Preview: Dunedin Youth Orchestra

The Dunedin Youth Orchestra’s “In Blue” concert coming up on Friday 18th May at 8.15pm at Hanover Hall offers a “really chill and super fun opportunity for students to get amongst some classic orchestra works” says Isaac Shatford, DYO’s featured soloist this semester. Isaac is completing his Bachelor of Music with honors in Composition and Performance Violin. He recently performed Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2 with the New Zealand Secondary Schools Symphony Orchestra. He’s also had his compositions performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and the New Zealand Trio. This Friday, however, Isaac won’t be soloing on the violin or sharing his composition talents, instead he will be showcasing his skill on the piano, performing one of the most notable virtuosic piano works of the twentieth century; Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.


For Isaac, there was no hesitation in choosing to perform on piano over violin for this concert, “I hardly ever get to perform on piano – and the Rhapsody’s the most fun piece ever!”. The Rhapsody has always been one of his favourites, as he grew up hearing his mother play it. Of course, the twenty-odd minute extravaganza of a work obviously comes with it’s tricky parts. Fresh from his performance with the NZSSSO, Isaac says that preparing for the Gerswhin presented different challenges, “the piano has more notes at once!” he says. That’s an understatement. I’ve watched Isaac rehearse this piece and he tears up and down the piano so fast that his fingers are a blur. Even more impressively is that his eyes seem to be closed more often than open (at those points the jealous piano student within me struggles against yelling “showoff!”).

In order to manage such a massive workload, Isaac says that planning is everything. “I set myself deadlines for having passages nailed. I had an adorable little timetable splitting my pieces into sections for days of the week…I’m also good friends with my metronome!”. The hard work has certainly paid off, as Isaac is all ready to go for this Friday, with the concert also featuring performances by the Dunedin Youth Jazz Orchestra, Logan Park High School Jazz Band, and the Otago Boys and Otago Girls High Schools Jazz Band. The Dunedin Youth Orchestra’s program also includes Copland’s Four Dances from Rodeo. This work features Isaac running from one instrument to another in the space of approximately four seconds – a feat almost as impressive as the Rhapsody.

In case anyone doesn’t manage to catch a glimpse of Isaac’s fast as light sprint between instruments, he’ll be doing it all over again (…Rhapsody in Blue too) on May 25th at 7.30pm at Knox Church. This concert will also include Verdi’s Nabucco, Rossini’s La Boutique Fantasque (arranged by Respighi), as well as the Copland and Gershwin.

Don’t miss either of these events!

“In Blue”: 8.15pm, Friday 18th May, Hanover Hall, Gold Coin entry.

“Roman Rhapsody”:  7.30pm, Friday 25th May, Knox Church, $10 door tickets for students.