After 40 Years of Knowsley Youth Orchestra, the Music Stops
Knowsley Youth Orchestra will rehearse for the last time on 26 November 2014, Knowsley Council have announced.
Citing increased pressure from funding cuts, arts and music head Angela Ball told members the group was no longer sustainable.
The orchestra were founded at the same time as the borough, in 1974, and have survived three recessions.
Some of their most successful years were under the direction of now-retired Paul Morris, a conductor much-loved for his eccentric, outgoing manner and his tendency to jig enthusiastically on the podium.
For many years, the orchestra performed their annual Christmas concert at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall. Over the years they toured Europe, visiting Germany under Paul Morris, and later Scotland and Belgium under Simon Gay.
In more recent times, the baton has passed between former members Tom Mason, Stuart Brown and Dr Robert Howard.
Prescot Online columnist and former Prescot School student SJ Jarman played cello with the KYO throughout the eighties and nineties, even returning to help out as an adult.
“I was totally overwhelmed when I was passed my audition for KYO, having progressed through the Training Orchestra,” she told Prescot Online. “It was a privilege. I not only improved significantly as a player, but I learned some important life skills: listening, teamwork, commitment.
“It’s so disappointing to think that the musically talented youngsters of Knowsley will no longer have this opportunity to develop and to belong to a large ensemble, learning much more than just performance.
“I count among my best friends the people who I met during this time in my life, and despite the efforts of a core of volunteers, it’s so sad that my own children will not have this outlet for themselves.”
Music teacher and Prescot Festival director Dr Robert Howard added that “for forty years the Knowsley Youth Orchestra successfully nurtured the musicianship of literally hundreds of local school children.
“The KYO provided a vital training ground by developing orchestral playing as a highly enjoyable leisure pursuit. Indeed, many past players have gone on to have careers as professional performers, as music teachers, or simply continued their love of music as adults.
“The orchestra effectively represented the borough at the highest levels, performing to Her Majesty the Queen in Kirkby, in many successful foreign tours and in national music competitions.
“Like many, I personally owe the orchestra a considerable debt of gratitude for the opportunities I’ve been given, and for the career path it set me on.
“The demise of the orchestra is a major cultural loss for the locale.”
Writing to orchestra members last month, KMBC’s Angela Ball said Knowsley and St Helens were exploring alternative joint-activities to compensate for the loss of the orchestra.
A new music centre has been set up at St Edmund Arrowsmith Catholic Centre for Learning in Whiston, every Monday from 4.15 pm to 8.15 pm.
For more information, please call Knowsley Council on 0151 489 6000 and ask to be put through to the Music & Performing Arts Service.
Images: 1993 Knowsley Youth Orchestra concert programme cover;
1992 programme – the orchestra toured Scotland with this