The National Youth Orchestra of Scotland has a special place in my heart having been a member of its string ensemble myself many moons ago.
So when I heard it was headed back to Aberdeen this weekend, the nostalgic part of me was desperate to pop along.
After what felt like a long week I was excited to be able to go and unwind while in a concert hall to the sound of beautifully played classical music.
I was not disappointed. Apart from, that is, by the turnout.
I would estimate only a few hundred people turned up for the performance, which genuinely blew me away. And I was so sad that it was not experienced by many more.
Talent for such a young age was exquisite
The talent and professionalism displayed by all on stage were second to none, especially when they had just one week as an ensemble to rehearse.
Led by the current music director of the English National Opera, Martyn Brabbins took to the stage to conduct the youths who ranged in age from 14-22.
But you would be stupid to let their young years fool you as when they combined they performed with the might of any professional touring orchestra I have seen in recent years.
Brabbins is described as an inspirational force in British music at the moment, conducting almost all the major UK orchestras.
And I have no doubt the players will have benefitted hugely from his experience.
Kicking off the concert with Strauss’ Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks it was clear we were not about to witness some amature performance.
The Symphony Orchestra was also joined by acclaimed violinist Elena Urioste in Coleridge-Taylor’s Violin Concerto.
If I had to sum up her performance in just one word, it would be flawless.
I sat in awe as I watched her fingers dance across her instrument with the most magical results.
As part of their commitment to championing contemporary Scottish composers, NYOS also premiered the full orchestral version of Claire McCue’s In Pursuit, a vibrant concerto for two trombones and orchestra.
This was a first for me having never experienced a trombone concerto before, but it was extremely enjoyable and just a lovely moment to see McCue there to witness her piece’s debut.
NYOS delivered with gusto during their performance in Aberdeen
Finishing off the night NYOS’ performance of Elgar’s In the South (Alassio), Op. 50 was a treat. By this stage of the night, the almost 100-strong orchestra had found its tempo and was delivering with gusto.
And within them, at least 11 were from the north and north-east of Scotland.
Standard tickets for the night were priced at £20 – a steal if you ask me.
But what was lovely was the huge discounts awarded to such a large group of people.
The under 26s, senior citizens, wheelchair users and those without a wage could all access the music for a fraction of the price, going far in a way towards making classical music accessible to all.
It may have been around 20 years since I played my violin on the Music Hall stage but last night reminded me I don’t need to be performing to appreciate good music.
NYOS heads to Perth tonight and if you’re reading this and are able to go I urge you to.
If not, please look out for their return. They really are something special.