At the end of this month, an unusual concert is being held in St. David’s Hall, Cardiff. This is a reunion of former members of the Glamorgan and Mid-Glamorgan Youth Orchestras.
I am privileged to be taking part and I will be ‘dusting down’ my Oboe and, once again, sitting alongside friends I made music with quite a few years ago. Looking at the list of other players, it makes impressive reading. Amongst the orchestral players are a number of full-time professionals in some of the leading orchestras of the country.
But perhaps even more impressively, there are people playing who now work in a variety of jobs and professions. I make this point because performing music as a young person is a valuable training and preparation for a whole range of disciplines not obviously related to music.
Take me for example. I remember that in the early years of my school life, I was painfully shy. Learning to play the Oboe and play solos with an orchestra and in front of audiences gave me a self-confidence which has proved important in my career in education and as a Member of Parliament.
Today, music education in the area and in South Wales generally is a shadow of what it was. Unlike when I was youngster, parents now have to pay for their children’s instrumental tuition at school and large orchestras like the old Glamorgan and Mid-Glamorgan Orchestras belong to the past. Residential courses, such as those in Ogmore-by-sea, are largely things of the past and young people seldom have the opportunity to ‘make music’ together in an intensive and collective way.
At the risk of sounding sentimental, this is all a huge shame because youth orchestras, like the Glamorgan Youth Orchestra, were expressions of ‘culture’ which encouraged a whole generation of young people to live fuller and richer lives. Let’s not be afraid to turn our minds back a little and learn from the recent past. Society in future will be better for it.
This article was written for the Rhymney Valley Express and Local View.