National Youth Orchestra of Ireland’s New Year Gala at the National Concert Hall, 4 December 2015

It is now an established tradition of the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland, or ‘The I’ as it’s known to those involved in it, to present a New Year’s Gala concert in the National Concert Hall every January. With Christmas now a distant memory, these concerts are a welcome return to full, challenging music for players and concert-goers alike. Featuring soloist Les Neish on the tuba, the orchestra are skillful and energetic under the baton of Gearoid Grant.

This afternoon concert is the culmination of a week of intensive rehearsals in Kilkenny College. This model of practicing, while ensuring the music is fresh and in peak condition, could also be liable to the influence of fatigue, such as only an intense style of rehearsal can create. Gladly, the orchestra show no signs of such fatigue.

One can be safe in assuming that tuba players, by and large, will spend their playing career at the back of the brass section, providing a deep and broad bass to the brass choir. But you would never have guessed as much watching Les Neish play. Seated out in front, Neish is as charismatic as he is virtuosic. Leading the orchestra through Monti’s Czardas and a bumbling performance of Tubby the Tuba, the real highlight is the 2nd Movement from Vaughan William’s Tuba Concerto. Neish brings an incredible lyricism to the piece, something many would not have though possible on the tuba, while the orchestra and conductor Grant accompany with the greatest of sensitivity, echoing the lyricism throughout.

The real focus of today, however, must be on the orchestra, as they launch into Dvorak’s Symphony no. 7 in D minor. Lasting about 40 minutes, this large scale work is cooly handled by the young musicians. Across the sections, there are impressive performances all around; from a well executed horn solo in the first movement to some finely tuned wind moments throughout, no line is found wanting. Although it seems unfair to single out one section, the strings undertake the biggest task in this symphony, and they manage it impressively (stray bowing is kept to a minimum throughout). The scherzo third movement is played with a particular sparkle, and as the symphony comes to a rousing close, the audience are on their feet.

The National Youth Orchestra of Ireland is an invaluable institution for young Irish classical musicians to meet with other players of their own age and standard, and together strive towards the highest quality performance they can achieve. With more performances on the horizon, including a foray into video game music as well as a fast-approaching return to the National Concert Hall, this particular group of vibrant young players can continue to showcase their talents at a high level.


Kleinsinger: Tubby the Tuba

Vaughan-Williams: Tuba Concerto, 2nd Mvt

Monti: Czardas

Dvorak: Symphony no. 7 in D minor