Hitting the high notes: QE boys enjoy performing on the national stage

Hitting the high notes: QE boys enjoy performing on the national stage

Five QE musicians of different ages have had their talents recognised at a national level, being chosen to participate in a number of National Youth orchestras and bands.

Among the Sixth Form, Raphael Herberg (Year 13) and Jao-Yong Tsai (Year 12) have been playing with the National Youth Orchestra (NYO); whilst Conor Parker-Delves (Year 13) has maintained his involvement in the National Youth Jazz Orchestra (NYJO), being elevated to first tenor saxophone in the NYJO Big Band.

Year 10 trumpeter Joel Swedensky is part of the National Youth Concert Band, and Ryuki Watanabe (Year 9) has passed his audition into the National Children’s Orchestra.

Director of Music Ruth Partington said: “I congratulate the boys on their notable achievements. Being selected to participate in these nationally-acclaimed orchestras and ensembles places them alongside the finest young musicians in the country. Practising and performing in these environments will only help them further as they progress in their musical development.

“I am also pleased that, following audition, Conor has been offered a place at the highly competitive Royal Northern College of Music to study saxophone when he leaves QE this summer, and Raphael has been offered a place to study Music at Clare College, Cambridge.

“The senior boys are fantastic role models for those younger in the School and already give a great deal of support and guidance to others.”

On his unconditional offer to study at the Royal Northern College of Music, Conor said: “I am really looking forward to study among like-minded individuals who are as passionate about playing music as I am. Being a part of the music programme here at QE since Year 7 has helped me immensely in getting used to a competitive environment where music is cherished and performed to a high standard. I look forward to pushing myself as far as I can, hopefully reaching a professional standard and sharing my experiences with younger students, taking inspiration from the brilliant teaching staff here at QE. ”

Raphael joined with the national Youth Orchestra this winter, as they expanded the strings section. “We played some fantastic music, including Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances and Ravel’s La Valse, and had the opportunity to perform at the Barbican. I am also incredibly excited to be offered a conditional offer for Music at Clare College, Cambridge. I am looking forward to studying music in such an inspiring environment, as well as exploring the huge range of extra-curricular opportunities available.” Alongside the cello, Raphael is a highly accomplished pianist, and also sings in the choir, chamber choir, and barbershop group at QE.

Raphael joined Jao-Yong Tsai, who navigated two rounds of auditions. “I was delighted when I found out that I had been given a place” said Jao-Yong. “Thus far, I have participated in one residency, culminating in a performance in the Barbican in January. What I have tremendously enjoyed is the extremely high standard of the ensembles, and the exhilarating feeling of playing as part of such a large orchestra. I wish to continue my music-making, through the Sixth Form and beyond, whether it be with the department at QE, the NYO or at university when the time comes.”

Joel, who says he was first alerted to the opportunities to audition for national ensembles when he was in Year 7, has been part of the National Youth Concert Band over the past couple of years, following an audition process that involved having to record himself playing a mix of both set pieces and his own choices. His first involvement came during the pandemic: “Two years ago there was only a virtual event over half term, last year luckily we could go in person for a week in the summer holidays. Going forward, I would like to look at other bands such as the NYO (I’m doing NYO Inspire soon) or the National Youth Brass Band.”

Ryuki, who plays the violin, noted that the School had given him experience of playing in different sized ensembles, as well as in prestigious competitions. “My trio got to the final of the Music for Youth Chamber Music competition and I have played in the Pro Corda Chamber Music competition in both a quartet and a quintet. I aim to take Grade 8 and then try to get into more big orchestras.”

Performance music at Queen Elizabeth’s has received a further boost with this term’s opening of the new £3.5m Friends’ Recital Hall & Music Rooms, intended to support widespread participation and excellence.

Headmaster, Neil Enright, added: “With over 20 different ensembles and around 160 boys in the School’s choir, extra-curricular involvement in music continues to be a hallmark of the QE experience. In bringing music into the heart of the campus through these new facilities, we are enabling more opportunities for the boys to learn, rehearse and perform. I have no doubt that this will support other boys to emulate Raphael, Conor, Jao-Yong, Joel and Ryuki’s great achievements.”