This weekend, the first in the series of eleven concerts by Adelaide Youth Orchestra (AdYO) will take place at Elder Hall.

The 2015 program continues the company’s tradition of presenting unique and rarely heard works that will not only challenge and nurture its talented young musicians, but also engage audiences.

Conductor Keith Crellin has been working with the exceptional young musicians for 12 years after coming to Adelaide in the 1980s.

Kelsey-Robinson-and-Mason-Stanton“As a musician I came here in 1985 to be a founding member of the Australian String Quartet. I left that after 16 years to go and work at the university; then not long after that, about 12 years ago, we set up the Adelaide Youth Orchestra,” he says.

Since then he’s worked with hundreds of young performers, imparting his knowledge and experience, and training the players to become successful musicians.

“We have a mixture of over 200 kids playing in four different orchestras, which is something that didn’t exist when I arrived here. The senior orchestra plays the same music the Symphony Orchestra plays, but I hasten to add they don’t play at the same level as the Symphony which is a great lot of professional musicians, but a lot of the youth go to those concerts and get very inspired. Then they come and rehearse with me every Saturday morning and produce concerts of great quality and it’s been a joy of my life to have the privilege of spending time with these wonderful young people who are really quite remarkable,” Crellin says.

Choosing symphonies for the youths to play depends on the instruments included in the work so each player has a chance to perform.

“There is such a great amount of works written by great composers and all sorts of composers for symphony orchestra but we tend to look at the grand works of Tchaikovsky or Rachmaninoff; big works that require a whole orchestra because you cannot have the trombone sitting out for an entire program just because you want to do a Beethoven symphony,” Crellin says.

“I always choose works that have an entire orchestra, because I have to keep the interest up. I’ve got to say though, we have a great lot of interest and a great bunch of kids who turn up very regularly. With rehearsals a week apart it can be very difficult. With the Symphony Orchestra, they’d have seven rehearsals and a concert straight away in the week. Wouldn’t I love to do that! But children have school and everything else in the week so that’s not possible.”

AdYO showcase all of their musicians by giving them an opportunity to play excellent works in a beautiful venue to appreciative audiences.

To further celebrate the talents of their players, soloists are chosen to work with conductors and showcase their skills to the public.

Last year, 13 year old violinist Tianyou Ma played a very impressive solo in Maestro Series One – New World Order; he has since won a place at Yehudi Menuhin School in England.

This year, 19 year-old cellist and second year Elder Conservatorium student Mason Stanton will play Liszt’s Les Préludes, and R Schumann’s Cello Concerto; and 20 year-old flautist and third year Elder Conservatorium student Kelsey Robinson will make her concerto debut with AdYO performing Otaka’s Flute Concerto.

“This year, we have soloist Mason Stanton taking on one of the most difficult cello concertos,” Crellin says. “Then we have a Kelsey Robinson taking on a flute concerto. I try to feature student soloists from around Adelaide as well as using professional soloists. It’s very important for those students to have the work ethic to get works like these up to concert standard and we try to reward them with performances. To select the soloists, we have an audition process in September every year where students who feel they have the wherewithal come and play their concertos and a panel chooses.”

To join AdYO, there is also an audition process which takes place at the end of each year; although very competitive, Keith Crellin says they are always on the lookout for particular instruments for the orchestra.

“We audition for the orchestra itself every December. We have a lot of kids apply and we can’t fit everyone in but we do have a certain amount of instruments that we’re short of all the time. We can always do with oboes and bassoons for our younger groups, particularly. And lower brass as well; the big heavy instruments are in short supply. We have a number but we could do with more. So if there are any parents out there whose children play lower brass, give me a call!” he laughs.
“There’s a lot of brass bands around and if there are any young brass musicians who’d like an orchestral experience, this is the place to come. Adelaide is a small place and there aren’t that many opportunities but we certainly offer a great opportunity, great conductors and an interesting program and a very important social life. They meet lifelong friends in these orchestras. I know I did when I was in a youth orchestra. In fact, I met my wife!”

AdYO youths can range from around six to twenty five in age, and with a range of experiences and orchestra arrangements, there is something for every keen player.

AdYO Gala 2014-1551 (2)“At the moment we have four groups. In the string groups, they can be in there from around six or seven years old. Then we have the intermediate orchestra which has players from eight to sixteen. Then we have the wind orchestra which takes a wide range of players but there’s not usually a lot of really young ones, I think the youngest is about twelve. Then my orchestra goes up to about 25 years old. We can cater for all ages up to that level,” Crellin says.

Keith Crellin is passionate about giving AdYO musicians the opportunity to be a part of a high quality, professionally conducted orchestra.

His genuine care and respect for their talent and ability is evident in the exceptional production of the concerts they offer.

“I love to see the looks on these kids’ faces. They come out and absolutely go for it. There’s no holds barred! There’s such enthusiasm. Our audiences really see this as well. I think if you can see kids doing something well, it brings a real warmth to the heart,” Crellin says.

The first of the 2015 Maestro Series concerts is this Saturday night and tickets can be booked through the AdYO website.

By Libby Parker

Photos courtesy of AdYO