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Kieran Mathiak

Another year, and yet another truly magical week - European Youth Music 2018!

While various delays and cancellations prevented travel to Oakham (UK) from being quite as straightforward as it may first have seemed (at least for those who weren’t crossing full continents to get there!), they weren’t quite enough to stop (most) of EYMW 2018’s determined participants from making it on time to Saturday’s full orchestral rehearsal in the school’s chapel. After braving it through Bernstein’s ‘West Side Story’ and Stravinsky’s ‘Petrushka’ for the first time, the orchestra was rewarded with a big social gathering in the bar, where participants had drinks and played games, meeting faces both old and new, with friendships being struck across the room in a wide range of different languages.

Following breakfast and another full rehearsal, where we also got to know Saint-Saëns’s eerily fun ‘Danse Macabre’ while sitting in yet another seating arrangement, the group split into two slightly smaller chamber orchestras, allowing us to explore even more repertoire, and soon the sounds of Beethoven’s ‘Coriolan’ Overture, Mozart’s ‘Magic Flute’ Overture and Saint-Saëns’ Third Violin Concerto (both in their instrumental and hummed versions) echoed through the halls. During the coffee breaks, the orchestra organised itself into various chamber groups, diverse ensembles soon rehearsing in the school’s buildings all across town! Before dinner, the orchestra split once again, this time into its different sections in order for us to play yet more repertoire and so that another of our brilliant soloists from within the orchestra could perform (Bach’s Orchestral Suite No 2). 

After dinner, we were finally able to meet the members from the European Youth Music Week Refugee Choir, whom we were able to get to know through a few ice-breakers. Each choir member had their own individual story; getting to know them and making friends with these incredibly brave young people was an extremely humbling and heart-warming experience. Chats continued after the orchestra’s own choral session, some lasting right through to the early hours of the morning. 

Another day of rehearsals was topped off with Karaoke night, featuring an eclectic mix of songs and performances, uncovering new talent from amongst the staff, conductors and participants, and introducing all to hits from a list of countries almost as diverse as the people singing them (26 countries and 35 languages represented in total!). While we might – at the time – have been thoroughly thanking ABBA for the music, our throats weren’t the next morning, and luckily we didn’t need our voices in order to reel through Marquez’ raucous Conga del Fuego Nuevo, which snapped us right back into the form needed for the rest of the day’s rehearsals. Wednesday saw the orchestra and choir join forces properly for the first time, with the initial run of Chris Wilcox’s specially commissioned ‘Ubi Bene Ibi Patria’ (‘Where there is kindness, there is my home’) reducing many to tears – an event which was later unanimously crowned the week’s ‘Champagne Moment’. The evening was rounded off with a Ceilidh, everyone joining in for a wild combination of dances and groupings, with barely any time for anyone to catch their breath – certainly not before the orchestra was taught a few traditional Kurdish and Eritrean steps!

By Thursday, it was possible to really see the results of all the hard work put in throughout the week – both individually and collectively – a great deal of which was to be attributed to our brilliant conductors, who, while properly putting us through our paces musically, were also great fun and very encouraging. Through this really stimulating environment, everyone was able to discover a new side to their instrument and learn exactly how much of a difference very small technical changes as well as positive interpersonal dynamics can make to the overall sound of an orchestra. Following an afternoon trip to Cambridge the orchestra and choir again congregated in the chapel, this time for the eagerly awaited chamber music concert. Featuring the music of Mozart, Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, all the way to that of Piazzolla, Karl Jenkins, Ben E King, Miles Davis, yet also some improvisation, gospel songs, original compositions and poetry, this showcased all participants’ musical talents, and demonstrated the wide range of styles in which it is possible to transmit powerful messages through music.

The EYMW and EYMRC projects reached a pinnacle with the final concert held in the beautiful surroundings of Leicester Cathedral. With the pride of successfully having made it through what was an extremely demanding programme and emotional performance, it really became clear how much more than just a residential orchestra course EYMW is – following its post-WWII Anglo-German origins and European expansion, its continued existence has been made possible by an amazing team of dedicated staff, and the addition of the EYMRC really continues to embody EYMW’s whole ethos: international friendship through music making.

Upon returning to Oakham, we were treated to a surprise brass concert which then concluded with an award ceremony and a final get-together in the bar – with many partying right through to the morning. Together with our universal disappointment at not being able to spend more time together until next year came a great sense of privilege – of having created such fantastic friendships, experienced such a number of special musical and social moments, been part of such a unique and inspiring project. Such a transformative week will be difficult to top, but it should now spur us on in more ways than one, and is exactly why so many of us will be back in 2019!



Julia Hamborg - Hamburg, Germany


Just like previous years, EYMW 2017 was an amazing week.

Only 40km from Cologne, Blankenheim seemed to be in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by woods and fields. A group of youngsters playing music in a castle for seven days – actually, it was fun. Getting to the course may have been difficult, but there was a bus from the airport and another from the train station to ensure everyone’s safe arrival.

