Last week I went on a music summer course with the National Children’s Orchestra (NCO) of Great Britain.
The course was up past Blackpool in Fleetwood, which is a very long way from Cornwall, which is where I live.
I was on the course because I auditioned last year on my cello and was awarded a place in the National Children’s Orchestra under 12s. This is the third year I have represented the country as a cellist. I try not to let my tics get in my way even though I find it very difficult to practice as my tics really boss me about.
On the summer course you are in an orchestra where everyone is the same age and throughout the week you rehearse all the pieces you are playing and each instrument has a tutor who is a professional cellist, flautist etc and they help with the tricky parts. They also teach you lots of skills and tell you what it is really like to be a professional musician. My cello tutor this year was, Ben Davies. Ben recently taught a very famous cellist, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, who won the BBC young musician of the year, so I was in good hands. He taught me lots of new things and helped me to improve my playing.
The NCO is an organisation that is designed to help children to achieve their full potential and learn orchestral skills by giving them lots of opportunities to play in a full symphony orchestra. To audition for the under 12s orchestra on cello you need to be playing at grade 5 to 8.
Before I went on the course, even though I had done it before, I was still very nervous because I was really struggling with my OCD and tics caused by Tourette’s Syndrome. I was worried because not many of my friends and other orchestra members actually knew about my conditions.
We organised with the NCO so that I could share a room with a good friend of mine who is also in the orchestra. She understands my condition and even when I shouted words out like ‘cat’ she would shout back from the other side of the room or the corridor or dining hall ‘dog!’. This really helped to make it fun and to remove my anxiety. The NCO also told the orchestra that I had Tourette’s Syndrome, but to be honest they needed to say a little more to make the children understand as I find it much better when children know about my tics rather than just thinking I am acting strangely.
For the final concert the NCO bussed us down to Birmingham and we played in the impressive Birmingham Town Hall concert venue.
Our conductor Natalia Luis-Bassa was really great and got the most out of the orchestra and we played a ‘magical musical journey’ to the audience. We hot-footed it over to Hungary (Hungarian Pictures), then crossed the channel to France (Marche Héroïque and Gymnopédies), headed east into Russia (Eight Russian Folksongs) and back to the UK in time for Purcell’s Rondeau from Abdelazer. Gershwin’s dreamy orchestrations then took us all to Paris, 1945, where a painter is falling in love with a dancer and rebuilding his life post-World War II (An American In Paris Suite). The concert closed with a blazing rendition of Piazolla’s spicy Argentinian offering, Libertango.
Even though it is very hard to play an instrument on a national level and it is MUCH harder if you have Tourette’s, as the tics interfere with practice times, I am determined to not let the condition stop me or lessen my chances in life. It is hard sometimes but when you believe in yourself you can do anything! 🙂 XX
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