By Libby Salmon, aged 10 years old
Each school holiday I am lucky enough to take part in Holiday Orchestra, which is a series of workshops in the morning with a pause in between all of them and at Christmas there’s one optional full orchestra in the afternoon for those who play at grade 4 or better. In the summer holidays there are two afternoon orchestras at different levels and often other activities as well – for example this year I did a folk group while others were doing a jazz session, and so on. Then at the end there are two presentations or performances so that parents and friends can see what you’ve been doing. There are two because one is for the younger groups and one for the more advanced or older groups.
Holiday Orchestra was started by Molly Gilmour for her own children and their friends. She was soon joined by other musicians who believed that music was “a priceless gift to be passed on by the older generation to the younger for the good of all humankind”. The idea was that music lessons are all very well, however they need something more to be really effective: children need to play together in groups, making good music with others. Gradually it grew from a small ensemble in Molly’s front room to a room in the Botanical Gardens and finally to most of the building at the University music department.
My mum likes Holiday Orchestra because it’s very affordable. I like it because I get to see my friends before term starts, to play fun music and to try unusual things, such as djembe, boomwhackers and samba. My favourite unusual thing has been gamelan, which is a traditional type of music from Java and Bali in Indonesia. It’s very exciting to be able to play it because few people get the chance, as it’s rather specialised. The drum leads the rhythm, and the whole group has to work together to keep in time and produce a nice sound. Another good thing about Holiday Orchestra is that it can be just for fun or for a serious benefit. Each activity session has a suggested ability range so that the music can be at the right level for everyone. There are also sessions which are for anyone to attend and are suitable for complete beginners or serious musicians wanting to try something new. There is always a choir, different strings groups and wind groups and some form of music games, along with other activities. I particularly enjoyed having a go at the trombone, which I’ve now decided to take up properly, while my brother had a taste of the bass class and now hopes to find room for a double bass in our house (and our car)!
The age range spans from 7 to 18, and some people come back to help once they’re over this age, including some of the tutors. Holiday Orchestra has been running for sixty years now so there are quite a few of them! It’s run by a group of parents who are on the committee and organise everything. Other parents can help too, by being Parent Helpers, who assist the tutors by taking the register and other tasks. The tutors are the best we can get, and they’re extremely friendly and always ready to answer questions.
There are several different courses, one at Easter, one in the summer holidays, and one at Christmas. The main event is the summer one, when there are more activities and more children take part – it can be very busy at times! The Christmas one is nice because it is quieter and it is fun to play and sing traditional Christmas music and carols. I’m looking forward to it.
What is your favorite musical instrument to play?