The National Youth Orchestra of Canada playing "Résistance" by Nicolas Gilbert. From YouTube.
After the founding session, the financial advisory committee resolved immediately to establish and support an annual training session on the model designed by conductors Haakman and Susskind and founder James McIntosh.
The 1959 draft charter was approved and the NYO Association was chartered in late 1960 as a non-profit organization. The second training session (in Toronto during Christmas week 1960) was followed by the NYO's concert 31 Dec 1960 at Massey Hall in a program consisting of Weber's Euryanthe overture, Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, Mozart's Flute Concerto in D with Robert Aitken as soloist, John Weinzweig's 'Our Canada' Suite, and the prelude to Act I of Wagner's Die Meistersinger. Victor Feldbrill and Wilfrid Pelletier shared the podium. Another two-week summer session at Stratford and a one-week Christmas session in Montreal followed in 1961.
NYO Sessions and Goals
The NYO has since held annual sessions of between six and seven weeks. For example, these were held in Toronto 1962-7, 1969-72, 1975, and 1995; Quebec City 1968 and 1976; Vancouver 1973-4 and 1978; the University of New Brunswick 1985; Kingston 1977-90 and 1996-9; Guelph 1991; and Montreal 2006. Sometimes a session has begun in one city and finished in another. The orchestra has normally consisted of about 100 players, chosen through annual nationwide auditions, but participation occasionally dipped as low as 83 (and to 65 in 1995). Members have participated in full orchestra and sectional rehearsals, and chamber ensembles, and have received private coaching. Originally members were between the ages of 14 and 25; the upper age limit has since varied between 26 and 28.
No tours had been contemplated during the founding session in Stratford. Conductors Haakman and Susskind had hoped the NYO might have a permanent home as an adjunct to the Stratford Festival. Maintaining a vastly expanded network for Canada-wide auditions and focusing on orchestra-building remained their prime objective. By 1975, NYO directors began a search for a permanent facility for the NYO training sessions. The quest for a permanent home prevailed for years.
Following the Stratford session, emphasis in the early years was placed on the preparation of works for a two-week concert tour. In the 1970s and into the 1980s, however, there was a return to placing increasing importance on training and repertoire.
Faculty, Conductors, Canadian Compositions
Faculty members have been drawn from Canada, the US, and elsewhere. Conductors (often two per season) have included Feldbrill 1960-2, 1964, 1969, and 1975; Pelletier 1960 and 1961; Haakman 1960 and 1975; Susskind 1960, 1961, 1963, and 1966; John Avison 1964; Franz-Paul Decker 1965 and 1968; Brian Priestman 1967 and 1970; Georg Tintner 1971, 1974, 1975, 1977, 1979, 1982, 1986, and 1989; Rudolf Schwarz 1972 and 1980; Kazuyoshi Akiyama 1973, 1978, 1984, 2000, 2002 and 2004; Marius Constant 1976, 1979, 1981, and 1983; Uri Mayer 1978; Anton Coppola 1980; John Lubbock 1980 and 1981; Otto-Werner Mueller 1982 and 1983; Ole Schmidt 1985, 1989, and 1990; Simon Streatfeild 1985, 1988, 1996, 2001 and 2003; Denis Vaughan 1986; Gilles Auger 1987; Gabriel Chmura 1987 and 1988; Daniel Lipton 1991; Mario Bernardi 1999; and Jacques Lacombe 2005 and 2006.
Guest soloists have appeared in some concerts or have rehearsed with the NYO, and Canadian composers have often assisted in preparing their own works. Many Canadian works have been studied and performed,and several have been commissioned for the NYO: Harry Freedman's Tangents (1967), Serge Garant's Offrande II (1970), Robert Aitken's Shadows - Part I: Nekuia (1971), and R. Murray Schafer's North/White (1973). Under Haakman's direction, the NYO recorded (RCI 431) the 1975 commission, Norman Symonds'Big Lonely. Other commissions have included Alex Pauk's Folding Unfolding (1979), Michael Horwood's Splinters (1981), Keith Bissell's Miraculous Turnip (1982), John Wyre's First Flower (1984), Marjan Mozetich's Symphony No. 1: A Romantic Rhapsody (1983), and Schafer's Dream Rainbow Dream Thunder (1986). John Rea's Vanishing Points (1983) and John Burke's Alchemies (1983) were commissioned for the Esprit Orchestra while it was performing with the assistance of the NYO.
