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History

Harrow Young Musicians organises musical activities for young people who live in and around Harrow. It has gained an enviable reputation for music-making to a high level in a lively and friendly atmosphere.

HYM has weekly rehearsals and a series of public concerts at the Great Hall, Hatch End High School. Groups have also performed at the Royal Albert Hall, Barbican, Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Watford Colosseum, St John’s, Smith Square, Harrow School Speech Room, indigO2 and LSO St Luke’s.

The Royal Albert Hall Extravaganzas are distinguished by the items when all students perform together. In 1994, a massed performance of Respighi’s The Pines of Rome brought the house down…literally! Extravaganza 2002 featured the final movement of Janáček’sSinfonietta with 39 trumpets. Extravaganzas traditionally include staged scenes from opera; Die Meistersinger von Härrow, Boris Godunov, Tosca, Falstaff, Aida, Götterdämmerung, Peter Grimes, Turandot and Porgy and Bess. Extravaganza 2011 included the final scene, the mass suicide of the Old Believers, of Musorgsky’sKhovanshchina in the completion by Stravinsky.

Touring is an exciting feature of HYM life. It gives students an opportunity to repeat concerts given at home and make new friends. Tours have been to Italy, France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, Finland, Spain, Holland and the Czech Republic. Outstanding concerts have been given at Santi Giovanni e Paolo, Venice; Barcelona Cathedral; Palais des Congrès, St Malo; Kostel U Salvatora, Prague; Chartres Cathedral. Venice has become the regular venue for the senior tour since 2009. It includes singing at Sunday midday Mass at St Mark’s; concerts at San Moisè Church, San Rocco Church, Eraclea Mare and Santa Margherita; gigs at Piazza Aurora, Piazza Nember and Piazza Marconi, Lido di Jesolo. Recent Concert Band tours have been to Liège, Cancale, Bruges and Dinan.

HYM concerts often feature guest musicians who have also given masterclasses to students. HYM President and the most distinguished former HYM student, Janice Watson, sang Queen of the Fairies in the final scene of Verdi’s Falstaff with 100 local fairies at Extravaganza 2002. Janice also sang Richard Strauss Four Last Songs and arias from Mark-Anthony Turnage’s opera Anna Nicole with HYM Philharmonic Orchestra at Harrow School Speech Room in 2011. Other soloists to perform with HYM groups have been Philip Langridge, Sara Fulgoni, John Harle, Ian Caley, Guy Barker, Keel Watson, Jack Brymer, Lisa Hull, Terry Jenkins, Christian Garrick, Fiona Canfield, Michael Collins, Julian Lloyd Webber, Simon Mulligan, Kevin Kyle, Mark Bassey, the Nossec Quartet, Christopher van Kampen, John Bradbury and Adrian Bradbury. After An Evening with Guy Barker at LSO St Luke’s in March 2016, Guy wrote “To all the fantastic young musicians in HYM. It was a real pleasure and joy working with you all. You really excelled yourselves on the gig and I couldn’t have been happier with the way you played my pieces. Great playing from all of you and I hope it’s not too long before our paths cross again.”

From 1977 to 2001, HYM Philharmonic was conducted by Adrian Brown, who gave many brilliant performances, particularly of music by Berlioz and Elgar. Guest conductors have included Sir Colin Davis, Sir Charles Groves and Bernard Keeffe.

Contemporary music has featured prominently at HYM concerts with composers often in attendance to hear performances and meet students. Visiting composers have included Michael Tippett, John Gardner, Stephen Dodgson, Philip Sparke, Daryl Runswick, Tony Haynes, Bob Chilcott and Richard Sisson. In 1999, HYM Philharmonic premiered a new violin concerto by the young British composer Samuel Becker. This was commissioned by HYM with funds from the Trustees of Harrow Youth Orchestra. HYM has also given performances of compositions by HYM students. In 2012, student Ben Farrar wrote music and libretto for a musical based on Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. It enjoyed a hugely successful premiere in a joint production between HYM and Hatch End High School. In March 2016 HYM gave the world premiere of the piano concerto by Simon Hester with the composer as soloist.

