FROM ERICA SMITH, CHAIR AYO COMMITTEE
Every year the Armidale Youth Orchestra (AYO) ensembles and families travel to Sawtell Beach in late February for our Annual Music Camp weekend! This is a wonderful weekend of music making, and is an essential component of AYO’s program for the year. Students in the AYO, the Armidale Youth String Orchestra (AYSO) and the Armidale Youth Wind Ensemble (AYWE) spend the weekend rehearsing, often with a guest conductor, but there is always time for beach, fun and games. It is an important start to the year, where players can really get to know the repertoire and have specific sessions with specialised instrumental tutors.
The weekend culminates in a concert at midday on Sunday, which is open to the general public, and ends with a combined performance of all three ensembles. This year it was a medley of music from the Harry Potter movies. The musicians really enjoyed playing that music, and the performance was fantastic! We also heard an inspiring work composed by our AYO Conductor Paul Marshall based on the percussive sounds that workers in African gold mines during segregation, who were banned from talking, would use to communicate with each other.
On Saturday evening the traditional family BBQ was held. Unfortunately we had rain but luckily there was plenty of shelter! The BBQ is a great opportunity for a general catch-up and for the parents to get to know each other, the conductors and tutors, and to welcome families that are new to the AYO. The year 12 AYO members, led by Claire Warwick, ran a fantastic activities evening for the musicians. The ‘grown-ups’ were almost deafened by the laughter coming from the hall where they were!
This Annual Music Camp started about 20 years ago at Valla Beach, under the direction of Mal Hewitt. For the past few years, the guest conductor has been Ben Castle, a string specialist who was Head of Strings at Melbourne Grammar School but will start a new position at Scotch College. We always enjoy having Ben Castle as our guest conductor and luckily he has agreed to return next year! This year we also welcomed back guest tutor Amberley Bremner. Amberley conducts the Melbourne Youth Strings and is a member of the Music Department at Scotch College, Melbourne.