by Tina Sanderson

A Celebration of Young People

When the Academy of St Olave’s gave its first concert in January 1978, to raise funds for the restoration of St Olave’s Church organ, the leader of the orchestra was none other than Robin Gilbert, Headmaster of Easingwold School. It was only natural that he should invite some of his talented young pupils to play in the orchestra, and our current chairman Christine Smith (née Hutchinson) was one of them! During Robin’s tenure as leader of the Academy there was a steady trickle of young talented players recruited into the ranks, and the tradition has continued to this day.

Three young cellists rehearse for the first concert: Judith Holman, Christine Hutchinson and Karen Humphreys

Three young cellists rehearsing for the first concert of the Academy of St Olave’s in January 1978. They are Judith Holman, Christine Hutchinson (current chair of the Orchestra) and Karen Humphreys (now Head of the Junior Royal Northern College of Music).

How do talented youngsters join the orchestra?

Academy of St Olave’s players all have to be post grade 8 in their instrument, but for those youngsters that make the grade it is an excellent opportunity to play alongside experienced adults. There is no drive to recruit young players and places in the orchestra are by invitation only – so how do talented youngsters get to play?

In order to be invited, people have to register an interest, either by word of mouth or by emailing the orchestra at The orchestra has separate “fixers” for strings, wind and brass, who send invitations to players 2-3 months before each concert. Most of the orchestra positions are filled by long-standing members, but it is usually possible to include one or two new players, particularly if there is an extended wind or brass section in the concert programme.

Young people who have played with the Academy of St Olave’s in the past have often been known to the fixers, possibly as talented pupils, or have been family members of existing orchestra players.

Flying the nest

Our young members are usually only with us for a few short years, then off to university or music college. This year we say a fond farewell to Lizzy Nightingale (daughter of oboist Alex), who has been playing horn in the orchestra. Our loss is Cambridge University’s gain! Congratulations are also due to Peter Gray, who is off to study at the London School of Economics.

The departure of young players from the orchestra in ones or twos brings to mind one of our works in the Autumn Concert on September 24th 2016 – the Farewell Symphony by Haydn. The symphony will round off the first half of the concert with only two players remaining, but don’t worry – the full orchestra will return for Schubert’s 5th Symphony immediately after the interval!

In a similar vein, we always welcome back our young players – whether as orchestra members, committee members, helping with front of house and refreshments, or (more rarely) even as soloists!

Peter Gray, Contrabassoon - January 2016
Peter Gray with his contrabassoon “Serpent” in Mendelssohn’s Overture Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage – January 2016.

25 Years!

One young adult fresh out of college first played with the Academy of St Olave’s as leader in 1991, following the retirement of Robin Gilbert. We are thrilled that Claire Jowett is still at the helm 25 years later.  Thank you Claire for all you have done for the Academy of St Olave’s in the last 25 years.  Here’s to the next 25!

Claire Jowett

Preventing Youth Homelessness

Sadly not all youngsters are as fortunate as our players.  SASH exists to help homeless 16-25 year olds in York, North Yorkshire and East Yorkshire.  We are pleased to be able to support the charity at the Autumn Concert in September 2016, and there will be an opportunity for audience members to make a donation to SASH after the concert.  Alternatively, you can donate directly via the SASH website.  In a final link to the Farewell Symphony, the ambition of SASH is that all those they help never have to experience homelessness again and are able to lead successful, independent lives.

Tickets and Directions

Tickets for our concert on Saturday 24 September can be purchased in advance from our website, or from Visit York, 1 Museum Street, York.  Alternatively, just come along to the concert at St Olave’s Church between 7 and 8 pm and you will be able to pay at the door.

Directions for getting to the concert, complete with map, are on the How-to-find-us page of our website.

We look forward to seeing you!

September 2016 Poster