parents have continued to give their services to the orchestra for very many years – in some cases into double figures – after their own offspring have moved on to higher education or employment elsewhere in the country. It says much about the value put upon the work of the orchestra by these volunteers that so many of them should have chosen to labour on its behalf, often far beyond the basic requirements of their posts, in this way. To single out any one individual for praise is to insult the remainder! They all deserve the deep gratitude of every generation of MYO players.

The many trusts, etc. listed near the beginning of this programme represent only those who have assisted the orchestra during the past year. Throughout the decades there have been many more such acts of generosity to the orchestra from a wide variety of bodies, and we warmly thank them all for their major contributions without which the orchestra could not have been such a success. It may be deemed appropriate to here put forward the name of Harry Payne, a man who did so much to assist Blyth Major in many practical ways in the early days of the orchestra and whose Harry Payne Trust made many financial donations to the MYO. Likewise, his son, Jack Payne, both through the work of the Harry Payne Trust and through his own personal contribution as the orchestra’s long-term chairman of trustees, was a vital and encouraging supporter of the MYO and its work for very many years. This “hands-on” assistance given by the Payne family in no way minimises the importance of the aid given to the orchestra by the very many other trusts, companies and individuals over the years; assistance for which the MYO management is deeply appreciative.

This brings us finally to the MYO Trustees (some of whom having already been mentioned) – a long-standing body necessary to oversee and comment upon the decision-making processes by the management of a Friendly Society and Exempt Charity. Since it was first set up, the orchestra’s trustees have been, variously, businessmen with a sound knowledge of the commercial world, specialists in societies and their legal administration, academics, or musicians with a sound knowledge of the greater musical scene. Throughout, the various trustees have given their most valuable advice with wisdom and with humour. Again, several have themselves been past-members of the MYO who have chosen to contribute their business skills, developed in their later professional lives, for the benefit of the orchestra. To these, and to all of the various individuals and bodies referred to above, the management of the Midland Youth Orchestra Society extends a huge “thank-you”.

Anna Downes and Lesley Leigh – a Special Vote of Thanks

Both Anna Downes (the orchestra’s current Assistant Hon. Secretary ) and Lesley Leigh (an Hon. Sec.of the MYO from several decades ago) have laboured long and hard in order to make contact with, and to inform, as many ex-MYO members as possible concerning today’s celebrations; indeed, they were responsible for sending out no less than 1400 information letters between them! Additionally, they have both been keeping check-lists of applicants for this evening’s concert/celebratory party and afternoon dress rehearsal/reception, as well as sending out to all the appropriate concert and party/reception tickets.

Without Anna and Lesley’s sterling contributions the arrangements for today’s celebrations would have been all but impossible to organise. Both on behalf of all past-MYO members who have been present today, and on behalf of the orchestra’s management, I wish to pay tribute to them both and warmly thank them for their labours on our behalf.

Stephen Williams – Chairman

11. The MYO of 1956 – Where are they now?

The MYO of 1956: Where are they now?

To look back at the orchestral list of the ’56 MYO (in reality that for the orchestra’s Inaugural Concert on 12th January, 1957), is to happily remind oneself of these young players went on to distinguish themselves as professional musicians.

One is immediately aware of our first leader, sixteen-year old Barry Griffiths, who went on to enjoy a distinguished career as a soloist and, in particular, as leader, in turn, of the BBC Northern Orchestra, the RPO and then, finally, of the orchestra of English National Opera. By a strange and happy coincidence Barry officially retired only yesterday; a fact that has, alas, prevented him from taking part in this evening’s MYO celebrations. The span of his career and that of the MYO are, in effect, in harmony. Howard Davis has spent a long and fruitful career as the leader of the Alberni String Quartet, with which he is performing in Paris this weekend. Both Barry and Howard regret being unable to be present this evening, but they send their very best wishes to the current MYO members. David Measham was later to pursue a career as a violin principal with both the CBSO and the LSO before branching out into conducting in Australia. These three violinists are but a token of those who were to take up the profession. To study the names in the viola and ’cello sections is to be immediately reminded of the sterling value that distinguished and incomparable pair of Midlands instrumental teachers, Lena Wood (viola) and Leslie Sutton (’cello). I will pick out just one name, the Australian Joy Lee, who, initially in this country, but then back in Australia as well as in Hong Kong, became an important and influential figure in string instrumental education.