After the first evening’s rehearsal, the participants got to know each other in the bar, playing games and chatting. The next morning’s breakfast was at 8:15am, rehearsals started at 9:15am and by the coffee break everybody talked about how challenging the pieces were. After a full day of rehearsal everybody took part in the choir and afterwards settled in the bar, where people mingled and groups started to form. More names echoed through the basement bar and everyone stayed up later.

At breakfast, the demand for coffee increased. Nobody understood how the conductors still looked so happy - we were finding the music so challenging! At lunch, we compared our chamber music proposals. Half an hour later, music was in the air; every opened door revealed another ensemble or individual practicing.  Happy, smiling faces queued for dinner.  It was karaoke night, so the bar was crowded and there was singing and dancing until late.

With a sleepy start the next morning, we found the music much easier as we got the hang of it. Tchaikovsky’s 6th Symphony sounded better and The Firebird started to fly! I felt a pang of pride as I finished a page without playing any audibly wrong notes! Despite the sleepiness and numb fingers, I was euphoric. The music sounded better and better and I felt a new level of intimacy with my instrument.  Our afternoon trip to Aachen was spent in the sun, visiting coffee shops and the Cathedral. In the evening, there was much chatter and laughter.

At the Chamber Music Concert, Andy the conductor started playing "Bohemian Rhapsody" on the piano to silence us, but we all start singing along. The choir sang and different ensembles presented classical arrangements, covers and new compositions.

On our final full day, there was more playing and exchanging of phone numbers.  The final concert was amazing - we made it through! The audience was enraptured and the orchestra entranced by the familiar sounds. Afterwards, there was a barbecue in the courtyard where we ate, drank, chatted and partied through the night.

At breakfast, no-one quite remembered whether they slept. We were sad, but excited. After a thousand hugs, the bus left for the airport, parents piled kids, bags and instruments into their cars. In a moment only seven or eight people were left behind, sitting on their bags, taking in the sun. While we sat there, a thought slowly surfaced in our minds, only to become a certainty: we will be back, next year!



October 2017

Udo Stampa played trombone in the very first EYMW (then known as the Anglo German Youth Music Week (AGYMW). Her story shows the importance of the course in building relationships between two countries formerly at war...

"I attended the course in 1968 and 1972. The very first Anglo-German Music Week took place in surroundings with truly historical implications: Trent Park. During the Second World War it was a Prisoner of War camp for German officers, and was now being used as a meeting place for young musicians from the formerly hostile nations. I still remember the night sky appearing a carroty orange colour on account of many London street lanterns. 

The year was 1968, a feeling of awakening everywhere and the hair grew longer. Under the leadership of Norman Hearn, the first music director of Cambridge College of Arts and Technology, we had premiered a large-scale work for choir and symphony orchestra. Furthermore there were lots of rehearsals: choir, orchestra and chamber music. The standard was high and the final concert lasted until half past one in the morning!

I was 14 year old those days, the baby of the course, and got lost right at the beginning. I had to take a taxi, but the cabby did not know where Trent Park was and brought me at first to the police, who likewise did not know anything about a Anglo German Music Festival, and then delivered me to a YMCA Hostel. But the other side had meanwhile investigated, where their baby was and as I had just fallen asleep I was woken up by a German speaking person who told me I was being picked up now. I will never forget the reception at Trent Park: Having had no food for more than 24 hours I got a wonderful English meal. Meat (cooked in water), vegetables (cooked in water) and potatoes (cooked in water). Delicious! A revelation!"



September 2017

A tribute to Phil Hutchinson from Kate Munn as she remembers her EYMW experience.

Kate plays violin and piano and was a member of EYMW from 2001-2008 (minus 2005). She now teaches piano, violin and music theory and plays in an amateur orchestra for kicks.

"My time at EYMW taught me that good quality music-making is primarily for enjoyment and enrichment. Once I entered the world of "Music College" I began to forget this and take myself too seriously; EYMW brought me joyfully back to reality. 

I would recommend this course because it gives young musicians the opportunity to develop their orchestra skills whilst having an incredible amount of fun and meeting a wide range of people. Candles get burnt at both ends and friendships are made to last a lifetime. 

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I'd like to  take this opportunity to remember Phil Hutchinson. When I met him at EYMW in 2001 he was a rather quiet, calm, measured 17 year old who made everyone laugh and seemed a lot more mature than most of us (about two decades more mature than I was!)

Two years later he lead us in an impromptu samba band that was not only a lot of fun (most of the instruments were fashioned out of beer cans), but also impressed us in how he showed leadership (no, really - there were some tricky situations which he managed like a pro) and created THE chamber music number of all my EYMW courses.

He was absolutely adored and it's no surprise that he went on to charm his colleagues at BBC Radio 3. Sadly Phil's life ended in a car crash a few years ago. Everyone who ever met him will remember him vividly, I have no doubt. I still can't remember why his nickname was "Vicious Biscuit", though."


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