Youth Orchestra charms Appleby

Appleby welcomed back the Westmorland Youth Orchestra on November 17 after a gap of five years for a varied and uplifting concert of Marching Music. An enthusiastic audience at Appleby Grammar School were treated to a wide-ranging programme from Vivaldi to Duke Ellington.


“It was great to be back in Appleby and we had strong support from the school staff,” said conductor Roland Fudge. “Many of our best players have come from this part of the old county over the years and it's a tradition that just goes on and on.”


The audience were “welcomed” by folk music from the “Fellside Fiddlers”, a well-balanced trio from the Appleby area – Persia Babayan-Taylor and Alice Whitehead on violin and Joe Davies on cello. The WYO has been going for 63 years and is one of the few surviving youth orchestras in the North-West. It rehearses in Kendal on Friday evenings and performs three times a year in different towns in south and east Cumbria. Fudge’s programme gave room for a host of soloists, and different sections of the orchestra, a chance to show off their talents.


First up were the wind and brass, with three contrasting pieces conducted by brass tutor Stella Foxcroft.  Ellen Gibson was outstanding as the soloist in the Flute Dance from Hérold’s La Fille Mal Gardee. Berlioz’ “March to the Scaffold” from the Symphonie Fantastique displayed the orchestra’s tight rhythms and well-rehearsed discipline, after movements from Mozart’s 40th and Haydn’s 100th Symphonies. Then it was the string section’s turn, in Spring”, from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, with violin soloist Freya Rock, 15, producing some virtuoso playing and great dynamic range. Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of Animals gave double bassists Mary Ormerod and Lotte Young-Andrade a rare moment in the limelight in The Elephant, and in The Swan the expressive cello melody was beautifully complemented by sensitive playing from the rest of the orchestra. 


The WYO demonstrated great versatility with their version of “East St Louis Toodle-oo” by Duke Ellington.  Harry Johnstone’s “growling” solo trumpet set the mood perfectly.  Finally, a rousing and atmospheric “Finlandia” by Sibelius showed the orchestra’s full dynamic range.


“The level of concentration and well-focused musicality was, if anything, even better than in previous concerts,” said Fudge. “The dry and clear acoustics  are the sort that can cause some players of any age to feel vulnerable, but they all played with great confidence. Playing in an orchestra, even at the back of the second violins (where I started many years ago in Gloucestershire), can completely transform the way you look at music, and the WYO really is special."


by Sue Hutt


Maestro brings his enthusiasm to Youth Orchestra

Violinist Peter Cropper brought his infectious passion for classical music to the Westmorland Youth Orchestra with a Masterclass and a virtuoso performance of Vivaldi with some of its top string-players.  Lancashire-born Cropper, one of Britain’s finest chamber musicians and leader for 40 years of the world-famous Lindsay Quartet, gave individual coaching to five of the WYO’s young players on October 19. An audience of some 80 players, parents and teachers looked on as he illustrated not just how tackle the music, but how to project enthusiasm to an audience.  His son Martin coached another two.  The following day the pair teamed up with a dozen of the orchestra’s string players at the Old Laundry Theatre in Bowness for an explosive performance of Vivaldi’s “Spring” symphony and Double Violin Concerto in A Minor.  Not to be left out, some of the orchestra’s wind players performed Welcome Music in the evening before both Croppers were joined by professional friends for a breath-taking performance of the Mendelssohn String Octet and sextets by Haydn and Brahms.  “Basically I have spent the last 30 years of my life trying to promote classical music,” says Peter Cropper, who was here to celebrate the Old Laundry’s 20th anniversary. “I cannot understand that only one per cent of the population listen to chamber music… I’m trying to get it to two per cent.“


Oliver Wates




Westmorland Youth Orchestra rounded off the Jubilee celebrations on June 23 with a ‘Best of British’ concert in Kendal Parish Church. The programme took us through British music from the baroque era up to a medley of Beatles tunes. The vocals were performed by Keir McGregor and Joelle Campbell, who soon had the audience singing along. The concert celebrated the composing skills not only of the conductor, Roland Fudge, but also of David McGregor, an orchestra member. His ‘Intermezzo’, in which he performed the clarinet solo, made a haunting backdrop to the orchestra’s premiere performance of Three Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes by Benjamin Britten. Libby Gibson, who played the flute solo in Valse Caprice by Daniel S. Wood, was appearing in her last concert with the orchestra as was leader Hannah Foxcroft. Their outstanding contribution was recognised by the annual Probus Millennium Shield, presented by Norman Burnell of the Probus Club. The orchestra was sad too to see several other members leave after many years of playing together, such as Heather Storer, who is joining the Scottish National Youth Orchestra. The evening ended with the classic ‘Greensleeves’ by Vaughan Williams, a fitting end to a truly excellent celebration of British music.


Grace Ormerod


WYO’s quality undiluted - Lakes School 24th March


Nautical themes were the order of the day for Roland Fudge’s second concert at the ‘helm’ of the Westmorland Youth Orchestra, before a capacity audience at the Lakes School on Saturday. Entitled ‘Windermere Reflections’, and enthusiastically co-presented by Windermere Rotary Club, the programme alludes to the water quality improvement project of that name.


Meditative and serene tones ruled the first half, with shimmering ‘Sea Interludes’ by Britten and a fabulously sustained duet for violin (Heather Storer) and piano (Lucy Gray) of Arvo Pärt’s mesmerising, ‘Spiegel im Spiegel’. If water had been the ruling element for most of the concert, fire had the upper hand later on. The audience were delighted with Preston A-level student Bradley Johnson’s precision as soloist in Rodrigo’s passionate ‘Concierto de Aranjuez’ (Adagio). Local accordionist Natalija Japerte also raised the temperature with a captivating performance of Piazzolla’s ‘Libertango’. The orchestra’s versatility was abundant – Kier McGregor left fellow cellists to sing ‘Make Me Smile’ (by Cockney Rebel’s Steve Harley), and Fudge, whose own composition of ‘Nautical Scenes’ featured earlier, turned to the microphone to add vocal harmonies.


The Lakes School Singers provided pre-concert entertainment by trailing items from ‘Phantom of the Opera’, a production to look out for in November.  


Allyson Fiddler