A glance at the woodwind and brass lists prompts memories of Eric Fletcher (coincidentally a very fine piano accompanist) who later had a long career as an oboe/cor anglais player with the CBSO and, more particularly, with the Hallé Orchestra. His beautiful cor anglais playing can be heard in famously memorable recordings of Sibelius’s The Swan of Tuonela and accompanying the voice of Dame Janet Baker in various Mahler song-cycles, all under the direction of Sir John Barbirolli. Very sadly Eric died a couple of years or so ago after bravely bearing a long illness. There, in the clarinets, is Martyn Davies who, at fourteen, was the youngest member of the 1956 MYO. Only five years later, at 19, he joined the CBSO and must surely have set some sort of record by officially retiring only two months ago after nearly 40 years of remarkable service to that orchestra; service that embraced more than five thousand concerts, tours in more than thirty countries and countless recordings. Hornist Christopher Satterthwaite was for more than thirty years a member of the Royal Opera House horn team at Covent Garden. There, also in the horn list, is the name of James Langley, the value of whose service to the BBC and, in particular, to this orchestra is now so well known and understood by all.

Of course, I have referred to only a handful of the very many musicians of the 1956 MYO who went on to active careers as professional players. But then again, as I look at the lists, I see future scientists, university and college lecturers, a medical officer of health, journalists, music teachers, broadcasters….. And then there are those many familiar names who have, over the years, floated away from one’s own orbit. Where, oh where are they now?

These observations represent only a snapshot of the orchestra of 1956. What would similar snapshots of the ’66, ’76, ’86 and ’96 orchestras reveal? Be sure that they would display a similar commitment to music and an equally diverse body of interests and future careers. However, what these snapshots cannot show is that, in every orchestra, there was a great spirit of co-operation and friendship binding the players together. Very many of those friendships still remain!

Stephen Williams – Chairman

12. Reminiscences of past members

Memories are made of this…..!

Reminiscences of past-members...

... of the MYOs tours abroad:

Peggy and Tony Homer: “Peggy and I spent the second week of our honeymoon with the MYO on tour in Frankfurt in 1962. On the return journey we were dropped off in London where we picked up Peggy’s car, driven there by my father, and went straight to our first flat!”

David Walker – Freelance professional double-bassist, (on the 1962 Frankfurt tour): “On that tour – at Bad Nauheim – a German introduced our principal conductor as ‘Major Blight’. I do not know how we kept our faces straight.”

(Memories of) “….. the coach breaking down and being pushed to ‘jump-start’ it by several dinner-jacketed members of the orchestra.”

Stephen Baxter-Smith, (on the MYO’s Bavaria Tour, 1993): “Although we were not going home just yet, new friends had been made, and it was time to say ‘Auf Wiedersehen’ to everyone who had made our stay so pleasant. We went out in a blaze of glory with a superb concert in the TV Halle in Waldmunchen, followed by a magnificent – typically German – meal.”

...of the MYOs participation in the International Festival of Youth Orchestras:

Jonathan Taylor – Sub-principal violinist (and former Board Member), Bournemouth SO: “It is with a certain sadness that I recall the wonderful playing of Thomas Igloi in the Dvorak ’cello concerto on our trip to Zermatt. He was a member of the MYO in the early days and it is one of the great tragedies of the world of music that he is no longer with us.”

David Walker: “Thomas Igloi, playing the Dvorak ’cello concerto in a freezing (big) tent in St. Moritz. It was mid-August and it had snowed overnight! The trumpets found their lips being frozen to their mouthpieces”.

Ron Large – Well-known Midlands professional bass player and teacher: “I (took my d.b. stool) to the International Festival in St. Moritz. During the second week I lent it to Leopold Stokowski who used it as his rehearsal stool all week and as his rest stool in the concert the International Youth Orchestra gave him. Somewhere underneath it still bears the inscription ‘Stokowski sat ’ere’.”

... of MYO concerts at home:

David Walker: “Concert in the Civic Hall, Wolverhampton. Ten basses!!!!!! Finlandia – the brass were not in it! I remember, at the end of the concert, Blyth not just waving to the basses, but coming through the orchestra to shake me by the hand. Was I proud!”

The MYOs present Chairman: “The unison horn opening of Schubert’s ‘Great C Major’ Symphony is famous (or notorious) as one of the most potentially hazardous beginnings in music. The work was programmed in an MYO concert under Blyth Major in Birmingham Town Hall in the late 1950s. At the outset of the second half 70-plus players waited expectantly in their seats, each willing the pair of unison horn-players to declaim their opening to the very height of haunting perfection. Jim Lowe (later a physicist) and Mike Saxton (to become a member of the CBSO and then of the Hallé under Barbirolli) did indeed deliver just that. How the hearts of the rest of us swelled with pride and, for the next hour, we all strove to live up to that sublime precedent set before our ears. That performance is one of my abiding memories. Only recently Mike told me that, at the following Christmas, he had received a card from Jim upon which the latter had inscribed the notation of that tricky opening. Obviously they were blessed memories of a perfect partnership!”

