Dark Hedges inspires Proms piece

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AS the world gets ready for London 2012 and one of the biggest sporting events on the planet, Ulster Orchestra players and their junior counterparts in the Ulster Youth Orchestra (UYO) – including Co. Antrim timpani player Craig Lutton - are preparing for the world’s biggest classical music festival, the BBC Proms, where the two orchestra’s will combine to make a super-orchestra of 150-plus players and give the world première of ‘Dark Hedges’ by Co. Antrim-born composer Elaine Agnew.

Proms organisers this year have invited the national youth orchestras of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to perform with their ‘big brothers and sisters’ over the course of the first weekend in August.

With rehearsals set for the end this month, the countdown is well underway to the Royal Albert Hall concert on 4 August. The prestigious event will see the Ulster Youth Orchestra make their Proms début performing with the Ulster Orchestra and Sir James Galway.

“I’m not only excited about having a piece performed at the Royal Albert Hall,” Elaine said, “but the fact that Dark Hedges which is inspired by the stunning avenue of beech trees of the same name near Armoy is receiving its première adds so much more to the occasion.

“Working with the fantastic Ulster Orchestra, Ulster Youth Orchestra, Sir James Galway and American conductor JoAnn Falletta with over 150 musicians all on stage couldn’t make it any more special!”

Also looking forward to his London performance, 17-year-old timpani player Craig, who has played the timpani with the UYO for four years said, “This is a great opportunity to learn from professional musicians and tutors that we wouldn’t otherwise meet – they’re really helpful, giving us loads of tips on techniques,” he said.

“Some of the music is really challenging, so their advice is very useful. When I’m playing the timpani at the back of the orchestra, I get a great view over all the players, and the atmosphere is amazing, so I can’t wait to see what it will be like at the Royal Albert Hall.”

Over the course of the weekend, The National Youth Orchestra of Scotland will perform jointly with the BBC Scottish Orchestra and the National Youth Orchestra of Wales will perform with the BBC Welsh Orchestra. The National Youth of Great Britain will perform in the evening of 4 August with the Northern Ireland contingent giving its concert that afternoon.

“We play live to around 100,000 people giving between 80 to 90 concerts each year, but a Proms concert is always special,” David Openshaw, the Ulster Orchestra’s Timpanist and longest serving player said.

“While this is our eleventh visit to the Proms since our début in 1985, JoAnn Falletta, our Principal Conductor and the Ulster Youth Orchestra will be making their first appearances this time round. The fact that we will be giving a world première of a new work with Jimmy Galway, who makes his first appearance at a Prom in a decade, will make for a very special day, especially for the younger players and some of my colleagues who haven’t yet done a Prom yet.”

The Ulster Youth Orchestra will open the concert with a performance of Chabrier’s España followed by the Ulster Orchestra and Sir James Galway giving a performance of Mozart’s famous Flute Concerto in D.

The Ulster Youth Orchestra will then join on their professional counterparts on stage with Sir James for the world première of Dark Hedges by Elaine Agnew, a piece for double orchestra and solo flute. The combined orchestra of 150-plus players will then end the concert with Stravinsky’s Firebird (1911 version.)