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The Young People's Guide to the Orchestra

for orchestra and battery-powered FM radios.

Year:  2017 Instrumentation:  3*222; 4231; timp., 3 perc., harp, strings, each player also doubling battery powered FM radio. | (Perc: xylo., glock., woodblocks, crash cymbals, susp. cymbal, bass drum, cowbell, whip, 2 triangles, ratchet, water gong, flexatone, drum set)

Year:  2017
Instrumentation  3*222; 4231; timp., 3 perc....

Composer:   Celeste Oram

Films, Audio & Samples

Celeste Oram: The Young Peo...

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Celeste Oram: The Young Peo...

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INTERVIEW: Young People’s G...

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Sample Score

Sample: Page 1-8

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Based on themes by Henry Purcell and Princess Te Rangi Pai, and incorporating elements of The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, Op. 34, written by Benjamin Britten, Published by Hawkes & Son (London) Ltd. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Programme Note:

It’s worth remembering that the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra began life as the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation Symphony Orchestra. The country’s national orchestra was first a radio orchestra; generations of New Zealanders were far more likely to have heard an orchestra on the radio before they ever heard one in a concert hall; orchestras in New Zealand and Radio New Zealand continue to be among each other’s strongest advocates. Orchestras in New Zealand are inseparable from radio in New Zealand.

Composer Gaetano Donizetti, misremembered for writing respectable 19th-century hit Italian operas but who through his career battled Neapolitan opera censorship prohibiting even veiled allusions to the regime in power, wrote in a 1828 letter that he wanted “to shake off the yoke of finales”. When asked, one of my undergraduate students suggested this meant casting off narratives that ended the same way every time, with a blithely happy ending that glossed over complications and injustices. Whatever Donizetti may or may not have meant, Nathanial makes a salient point.

This piece is a love letter to radio in New Zealand, Radio New Zealand, the uncompromising exuberance of the youth orchestra, all the future orchestras yet to come, come what may - and to the complicated triumph of the orchestral finale, as though the Romantic symphony existed only to end, to self-annihilate in a blaze of glory. Its title should be read not with the syntax of ‘A Beginner’s Guide To Zen’ (as Britten would have), but rather that of ‘Mrs. Beeton’s Guide To Embroidery, Crochet & Knitting’.


Commissioned note

Commissioned by the NZSO National Youth Orchestra.