Perth Youth Orchestra is in its 51st year. Founded in 1962, by two Perth musicians, Louis Barnett and John Davie, with the support of a small number of parents, it gave its first concert on 25th June 1964. The orchestra is a registered charity in Scotland. PYO is sustained both by the young players desire to excel and by their determination to succeed.
The orchestra rehearses each Monday evening in the Music Centre at St John's Academy, Perth, from October to April, and it is well supported by Perth and Kinross Council. Perth Youth Orchestra is a registered charitable organisation and the funds it raises help to support the purchase of instruments and musical scores, as well as the services of its conductor and instrumental tutors at rehearsals and concerts- at the Perth Festival of the Arts, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, in Glasgow at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and in a variety of concerts throughout the year at home and abroad.
In July 2013 the orchestra celebrated its 50th anniversary with a concert tour to Tuscany performing at the Florence Festival of Youth Orchestras.
Parents of young musicians in Perth and Kinross are always impressed by the provision of the many Central Music Groups. But Perth Youth Orchestra is much more than just another Central Group. With the support of the Friends of PYO it has provided the opportunity for generations of the best young orchestral musicians in the area to play challenging and exciting music from the concert repertoire, performing not only in Perth but elsewhere in Scotland, and also on tour, most recently to Germany and before that in Poland and Estonia.
Admission to the orchestra is by audition, usually in September. All members can take pride in their own ability, and learn and develop their skill while expanding their knowledge of different composers and musical styles. Many former members have gone on to make illustrious careers as performers – more details are on the website.
Putting on concerts, hiring music, purchasing, insuring, and maintaining instruments, and of course organising tours, costs money, and the orchestra has an annual turn-over of around, in non-tour years, of over £8000. It is a charitable trust run by a committee made up of the Friends of Perth Youth Orchestra including the conductor, Mr Allan Young, parents of current and former members, instrumental tutors, and orchestra representatives. We are grateful to several generous sponsors from the local area, and fund-raising by the orchestra is an important and necessary source of income, especially as we start to look forward to the next concert tour, in the summer of 2013.
On joining the orchestra, families were asked to pay a fee to Perth and Kinross central groups. Membership of the Friends of Perth Youth Orchestra is an additional cost (£24) but the benefits it brings are very worthwhile.
The name of Louis (Reg) Barnett has been associated with some much of the worth-while music making in our community, particularly among young people, for so many years, that his death leaves an unbelievable number of gaps in our musical life.
I knew him first as a bandmaster in the Black Watch, a post which he resigned shortly after the war to start training as a school music teacher. His first appointment, in 1950, was to schools in Perth and District, and almost immediately his concern at the lack of an orchestra in the city led him to call a meeting of those interested, which, in turn, lead to the formation of Perth Symphony Orchestra in 1951.
The chance of orchestral work in school attracted him to Dollar Academy where, in the course of his stay, he trained and built up a magificent school orchestra which those of us who have heard it still remember. He returned to Perth and very soon was battling to form a youth orchestra and, after efforts few of us knew, founded the Perth Youth Orchestra in 1962. He trained woodwind, brass and percussion players, and more recently, strings as well. the annual concert given by this orchestra with singers from Perth schools became one of the highlights of the musical season. It would ill serve the memory and devotion of its founder if this enthusiastic and competent young group were allowed to disintegrate.
As a member of the executive council of Perthshire Musical Festival his unique experience has been of inestimable value, and entries to the solo and ensemble classes consisted almost entirely of his pupils. From the schools which he visited he found time to train and enter choirs with conspicuous success. it is only a few weeks since we read how a choir from the Royal School of Dunkeld took first place in their classes at the National Mod at Inverness.
As musical director of Perth Amateur Operatic Society he was responsible for the preparation an presentation of the "New Moon" and "The Gipsy Baron" and had begin rehearsals for "Merrie England". His association with the society goes back to the earliest years when, as a flute player, his work in the pit was distinguished by a professional expertise that was apparently unaffected by the limited time for practices.
And so in the full flow of his life of selfless activity he has left us, and we are the poorer for he passing of a musician who gave more to us than he could afford. It is left to us to see that his labours were not in vain.