HYM has an especially close association with Mark-Anthony Turnage. Twice in 1998, HYM Philharmonic was invited to perform 20th century works at the Royal Festival Hall. The first, alongside the London Philharmonic, was as part of Fractured Lives, a festival of music by Mark-Anthony Turnage, and included the world premiere of his Still Sleeping, which is dedicated to HYM Director Mark Gooding. The second, with the London Sinfonietta, was as part of Spirit Garden, devoted to music by the Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu. A further Mark-Anthony Turnage premiere followed in June 2000 when HYM Philharmonic gave the first British performance of Evening Songs in The Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of the Meltdown festival. The Daily Telegraph greatly admired the performance, ‘Entrusted with the premiere of Turnage’s Evening Songs, the teenage members of Harrow Young Musicians Philharmonic revealed all the drama and colour of a complex but arresting new score. The music mattered to them, and they made it matter to us. Conducted with precision and flair by Mark Gooding, the concert began with a vivid performance of Momentum, one of his most overtly jazz-influenced symphonic works. In this era of award-winning Gershwin and Bernstein (and Turnage) from conductors who swing like a locked gate, it was instructive to hear how, despite the inevitable ragged edges, these young musicians made the rhythms kick and jump. Gooding must also share the credit for the confident navigation of interlocking layers of fast and slow music’. Other Turnage performances have been Cut Up with Sean McWilliam (saxophone), Steven Byron (trombone), Luke Aldridge (drum kit) in 2004, trombonist Mark Bassey joined HYM for Yet Another Set To in 2005. Extravaganza 2011 opened with all 400 musicians of HYM playing Hammered Out, with dancers from Bentley Wood High School. The Italian premiere of Hammered Out, a stunning performance to a standing ovation, followed in AbanoTerme during the 2011 Venice tour. HYM President Janice Watson sang two extracts from Anna Nicole at Harrow School Speech Room in 2011. In March 2015 HYM performed a Turnage Tribute concert at LSO St Luke’s.

HYM groups have featured in many local festivals. They gave the final Gala concert of Harrow Arts Festival from 1995-1999. For the Gala Concert 2000, the Arts Festival commissioned a new work In the Shadow of the Hill from Sean McWilliam, a member of HYM staff until 2007. Written for HYM students and other local dancers and singers, it was also performed for the celebration of Harrow Borough at the Millennium Dome.

Other community events include concerts in Harrow School Speech Room as part of St Mary’s Music Festival, Harrow on the Hill; and concerts at St John’s, Greenhill and Harrow Arts Centre with visiting musicians from Douai, Harrow’s twin town in France. HYM Choir has taken part in the Classic FM Masterclass series, broadcast on Classic FM, and recorded for BBC Music Time. HYM Steel play at Notting Hill Carnival, and younger wind and steel bands often play for civic events at the Tithe Barn, Harrow Heritage Centre. A cello quartet from the Philharmonic played at Alexandra Palace in the presence of Her Majesty and guests for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations. Two HYM ensembles played at Harrow Civic Centre when the Queen visited Harrow in April 2004. 70 brass players from HYM fanfared the Festival of Lights ceremony at St Ann’s Centre, Harrow in November 2004. In March 2006, the Mayor of Harrow, Cllr Paddy Lyne, invited HYM Director Mark Gooding to be the guest of honour and principal speaker at the civic banquet. HYM Sinfonia performed for the Queen at her Diamond Jubilee visit to Harrow in 2012.

HYM has given honourable support to many local, national and international charities at its concerts. Substantial donations have been made to St Luke’s Hospice, The Children’s Society, Talking Newspaper (for the blind), Save Eyes Everywhere, Deaf Children’s Society, Make a wish (for children who are terminally ill), Link Up (children with learning difficulties), The Romanian Orphanage Appeal, The Medical Foundation for Victims of Torture, The Cambodia Trust, Cystic Fibrosis Research, Mayhew Animal Rescue Centre and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home. At the Christmas Concert 2006, HYM made a collection for an HYM parent who was taking part in a Sahara trek for MIND. In 2010, a donation was made to Help for Heroes following a charity walk by HYM student Wil Lever. In 2011, collections were made for Macmillan Nurses in honour of Peter Watson, Chairman HYM 1996–2009. A memorial concert for HYM parent Donal Drohan, killed by a falling tree in 2013, and given jointly with musicians from Hatch End High School, raised £1,400 for Harrow Mencap. In January 2015 another joint concert with Hatch End High School and Beverley Performing Arts School raised £2,000 for Breast Cancer Research.

In 1993 HYM hosted 40 young musicians from St Petersburg to a week which included an Extravaganza and other concerts, and sightseeing tours in London. All costs for the visit, some £7000, were met by fund-raising by HYM staff, students, parents and friends. In October 2001 HYM forces combined to perform a memorable concert Inner Visions to raise funds for our blind percussionist Anthony Joyce to further his education. In 2015/16, HYM was the nominated charity of The Mayor of Harrow, Cllr Krishna Suresh, and he presented £5,000 to HYM at the Christmas concert 2016. The Peter Hinkley Trust helps students in financial need, supports instrumental tuition and generously sponsored the appearances of Guy Barker and Simon Mulligan with HYM last year.

HYM became an independent company in 1997. It is managed by a committee chaired by former Mayor, Paddy Lyne, and comprising parents, councillors, former HYM members and HYM Director. The annual grant from the London Borough of Harrow ceased in April 2015.