John Kenny – Professional trombonist: “I think the most memorable moment of my time in the orchestra was a performance of Rachmaninov’s 1st symphony in the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall (which was conducted by James Langley) and, in particular, the great chorale for brass at the heart of the first movement. The sombre, brooding texture of the music breaks open, and this chorale is the most phenomenal affirmation of strength and dynamism. To play lead trombone in that piece, at that moment, was to feel like some colossus striding the stars! I’ve driven 130 m.p.h. without a crash helmet on a motorcycle and I’ve hung from a steel rope above the yawning abyss of a glacier, but that remains one of the most consummately exciting experiences of my life! In spite of the fact that I have made my living as an interpreter of contemporary music, I must be a romantic at heart!”

... of MYO Rehearsals:

Oliver Bouckley: “You will remember, but younger people may not appreciate, that Mr Major was ALWAYS so addressed, although “off-stage” he was universally known as ‘Blyth’. I cannot remember who, but I think it was a trombonist, put his hand up in a rehearsal and said “Excuse me, Mr Blyth.” Five minutes later the assembled company was composed enough to continue….”

“Blyth Major’s famous double-pun (on the 1968 German Tour and before I joined, so I only heard it second-hand): ‘What’s zer matter, horn?’. This has to be one of the best I’ve ever heard.”

“I was walking down the corridor at Aston University from the lift towards the entrance and James (Langley) was walking across the entrance at right-angles to me. The thought “he looks just like Brahms” came to me quite forcibly” ( N.B. This is a most interesting thought, inasmuch as James was almost universally viewed as being a double for Antonin Dvorak. – S.W.) “Talking of which, it was James who said ‘Brahms never runs; he always walks’. I can only think of one exception to that, which is the scherzo from the piano quintet, and that’s only a trot.”

Jonathan Taylor: “I have the fondest memories of the orchestra and the enormous enthusiasm which Blyth Major and Jim Langley gave us. In those pioneering days in the old Midland Institute (the B’ham School of Music), when the lift kept breaking down and heating was something of a luxury, it was a real treat to climb up to Room 20 and enjoy the experience of playing for the first time Dvorak’s Eighth Symphony, The Wasps overture of Vaughan Williams, Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony and many other gems of the symphonic repertoire.”

The MYOs present Chairman: “As every 1st violinist knows who has ever played Tchaik. 5, there is one note in the opening violin theme of the Finale that they cannot play; it is too low for the violins and the composer therefore gives it to the violas. In a rehearsal under Blyth the entire viola section, to a man (and woman!), leapt to its feet for just that single note, as if it were a Big Band saxophone section up-standing for an 8-bar jazz break. The rest of the orchestra looked on in complete amazement, to put it mildly!”

Elizabeth Russell – MYO violist/harpist, 1991/94: “My overriding memories were of the constant quips and descriptions of the music we were playing. I was one of your (i.e. Stephen Williams’s) ‘bratsch-scratchers’ and you kept us on our toes with directions such as beginning from ‘K for Special’. Another favourite was ‘ham sandwich music.’ As a teacher myself, now conducting a respectable school orchestra, I am so glad to have played under your baton because you taught me far more about conducting than all my experience at Manchester University and teacher training at Reading University afterwards.”

of the MYO in general:

Lucy Akehurst (née Mabey) – Formerly violist with various orchestras, including BBC Scottish SO; now teaching: “I was absolutely desperate to play in the Midland Youth Orchestra and pestered my teacher – Joy Lee (a founder viola-player in the orchestra) – until she put me in for an audition. The day came and Blyth heard me play some Purcell and said, ‘Well, you’re not very good, but you have a good teacher and I am so short of violas that I shall let you in – I hope you will improve!”

Sarah Nock; now Sarah Patton – Music therapist, counsellor and instrumental teacher: “I remember MYO fondly, and especially the annual weekend away in September Being a part of such an organisation enabled me to enjoy my playing, socialise with others, receive support and encouragement and perform. Music has continued to play a very important part in my life and I hope that it continues to do so for other young musicians.”

David Walker: “As you may gather, the MYO meant a great deal to me and I have a lot to thank it for. I have no doubt that I would not be the player I am today had it not been for the orchestra. For me, walking through that heavy door in Paradise Street, to hear an orchestra playing music to such a high standard, and then to become part of it for such a long time, taught me so much. It has been an honour for me to have been associated with the MYO and I wish all members, past and present, well in the future.”

Pauline Lowbury – distinguished international violin soloist, chamber musician, leader and recording artist: “It was such a thrill to be in the midst of a big symphonic sound and to play such pieces as Dvorak 8 and Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphoses. Now I am a professional violinist, I look back with much gratitude for the experience the MYO provided.”

