This was an unlikely mid-February break, with Storm Otto powering off the Atlantic Ocean straight at us in Blackpool. NYO Inspire - the National Youth Orchestra's brilliant training programme - spent the half-term week here (working in a quite splendid school building, St Mary's Catholic Academy.) The musicians work in instrument families, and on the menu for the woodwinds was Fresh Air, a piece I'd written for them during the lockdown years.
It's a challenging 23-part score (and the populous flute and clarinet sections were doubling their 6-parts-each music) but urged on by top-notch tutors and an excellent (ex-NYO) conductor Tess Jackson, we were soon able to get into the subtleties. I found it an emotional experience, remembering both my lockdown composing experiences, and longer ago, my own days as an oboe player in the orchestra.
The Inspire management had as always some interesting findings as they roam the country; which they need to do, visiting (together with a few NYO players) our very diffuse national patchwork of music hubs to spread the word about this generous scheme. Woodwind numbers are up, brass down. We thought the woodwinds on this course particularly punctilious and hard working. Also, by wind-playing standards, quiet and reflective (unlike many of the other guests in our Blackpool beachfront hotel, clothed in the most remarkable fancy dress for a Friday night out.)