When the Norfolk County Symphonic Wind Band performed at Snape Maltings in March 2017, little did they know that an exciting journey was just beginning!

The 52-strong band, led by the Music Service in Norfolk, had entered the Music For Youth Regional Festival, which takes place in small venues across the UK, and gives young musicians the chance to perform and receive constructive feedback from MFY mentors. Their performance at Snape Maltings impressed the mentors who selected the band to perform at the National Festival at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall in July 2017. Read about their performance here >>

Their exciting journey then continued, as one of the band members, Olivia, explains: “We all knew that the next stage was to perform at the Royal Albert Hall. We thought, ‘we’re just from Norfolk, it’s not going to happen’, because there’s obviously bands from the entire country who are put forward for that. About a month or so later, we got another email to say we’d got through to the Albert Hall and I just didn’t believe it! My parents were beside themselves. I think they had booked seats to come and watch, just 15 minutes after I’d told them!

“I remember being on the stage and you could see the venue was full. I felt like there had been a big lead up to this point and I know I’ve been really lucky to play in these things. It was just amazing, I still can’t believe it now really!”

This was the first time a Music Service ensemble from Norfolk had been selected since the 1990s. The band went from strength to strength as they put in the extra work in anticipation of performing on a world-class stage, alongside some of the most engaging and innovating youth performers from across the UK. The whole band rose to the occasion and opened the show with impeccable professionalism. Read about their performance here and watch the highlights film >>

As some of the older members of the band have completed their studies and moved on, younger players have now taken their places, and once again have been encouraged to work towards the Music For Youth performances series in 2018. Having performed at Snape Maltings in February, the band have now received the news that they have been invited to perform in the National Festival in Birmingham for the second year in a row!

This time, the band is performing a new work, composed by their conductor and respected Film & TV composer, David A Stowell, entitled ‘FESTIVAL!’.

The introductory notes printed in the score reads:

This piece was written to celebrate the Norfolk County Wind Bands participation in the 2017 Music for Youth Festival. The work is in Three Movements and is based on the same four note motif throughout. The first movement is ‘Snape Maltings, Suffolk’, the place of the first round auditions. It’s subtitle is ‘Determination’ which describes the attitude perfectly of the Band on that day. The music shows this with relentless drive.

‘Symphony Hall, Birmingham’ comes next and attempts to convey the movements subtitle ‘Friendship’ in a more tender way. The Symphonic Bands’ whole dynamic changed after this opportunity to play in the great concert Hall in Birmingham, with everyone becoming closer, both socially and musically, and was a huge turning point in the bands development.

The work concludes with “The Royal Albert Hall, London’. The 24 hour round trip to perform at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the Music for Youth’s Schools Prom was ‘Exhileration’ from start to finish.

This piece is dedicated to the Norfolk County Symphonic Wind band and in particular the players and staff of 2017.

David is also now writing an extra prelude movement ready for the band’s next performance. He explains: “I wrote ‘FESTIVAL!’ as a thank you to the County Symphonic Wind Band for the amazing year we had in 2017. It’s also a tribute to the greatest Youth Music festival in the world. It is scored for a full symphonic wind band and I tried to write something interesting for every section.

“What the band achieved in 2017 was so special, so I wanted to write something in acknowledgement of that and it seemed a good time to write a piece for them. The idea for the piece came about when the aftermath of the MFY Proms performance at the Royal Albert Hall had died down. I worked on it over Christmas time and finished it off when I realised that the Music Service wanted to enter the band into the MFY Festivals again this year.

“The Music For Youth performances were monumental events for us to go to and it created such a turning point for us all. This piece is influenced by how we all felt and how much the band put into their performances. They really went the whole distance. For example, the ‘Symphony Hall’ movement isn’t about the hustle and bustle of the concert hall itself, but more emotionally what we went through on that day. Up until then, the Symphonic Wind Band had been a group of students who enjoyed playing together and had become friends. When the band was then projected onto a world-renowned stage it really pulled everyone together even more. Friendships went deeper and they became more emotionally connected. I don’t think we can put it into words, but we just know that something special happened to the band that day.

“Music For Youth is very important for our musicians in Norfolk. I am intensely proud of the band, they are such a joy to be with and to work with, but what the band has learned over the past year wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the MFY Festival.”

The Norfolk County Symphonic Wind Band is made up of advanced musicians from across the county, many of whom have instrumental lessons in school with tutors from the Music Service, supported by Educator Solutions, Norfolk County Council, and Arts Council England. Music For Youth performances are just part of the busy calendar of performances and opportunities offered to these young musicians, who embrace every chance to showcase their incredible sound.