The 2016 Young Leaders Camp included a visit to Longborough Festival Opera, in its post-season, and its idyllic surrounds. The Young Leaders met, played for, listened to and conversed with two of the great artists of our time, baritone Roderick Williams and violinist Nicola Benedetti, hosted by Martin Graham, whose pep talk was food for the soul.

The scene was set for a summer picnic and cake, fascinating opera house tour with LFO Site Manager Nic Wash and wild scavenger hunt and myriad outdoor games led by Education Director Jessica May.

The orchestra rehearsed on stage, rather than in the pit. Midway through the Saint-Georges piece, stellar violinist Nicola Benedetti, patron of Sistema Scotland (Big Noise) and music education champion, walked onto the stage to encourage, coach, role model and play for the orchestra, in a riveting encounter:

‘She moved like she was in the music. She wasn’t just reading it. She was telling the story of the music and she was playing it with her body. It was like she was dancing. Her face would be serious, then it would change. Different emotions at different parts of the music. And she would tell you the story behind the music and let your imagination go wild. You would wonder why was this written, what is the story behind it? It was inspiring to see someone so enthusiastic about violin, and seeing where we could get to if we put in the hard work that she has. It inspired me to do more with my violin, to work harder.’ Joshua, Violin I, Sistema England Young Leader

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Afterwards, beloved baritone and composer Roderick (Roddy) Williams led a whole afternoon session including a pocket introduction to opera and his own journey to date, a frank and very funny Q&A and an enthralling presentation of songs by Mozart, Bizet and Kern, accompanied by the Sistema England Camp Band, made up of the Young Leaders’ own outstanding teaching team.

Trying out the acoustics from stalls to boxes, the audience was treated to Roddy’s ‘Non Piu Andrai’, from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, an ebullient ‘Chanson du Toreador’, from Bizet’s Carmen with an audience chorus, and a stirring Ol’ Man River, from Kern’s Showboat, with the Band playing a reduced score of Roddy’s own sinuous arrangement written for BBC Symphony Orchestra, with whom he performed at the Last Night of the Proms in 2014.

‘I liked how passionate he was when he was singing, but also when he was talking about singing. It made me want to sing too. Oh and I really liked his really high voice (falsetto), how he could use it to sing so loud.’ Emma, 11, percussionist, In Harmony Telford.

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