The National Youth Chamber Orchestra (NYCO) is a young musicians’ chamber orchestra with a difference; directed from the leader’s chair by Christopher Hirons, the orchestra performs exciting, varied and challenging programmes without conductor, in prestigious venues throughout the UK and abroad. Highlights have included performances at the BBC Proms (broadcast live on BBC Radio 3), the Cheltenham Festival and a tour to Poland in 2006.

The NYCO auditions annually, offering places for five desks of 1st and 2nd violins, four desks of violas, four desks of ‘cellos, three double basses and two each of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, trumpets and horns; the audition process seeks out exceptional musical ability and a commitment to achieving the highest possible standards. Whilst the overall age range varies a little from year to year (upper age limit is 20), the orchestra commonly combines outstanding young musicians in their 6th form years with first or second year students studying at university and music college; the majority of players have a serious intention of pursuing music as a career.

The residential course takes place at Easter and combines an intensive programme of orchestral and chamber music. There are individual tutors for each instrument, many of whom work in the UK’s leading specialist schools and conservatoires; the New London Chamber Ensemble (, whose members are all highly established performers, is ‘ensemble in residence’ and works intensively with the wind section. The ‘chamber’ philosophy of the orchestra is carried through into a chamber music programme which rehearses daily , overseen by Melanie Ragge, and prepares selected players for a public chamber concert during the course.

Recent repertoire includes:

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Mendelssohn
The Three Cornered Hat – de Falla
Pulcinella – Stravinsky
The Birds – Respighi
Symphony No 5 – Schubert
Symphonies No 3 – Mendelssohn
Mother Goose & Tombeau de Couperin – Ravel
Classical Symphony – Prokofiev
The Wasps – Vaughan Williams
Le Tombeau de Couperin – Ravel
Symphony No 4 in A ‘The Italian’ – Mendelssohn
Dances of Galanta – Kodaly
The Hebrides – Mendelssohn
Petite suite d’orchestre – Georges Bizet

Standard required: Grade 8/Diploma upwards