Planning a Programme: Behind the Scenes with Cressida McKay
We're thrilled to be collaborating with NYOS Camerata (the showcase, pre-professional chamber ensemble of the National Youth Orchestras of Scotland) for the first time next month at Glasgow Life's Big Music for Minis Festival. Cressida (flute) was involved in an artistic planning meeting and has kindly reflected on the process of curating 'Melody Quest'. We're very grateful to her for taking the time to do this, allowing an insight into the intricacies of putting a programme together. Owen and Olly are looking forward to welcoming NYOS Camerata on stage, and we hope that the students are provided with an invaluable professional development experience to equip them for a career in music.
"Planning for the Melody Quest concerts with CCC started in late July with a meeting in the NYOS offices. There was me (NYOS flautist), with Malcolm (NYOS horn player), Roanna (NYOS violinist), the conductor Holly Mathieson and the general manager of the concerts, Cath Earnshaw.
We began by looking at a list of music, along with the costumes and props from previous CCC concerts. There was a massive variety on offer - from a Loch Ness monster made out of IKEA hanging-baskets to Ninja Catsuits made of Lycra. Apparently Olly and Owen aren’t the biggest fans of these! They’re O Duo, the percussionist stars of the show.
In the end our attention was grabbed by a remote-controlled shark that could chase Olly and Owen all around the stage with someone controlling it from the wings. Cath’s enthusiasm for this prop was infectious and we were certain that whatever else we chose, the shark would definitely have to be used in our performance.
This led us to the idea of basing the performance around musicians being on a ship. That way the shark could chase us all. We also thought that if the ship was travelling around the world it would allow for a large variety of music to be fitted in.
There is so much orchestral repertoire and so many different things to consider when deciding what to play. We decided it would be best to plan the route we wanted our ship sail so that we could make sure we had a piece of music for each country.
We also kept in mind that the repertoire had to be varied, to keep the audience entertained, and it had to use the whole orchestra as much as possible so no one would be bored.
And we had to remember that unless a piece was out of copyright it could be expensive and not within the budget to rent or arrange it. This became clear when we thought about playing an orchestral arrangement of Chinese folk melodies: to rent the parts would have cost £1000. Definitely not a possibility.
Finally we wanted to make sure there was a piece that all the audience could take part in. When we were wondering what we could use to represent the Antarctica, Roanna and Malcolm leapt up and demonstrated the ‘Consider the Penguin Song’ with all the actions and the words. Immediately it seemed like the obvious choice!
As well as having a lot of fun in the meeting I was fascinated to see how much thought has to go into planning a performance. Cath’s and Holly’s passion for the concert is so apparent that I really can’t wait to see our ideas in action -- especially when Owen and Olly come on stage wearing ballet tutus for the Sugar Plum Fairy."
You can catch Melody Quest at 11:30am and 2pm on Saturday 14 October in the New Auditorium, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Recommended for age 4+