Gary Smith – freelance horn player, formerly principal horn of the Orquestra Sinfonica Portuguesa: “I have always found that I’ve learnt so much from sitting next to people who are better and more experienced than myself – usually things which teachers cannot tell you. This, together with the obvious advantage of learning more repertoire, makes a good youth orchestra like the MYO a ‘must’ in a young musician’s career.”

Robert Bishop – until recently sub-principal violinist, BBCSO, and freelance with the ECO: “The all too brief time that I was a member of the MYO was of immense value to me, providing the bridge between a ‘school’ and a ‘professional’ orchestra. I remember well concerts that inspired you to realise what a wonderful privilege it is to play such great music. I shall always be deeply grateful for the opportunity and experience the MYO gave me.”

Moragh Brooksbank – music officer, South West Arts Board: “Under the directorship of Stephen Williams and James Langley, I was challenged, inspired, and worked hard. MYO was one of the most important parts of my musical development; it gave me confidence and desire to go and study music at University.”

Sarah James – former MYO sub-principal violinist, saxophone soloist in Glazunov’s concerto (MYO, Banff, 2000) ; now professional saxophonist: “….unfortunately I shall be on tour ……on 11th July; however, I will be in B’ham in spirit! I have the MYO – and all of you – to thank for so much of my musical upbringing. All the best for the final concert.”

Mark Templeton – outright winner of World Trombone Assoc. Competition (U.S.A., 1997); freelance principal with the LSO, the Mahler C.O., St. Cecilia Orchestra (Rome) and many other orchestras: “I am very grateful to the MYO for the opportunities that I was given to learn so much from James Langley, Stephen and Anthony, and to enjoy performing such a varied repertoire. I hold you all in very high regard and I remember my time as a member of the MYO with great affection.”

Kelly Alijani (née Griffiths-Hughes) – Currently sub-principal hornist, Cyprus State Orchestra: “I’d like to say ‘thank you’ as the MYO was an amazing part of my training that I will never forget – I made a lot of friends, went on tour to Germany and played pieces I never thought I could when I was that age. Also, you should know that some of the kids that pass through the orchestra, (I would imagine more rather than less, as I know quite a few), end up doing it as a living as I have, and that you are an integral part of that ultimate aim that I’m sure we all appreciate…..I wish the team every success in the future and although the MYO will lose its name, I hope it never loses its heart and purpose. Thanks for the memories!”

Anna Downes: “After a difficult time at University, when I lost confidence in myself as a musician, I rejoined the MYO in 1998. This turned out to be one of the wisest decisions I have made. With the support and encouragement of Anthony Bradbury, Stephen Williams and David Gregory, the joy of music-making gradually came back to me. I later led the orchestra for three years, formed a successful chamber group and, after a life-changing trip to the Banff Festival of Youth Orchestras in Canada in 2000, I went on to set up my own semi-professional orchestra, the Central England Ensemble, of which many of the players are past MYO players and now, very good friends.

There is a spirit within the MYO which is unique and Stephen Williams’ life-long dedication to the orchestra, as well as the talent, commitment and ever-positive attitude of Anthony Bradbury, has contributed greatly to this. I feel truly privileged to have been a part of the orchestra for so long and hope that the essence of the MYO continues to live on through the new CBSO Youth Orchestra.”

Elizabeth Russell: “My time in the orchestra included two wonderful concerts at Symphony Hall, the second tinged with sadness at the sudden illness of Mr Langley. MYO as an independent orchestra had so many more benefits for its teenage players than local authority equivalents. We felt treated as ‘proper’ musicians, not merely pupils, and the demands and high standards of performance accelerated my musical development and confidence in a way unsurpassed by any other experience I had as a musical teenager. Thank you for your commitment and dogged determination to ensure MYO’s survival in one way or another.”

From Parents Don & Val Templeton: “Over a long period of time we have heard a huge variety of music performed by talented musicians under the direction of really dedicated professionals. It was with great pride and pleasure that we attended MYO concerts and saw our daughter Ruth and son Mark performing with the orchestra. They both gained so much musically, working with the orchestra under such excellent direction. The first time Mark played with the MYO was when a trombonist was needed for the Aberdeen Youth Festival (1988) and I remember how pleased he was that, at the age of 13, he was playing a Brahms symphony for the first time! We are eternally grateful that Mark was asked to play the Trombone Concerto commissioned by the MYO and composed by Ruth Byrchmore to celebrate the new Millennium in Symphony Hall.”

Jonathan Taylor: “As you will know, there was a time when the MYO was the only youth orchestra in town, and now others have copied the act, with varying degrees of success. The long history of the MYO is the standard by which other organisations will be judged, and that is the biggest compliment of all.”