Creative Learning and Community Engagement Coordinator, Adam Laughton shares a review of the first ever virtual West of England Youth Orchestra course, on Friday 17th April

Since I’ve joined the Creative Learning team, I’ve learnt that WMC is at its best when its full to bursting with musicians and audiences, keen to experience the joys of live music. Our triennial West of England Youth Orchestra courses are a prime example of this – for each of the week-long courses, the Centre swells with symphonic music and the sounds of our energetic young performers both inside and outside the practice room. These moments are real highlights of the WMC calendar.

These lingering memories made it all the stranger to sit in an empty Auditorium, hastily converted into a very unusual office, and stare at a computer in the place where WEYO conductor Tim Redmond should be. And yet, from the moment each of our young musicians, tutors and special guests logged onto our first ever Virtual WEYO session on Friday 17th May, it was very clear that amazing musical moments can continue to be made, no matter where we are.

The repertoire for the day never felt more apt; punchy, cinematic scores from two famous video games, Pokémon and Skyrim, became the themes for the day. Working with specially produced backing tracks, WEYO members tuned in from across Wiltshire and Somerset (and one member in Sweden!), using pictures of WMC as virtual backdrops to bring the scene to life. Living rooms and bedrooms became makeshift studios, with duvets hanging on walls as ingenious acoustic aids. With opportunities to catch up with friends across the orchestra, including a lively lunchtime quiz, the energy throughout the day was palpable.

Tim Redmond and our fabulous team of sectional tutors helped mould and direct the performer’s enthusiasm with musicality and wit. We were delighted to welcome Maxine Kwok-Adams, Violinist at the London Symphony Orchestra, and Robin Bailey, professional operatic tenor, for unique masterclasses to provide insight and advice for our members.

In this time of uncertainty, I have found myself craving normality. Having spent a day sitting in WMC’s Auditorium watching young participants make music together, I logged off feeling more normal than I have in a long time. I am particularly excited that the finale is still to come – over the weekend, WEYO members have been submitting recordings of their part to be mastered into a final video, producing our first ever Virtual WEYO performance. I cannot wait to share this very special video with you.  

"This was a great project - really enjoyed it and can't wait to see the finished product!" – Participant
"I really enjoyed the day. It's the best day of my lockdown!" – Participant
"Thoroughly enjoyable day. Well done again to all at WMC – not even coronavirus can stop WEYO!!" – WEYO Tutor