normandy 01   normandy 02

After School

So what’s expected of a group of 50 or so teenagers on a day long coach journey to Normandy, right at the end of an undoubtedly busy year at around 40 different schools from all over the place?

Whatever it is, in the case of Stoneleigh Youth Orchestra we’re all here for the same reason – to have an absolutely great time together with music at the core of what will turn out to be 5 eventful & exciting days, although exhausting too…


The first day was spent on the traditional double decker coach with a trailer on the back containing everyone’s instruments which is always fun – getting to know other people who you may not have otherwise have ever spoken to before despite having been in the orchestra for quite some time already not forgetting of course the dramas of getting lost in one small village or getting stuck in one other even smaller street!


For our first full day in France we were already down to business rehearsing in the morning in the village hall only a short walk away from the Chateau-du-Baffy in Colombiers-sur-Seulles where we were staying, then getting ready to go and then going to Mondaye Abbey which was lovely. Performing Elgar’s Cello Concerto with Daniel Benn was a very deep pleasure for everybody I’m sure I can safely say, so despite the poorly attended concert it was still an enjoyable evening, only filling us with hope for those to follow – the next concert was in St Pierre’s Church in Caen where we played Dvorak’s awesome 9th Symphony “To the New World” as well.


After two days of hard work we’d earned a day off which meant going to the beach at Deauville where everybody had a good time be it in the sea, exploring the shops (finding the most expensive crepes ever!), or of course sunbathing. Long expansive hours of relaxing, replenishing and refreshing us for the big day tomorrow – our last concert in Bayeux Cathedral.


If there was one word to describe any music tour with any organisation it would probably be musical (unsurprisingly…) & perhaps passionate – however to describe one with all the fantastic people who nurture & lead each and every one of us in SYO I think it has to be something more than simply that: There was clearly silent disappointment all round in terms of the attendance at the first two concerts so after the daily morning rehearsal, our soloist reveals his master plan to which there is a heart-warming response. While we were in Bayeux we busked, got the word out far & wide about “le concert ce soir, s’il vous plait?” which was a surreal experience, and if that wasn’t good enough, then the mesmerising experience of playing two momentous works to a full cathedral under two inspiring conductors was incredible. In this last Tour concert for Adrian Brown with Stoneleigh we opened with Elgar’s Cockaigne Overture, very fitting to us as a youth orchestra not least because it’s dedicated to “my friends in the London Orchestras” – we also played another English work, encoring each concert, with Berlioz’ Hungarian March.

The End

Some people originally may not have come thinking the starting statement themselves, and perhaps were even reluctant to agree in the first place, but when we got down to it in concert if not while rehearsing, I think we all realised. Adrian always said right from day one how it’s not about this nor is it about that, but about the music – THAT is what we will all remember. And hopefully to his delight, certainly for me personally & I trust for many others as well, by the end of everything what he spoke at the beginning was being spoken at the end, home in London while we were all saying our final FINAL “goodbyes” & “thank yous”.

Notes by Caroline Haddock