A Whirlwind Summer and Starting My Third Year

So, long time, no posts. I have been very busy over the summer with various courses, tours, work, and varying forms of procrastination. But now I am back! Hopefully to update people more regularly, as my final year begins at Oxford.

My summer had a very hectic couple of months, bookended by a few weeks of not much at all. Once again, I was on the National Youth Orchestra of Wales and this year was so much fun. The programme (Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra and Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben, both mammoth pieces) was amazingly fun to play but also very tiring! It was the first year on Nash that I had anything exposed to do, so that did make me a little nervous. Bits of the Bartok are classic orchestral excerpts for oboists. But once rehearsals got going, it was all good in the end. The tour was so much fun and the concerts went really well; we all even got a bit emotional at the end! It is sad because for some of them, it was their last time on Nash and we will all miss them. It was great to see all of my Nash friends again, especially for nights like fancy dress! This year’s theme: “Heroes”. There was the Welsh Football Team, various tutors from the course, the Heroes Chocolates, and our own effort, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Making those cardboard shells was hard!

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NYOW Fancy Dress 2016 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Two days after NYOW finished, and with very little time to recover from my Nash Crash, I went on tour with St Peter’s College Choir. Now, when you think of ensembles going on tour, you think they would go to places like Germany Italy, France, maybe the USA. We, on the other hand, were going to Palestine to take part in the Palestine Choral Festival. It was my first time going outside of Europe in around six years and this was a once in a lifetime experience. We stayed in Bethlehem (yes, that Bethlehem) and did loads of concerts over the space of twelve days. In a couple of concerts, we had to sing in Arabic (luckily with help from local choirs) which was a lot of fun, but also a very hard language to get to grips with in just a few hours, or in the case of one concert, on stage! We also go the chance to travel around the region, going to Jerusalem, Nazareth, Ramallah, the Dead Sea and Jericho. It is a part of the world with so much history that getting to see it all was amazing. The Dead Sea was a particular highlight, even if it did make me realise that I had hundreds of tiny cuts all over my body that I didn’t know about!

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The Choir in the Dead Sea (Credit – Eleanor Roda)

 

Singing with Palestinian choirs was amazing and we got to hear what their lives are like, and how music plays a role. One particularly poignant moment was at Bethlehem University (which could very easily be an Oxford college that has got a bit lost), where we sung with choirs from the university. Just seeing students walk into the concert and get to hear music from us that they would never have got the opportunity to hear was really humbling; it really showed me what an effect music can have on people and is one of the reasons I love it so much. The other choirs were also incredibly welcoming to us and constantly wanted to hear about our lives in Oxford just as much as we wanted to hear about theirs in Palestine. It is fascinating to hear how different singing in a choir is in the UK to what it is like over there.

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Singing in Jerusalem (I do not own this photo)

But now the summer is over. It is weird to think, as the new freshers move in, that I started here two years ago. How time has flown! Starting my final year is slightly daunting because I know that it is all coming to an end now, especially as I am currently working on my dissertation, finalising my options, sorting out recital programmes and generally declaiming how old I am in undergraduate terms. I’m determined not to have one of those third years where people just panic constantly about not doing enough work, so I am trying to keep up with as much orchestral stuff as is sensible. I don’t want to stress myself out come exam time and I don’t want to be bored during my other terms; it’s all about balance.

So bring on third year. What’s the worst that could happen?

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