When I was younger, I always loved September. The summer holidays were great, but I genuinely looked forward to the start of a new school year (geek, geek!). Sharp, new pencils, unsmudged erasers, pristine copybooks, a uniform so starched it could stand up independently - the new school term practically reeked of promise and exciting possibilities.
I'm unashamed to admit that I feel much the same regarding the new orchestral season. Granted, I have no new stationery (I'm on an economy drive, so last year's chewed pencils and crumbling erasers will have to make do; look after the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves, my mother says) and as my quest for the perfect long sleeved black dress continues, I have no new 'uniform' either. However, looking through our new season, I feel the same new school year excitement about many of our upcoming projects.
This will be Thierry Fischer's final season as Principal Conductor with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, and there are some real 'do not miss' concerts, even in just the first month of the new season. I'm very excited about the St David's Hall concert on 30 September featuring John Adams' 2003 Pulitzer Prize winning work On the Transmigration of Souls, and Beethoven's Symphony No 9 (yes, father, that is the Ode to Joy one).
The Adams work is definitely worth catching - commissioned by the New York Philharmonic and the Lincoln Centre's Great Performers, it is a commemoration for those killed in the World Trade Centre on 11 September 2001. More about this work closer to the time.
There are also opportunities to get better acquainted with our Principal Conductor Designate, Thomas Søndergård. You can catch him very early on in the season, in Cardiff and in Cheltenham, on 16 and 17 September respectively. Steven Isserlis will be the soloist and I will finally get the opportunity to play Debussy's La Mer in its complete form, rather than just the orchestral excerpt that you get in auditions.
Aside from this, we will be doing loads of recording, getting out and about across mid and north Wales, and in November, continuing our education and outreach work with Grant Llewellyn.
I loved the viola from the moment I started learning it with Mrs Carslaw in Camphill Primary School, County Antrim. I would arrange my soft toys into imaginary orchestras and make them play imaginary symphonies with me. My home town, Ballymena, seemed a world away from what I saw as the magical, glamorous sphere of classical music.
I know it sounds a bit daft, but it really did seem like another world and I never quite dared to dream that I would actually end up in an orchestra. Despite now knowing the truth (ie there's very little glamour and you seldom actually get to wear a ball gown), I still think this is a magical job. I hope you will enjoy reading my scribbles about life in the orchestra over this coming season!