New York String Orchestra: Cellist Paul Watkins Reflects
Cellist Paul Watkins performs regularly with many of the major orchestras in the UK and overseas. On December 28 he joins the New York String Orchestra, comprising young musicians-in-training from around the country, for the second of its now-traditional pair of holiday concerts at Carnegie Hall. In this guest post for the Carnegie Hall blog, Paul reflects on the quality of the orchestra, and his memories of similar experiences.
I already know that I am going to have a great time working with the musicians of the New York String Orchestra Seminar. How do I know this? I have heard them play. My family and I often spend Christmas in New York, and when we do we always go to one or both of the New York String Orchestra concerts at Carnegie Hall. (Small disclaimer here: my wife, Jennifer, is Jaime Laredo's daughter.) Last year, for example, my British soul was stirred by what was unequivocally the finest performance of Elgar's Introduction and Allegro that I have ever heard. These young musicians, already so technically accomplished, project their love for the music with vitality that reflects the daily inspiration they gain from Jaime and his distinguished colleagues.
I am nearly 41 years old, which means that I can still (just about) recall a similar sense of excitement while performing with the European Community Youth Orchestra under Claudio Abbado in Berlin, 1988. As a gangly green 18 year-old, I certainly had some chops, but was not prepared for the overwhelming communal experience offered in this extraordinary gathering of my peers, led by a truly great musician. I am sure that participants in the NYSOS are going to be feeling the same thrill of being part of a musical event that is bigger than all of them. I feel privileged to join these wonderful young artists in such a special occasion, and hope to show them that 20 years from now they might be a little fatter but their joy in music-making will not have diminished by an ounce.
Paul Watkins joins the New York String Orchestra—and soloists Daniel Hope, violin; Tara Helen O'Connor, flute; Ariana Ghez, oboe; and David Washburn, trumpet—to perform a program of Barber, Brahms, and Beethoven on December 28. The New York String Orchestra and soloists Jennifer Koh, violin, and Benjamin Hochman, piano also perform a program of Mozart and Mendelssohn on December 24.