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Simon Rattle heads Liverpool youth orchestra reunion at Philharmonic Hall

Former members of the Merseyside Youth Orchestra are travelling from as far as Australia to play in a special anniversary reunion concert at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall this weekend.

Meanwhile, their most illustrious alumnus has made the journey from his home in Berlin to fulfil a long-held promise to play a key part in the event.

Sir Simon Rattle arrived in the city yesterday, ahead of two-and-a-half packed days of rehearsals for the one-off Sunday afternoon concert which will see the stage packed with musicians.

Rattle first heard the MYO play when he was eight and determined to join, which he did in the mid-1960s as a nearly-11-year-old percussionist, going on to conduct the youth orchestra and then, from 1977, the main Royal Liverpool Philharmonic where he was assistant conductor to the late Sir Charles Groves.

This weekend he will conduct current members of the Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Orchestra in the Overture to the Magic Flute – the first piece ever played by the youth orchestra on its formation in 1951, and will also conclude the programme with Shostakovich’s 10th Symphony which he chose as it was the first piece he ever conducted with the MYO. It will be played by fellow alumni.

In between, Timothy Reynish (principal conductor from 1974 to 1983) will conduct past members performing Elgar’s Cockaigne Overture – which a youthful Rattle played under his baton, and Clark Rundell (principal conductor in the 1990s) will lead past and present youth orchestra members in Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story.

Rattle said: “The last time I appeared at the Philharmonic Hall was in Capital of Culture year. We started talking about this Merseyside Youth Orchestra concert before Covid – it was originally due to take place in 2021 to mark the 70th anniversary of the orchestra.

“When that had to be postponed because of the pandemic, I was very keen to be involved in a rescheduled date.”

The Liverpool-born 69-year-old, looking happy and relaxed back on home turf, said he had many fond memories of his time playing with both the youth orchestra and also on occasions when he was seconded to the main Royal Liverpool Philharmonic.

For one RLPO concert in Manchester at the start of the 1970s, permission had to be sought by the orchestra to take the teenage percussionist out of school.

“There were three coaches returning to Liverpool after the concert,” he recalls. “I got on one and was told ‘you can’t come on here, it’s the kissing coach!’. I was only 15. One coach stopped at the pub on the way home, and one came straight back. I was on that one - I had school the next day.”

This weekend's reunion concert is being described as a ‘play back and pay back’ event to help support the current and future Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Orchestra (which the MYO was renamed in 2006).

While rehearsals are taking place at Philharmonic Hall ahead of Sunday, one additional commitment in Rattle’s diary has sadly been cancelled. He was originally due to dart to Anfield tomorrow between rehearsals to watch Liverpool play Luton Town. But after the team reached Sunday’s final of the Carabao Cup, the Premier League date was rescheduled.

The Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and Merseyside Youth Orchestra Reunion Concert takes place this Sunday at 2.30pm. There are a handful of tickets still available. More HERE

Top: Sir Simon Rattle on stage at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall.


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