The NYO has presented concerts in every major city in Canada and several in the US. On a 1966 European tour, it appeared in Croydon in England; in Dieppe, Lyons, and Vichy in France; and in Berlin. It also performed at the Edinburgh Festival. More than a decade of negotiations between founding NYO members, executives from Japan, and the BC government culminated in student exchange programs between Canada and Japan. The 1996 NYO performance in Tokyo gained world-wide attention. Delegates of The World Youth Orchestra Concert Festival called the NYO "The best youth orchestra in the world." The NYO returned to Japan in 2002 and again won international acclaim.
Writing in the Toronto Globe and Mail, 4 Aug 1969, John Kraglund said of the orchestra that 'no matter how high one's expectations, this youthful ensemble somehow manages to surpass them.' Evidence of the NYO's success was the need in 1969 and 1971 to form a supplementary chamber orchestra to accommodate promising young musicians not accepted into the NYO and in 1971 and 1973 to provide pre-season sessions for string players and wind players respectively. This part of the program was discontinued in 1987.
In 1985 the orchestra was named ensemble of the year by the Canadian Music Council.
Notable NYO Alumni
Author Patricia Shand, Susan Spier, James C. McIntosh
'A National Youth Orchestra for Canada,' Recorder, Jun 1960
Schabas, Ezra. 'The National Youth Orchestra of Canada,' Canadian Music Journal, vol 5, Spring 1961
Taylor, Patricia. 'A Canadian composers' ''first class ticket'',' Canadian Composer, 3, Oct 1965
'National Youth Orchestra to play Mercure's Triptyque,' Canadian Composer, 9, May 1966
Fawcett, Bill. 'A musician looks at the NYO,' Concerto, vol 1, Nov 1966
Wyman, Max. 'What matures but never grows older? The National Youth Orchestra - that's what,' Performing Arts in Canada, vol 10, Fall 1973
Schulman, Michael. 'The NYO and Vancouver - a love affair,' Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, vol 1, Jun 1978
National Youth Orchestra of Canada: Who We Are and What We Do ([Toronto 1979])
Brody, Jil. 'The National Youth Orchestra of Canada,' In Tune, Summer 1979
Hencz, George. "Our 25 years of dreams, reality, accomplishment," Performing Arts in Canada, Nov 1986
McLaren, Diana. 'The National Youth Orchestra,' Crescendo II, Nov/Dec 1986
Littler, William. 'I have heard the future and it works,' Toronto Star, 9 Aug 1988
Colgrass, Ulla. 'A dream comes true,' Bravo, vol 31, May/Jun 1989
McIntosh, James and Paterson, Shannon. "The National Youth Orchestra: Training the next generation," Performing Arts and Entertainment, summer 1995
Posner, Michael. "National Youth Orchestra struggles to survive cuts," Montreal Gazette, 9 Aug 2000
Hood, Sarah. "National Youth Orchestra turns forty," Performing Arts and Entertainment, summer 2000
Tobler, Jim. "The birth of the NYOC," Nuvo, autumn 2002
Links to Other Sites
National Youth Orchestra of Canada
The website for the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, an organization devoted to the discovery and training of accomplished young Canadian musicians for careers as professional orchestral players through short but intensive summer session programs.
Facebook: Orchestras Canada
Share your comments about the latest developments in Canadian classical music.
Nicolas Gilbert: Resistance
Watch a video featuring the National Youth Orchestra of Canada performing Nicolas Gilbert's composition "Resistance." From YouTube.
Schulich violinist wins inaugural Michael Measures Prize
An article about McGill music student Bénédicte Lauzière, the first ever winner of the Canada Council Michael Measures Prize, which recognizes promising young performers of classical music through a partnership with the National Youth Orchestra of Canada. From the McGill Reporter.
National Youth Orchestra finds a new home at Laurier
A news item about the National Youth Orchestra of Canada establishing its summer training program at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario. From Wilfrid Laurier University.
National Youth Orchestra Canada decision to move summer “boot camp” to Wilfrid Laurier University regretted
A news story about the relocation of the National Youth Orchestra of Canada summer program to Wilfrid Laurier University. From the London Free Press.