To mark the 40th anniversary of the government’s Music and Dance Scheme (MDS), young musicians from the UK’s five specialist music schools have released the results of an unprecedented collaboration, written and performed during lockdown.

A new virtual orchestra brings together 81 young musicians – aged 15 to 18 – who currently study at the UK's five specialist music schools. In addition to YMS, these include Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester, St Mary’s Music School in Edinburgh, The Purcell School in Hertfordshire, and Wells Cathedral Music School in Somerset.

This is the first time that five separate orchestras, located hundreds of miles apart, have been able to collaborate so successfully, and on such a large scale.

The pupils recorded their own individual parts of a new piece, specially written for them by Gwilym Simcock, who has been critically acclaimed at home and abroad as one of the most gifted pianists and imaginative composers working in Europe today. He has toured extensively with the cream of British and international jazz artists; and he has performed with orchestras, choirs, big bands, dancers, and with musicians from diverse backgrounds including the classical, jazz, folk and rock traditions. His debut album “Perception” was nominated for Best Album in the BBC Jazz Awards 2008 and his 2011 album “Good Days At Schloss Elmau” was one of the twelve nominees for the Mercury Music Prize.

Established in 1981, the UK government's Music and Dance Scheme (MDS) allows talented young performers to fulfil their potential, regardless of their financial background, by funding world-class specialist training at one of the UK's famous five specialist music schools. The scheme has provided a vital springboard for many of the country‘s finest classical musicians, such as Nicola Benedetti, Jacob Collier and Steven Osborne.

Composer Gwilym Simcock is himself one of many acclaimed musical graduates from the MDS funded system, having studied at Chetham’s School of Music. His new piece of music, called Union Overture and Celebration, was specially composed for this joint project. The piece was broadcast for the first time at 10am on Wednesday 19 August, simultaneously launching on the YouTube channels for all five of the specialist schools. Watch the full piece here:

19 Aug 2020