Accomplished clarinetist and saxophonist, Emily B (SII) writes about her experience.

Playing in the National Children's Orchestra of Great Britain

By Emily B (SII) 


The National Children’s Orchestra of Great Britain (NCO) is for 7-14 year old musicians and entry is through an annual audition process. I remember my Clarinet audition day on Sunday the 7th of October 2018 as if it were yesterday. I woke with fluttering butterflies in my stomach, knowing that my performance would decide whether or not I would join this prestigious orchestra. I allowed myself extra time to reassure myself that my pieces were perfected and that I would do myself proud whatever happened. When we eventually arrived at St Mary’s School of Music in Edinburgh, where the audition was being held, I had a 15 minute warm-up to get my tongue working and to bring my fingers to life! Finally, it was time to prove myself worthy of being a member of the National Children’s Orchestra of Great Britain. My audition went well but I had to wait another 2-3 months for the result. Finally, the week arrived that would bring my news - good or bad. It was late on a school night and I was tucked up in bed when my mum came running up the stairs to wake me with the phenomenal news that I had been offered a place with NCO.



A few months passed and it was time to make the nine-hour journey to Port Regis School, Dorset for the NCO Easter course. When we eventually arrived, we had to drop off my instruments at the rehearsal hall and that’s where we first met my sectional leader (the clarinet specialist). She informed my parents that I would have lots of fun but I would also need to work hard - I was her number two! We had a full week there which gave me the opportunity to make many friends. Our programme theme was “Symphonic Sorcery” and it consisted of six pieces. My favorites were ‘Dance Macabre’ by Camille Saint-Saëns and ‘Peer Gynt Suit No.1’ by Edvard Grieg. I enjoyed Danse Macabre as it was eerie - so much so that the second violins had to tune their E string down to E flat!

Peer Gynt drew my attention as it gained speed thought the movement we played.


It came to the concert day and everything went well but I was sad to say goodbye to my new friends, even though I would see them again in a few months.


Just 3 months later it was time for the summer course at Rossall School in Fleetwood, Lancashire. During the first rehearsal, I learnt that I was to be moved up to Principal Clarinet! I was overjoyed as I knew it meant I would have more responsibility. This time, our programme of music was even more challenging than before and we would have to impress our audience at a public concert in Birmingham Town Hall.


The concert theme was “Dream, Fantasy, and Nightmare” and I enjoyed ‘The Gadfly Suite’ by Dmitri Shostakovich. It gave me the opportunity to play a saxophone solo in one of the movements. My favorite piece from both courses was ‘Night on a Bare Mountain’ by Modest Mussorgsky. The clarinet part was thrilling with fast quavers and semiquavers and I had a completely exposed solo at the end of it. When it came to my solo, I kept calm and focused the whole time in order to let my sound float over the orchestra. I must have done well because the conductor gave me a proud smile. My teacher also attended the concert and she was very pleased with my performance. 


Playing in an orchestra as prestigious as the National Children’s Orchestra of Great Britain is a dream come true and it has been an amazing experience. Not only have I benefited musically, but I have made many wonderful new friends from all over the country. I will be auditioning again this October, and I really hope that I have the opportunity to do it all again next year!


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