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Katie Derham plays second fiddle.

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Katie Derham Katie Derham | 14:46 UK Time, Monday, 2 August 2010

What would you give to turn back the clock and have another chance at Youth Orchestra? Proms presenter Katie Derham has just had that very opportunity... 

Many years ago, my best friend at school, Premila, was in the National Youth Orchestra. She was an awesome musician and in the NYO for flute and harp. She would tell me great stories about the residential courses in the school holidays where she seemed to have the best time and play music to an exceptional standard. Her playing was always in a different league when she got back from those courses.  A little envious, but realistic about my own talent on the violin,  I knew I'd never get anywhere close to being in an orchestra of teenagers of whom 75 percent will go on to be professionals. So imagine, dear reader, the general state of febrile over excitement I'm currently in. In a scene worthy of Jim'll Fix It, the power of the Proms has just realised a long held dream; I've just spent the last 2 hours in a National Youth Orchestra rehearsal, at the back of the second violins, playing Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique. I may not quite have managed ALL the notes in QUITE the right order, to misquote Andre Previn on Morecambe and Wise, and I'm certainly no teenager anymore, but when I'm old and grey, I will now be able to tell my grandchildren that I played my violin under internationally renowned Maestro, Semyon Bychkov.prom29_semyon_bychkov.jpg And it was amazing, absorbing, terrifying and brilliant.

The NYO prom is always a highlight of the season - the sheer number of young people on stage, for a start, makes it quite the event; at the last count I think there were 160 of them! But it's the enthusiasm and the energy that sweeps the audience along and the astounding accomplishment of the players, some as young as 14. This year, on Saturday 7th August (shown on BBC2 on August 21st) they're going to be playing the Sorcerer's Apprentice (how appropriate ...) then, with a neat link and a nod to Disney, the Fantasias by Julian Anderson, in its European premiere. Then the Berlioz. A whopper of a symphony, with musical experimentation, jokes galore and some absolutely gorgeous tunes. Having had the pleasure of hearing the Berlioz first hand this afternoon I can tell you it's going to be a great show (and decidedly better for the absence of a certain rusty fiddle player lurking at the back!). I can't wait to see them backstage at the Royal Albert Hall where I suspect their excitement will exceed even my own. I'm also looking forward to hearing some more gossip, as I suspect there are a hundred stories that we weren't told during the rehearsal. 160 teenagers and no gossip? I don't think so! Oh, and special thanks to Izzy  (2nd violin) for showing me the ropes and for lending me her spare mute - I haven't forgotten!! I'll give it back to you on Saturday, I promise!

  • Prom 29. Saturday 7th August, 2010.


Photo of Semyon Bychkov copyright Sheila Rock.  


  • Comment number 1.

    As Symphonie Fantastique is my favourite work I found this particularly interesting. I'd just like to say what a great move to get Katie involved the BBC arts coverage as I've always enjoyed the intellectual gravitas that she adds to whatever project she is involved in.

    Symphonie Fantastique, based, as it is, on De Quincey's 'Confessions of an English opium eater' should be seen as a sortie into psychedelia, it is the most extraordinary work and a labour of love based on Berliotz's monumental infactuation with the actress Hariet Smithson. Berliotz had never met Miss Smithson at the time of creating the work, making the power of his devotion, pristine infactuation. As we listen to the work the skipping sense of joy and romantic exultation is all apparent.


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