Sunday 25 August 2013

Midwest Young Artists in The Hague, Netherlands

It was a great pleasure last June to welcome to school nearly one hundred young musicians from the Chicago area music school, the Midwest Young Artists    

The music school is very well established with a long history of high quality music making and now has its own premises in a converted former army base. They have a wonderful series of music programmes for all ages from little children to young adults including choirs, symphony and chamber music ensembles and jazz combos in different formats.  Students from the school have won major awards in prestigious national competitions.

By the time the group made it to The Hague they had already performed several concerts in France and Belgium and they were in the city as guests of the VHJO youth orchestra of The Hague which is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year.

You can see full reports and photos on the tour blog 

The concert they performed for us included the Symphony Orchestra and the Jazz Ensemble, directed by Dr Allan Dennis and Mr Chris Madsen. We wanted this music to be shared and enjoyed by as many of our students as possible and we did this by fitting it in during a mentor hour. This worked out well in that about 350 students and teachers were able to attend, but it meant that we had to limit the timing to 45 minutes. It was clear that the visitors had much more music than could fit in that time, and that our students would have listened for longer as they were admiring the musicians and enjoying their music so much.

Dr Dennis led his students in a varied programme: for many students the highlight was the finale, the theme from Star Wars. For me the highlight was a movement from a longer work by Massachusetts born composer Alan Hovhaness  (1911 – 2000). It is always a great moment to hear someone conduct music  which they not only know about thoroughly, but also care about deeply, and even in this simple, informal setting we were treated to a performance of this nature-inspired music which moved many of us to search for more of this composer´s work.  

Mr Masden led his jazz group from the piano. Many of my younger students commented to me how they noticed how carefully the players were following him even though he “did not seem to be directing”. In a group as good as this it is unfair to single out any players, but I think the drummer was expertly sensitive and controlled and we heard lovely solos from three trumpet players. Some of our Year 8 (7th Grade) sax players were sitting on the second row and were knocked out by the ultra cool alto sax playing. I am sorry I cannot name the players as I don´t have the list, but you know who you are! When we were making arrangements we agreed not to use amplification, and it was the right decision as the band adjusted instantly to the hall's acoustic and every instrument was beautifully balanced. 

Thanks to our friends at the VHJO for letting us be part of this tour, and especially to Dr Dennis, Mr Masden and all the wonderful students who shared their music with us with such great skill and enthusiasm: please come back soon and we will try to arrange for you to play for longer next time.

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