It was quite a sight to look at: 400 young performers, mainly teenagers, packed the Waterfront stage area, comprising the National Youth Orchestra and Choir, and two other choirs (the Irish Youth Chamber Choir and Derry-based Codetta) who joined forces for the occasion.
And the occasion was special – the first-ever visit of the National Youth Orchestra to Northern Ireland in its 65-year history, as part of the UK City of Culture 2013 celebrations.
The NYO players (including three pupils of Methodist College, Belfast) have been busy doing workshop and community projects for over a week now in Derry-Londonderry, but their Waterfront concert was what the public was waiting for.
Part one showcased the NYC in Vaughan Williams’s early choral work Toward The Unknown Region.
Whitman’s text is a paean to existential liberation, and conductor Vasily Petrenko built the piece to a rapturous climax, with surging violins and ardent support from the NYC singers.
Three a cappella settings from Shostakovich’s Ten Poems On Texts By Revolutionary Poets followed, sung in Russian with great security and commitment.
The performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony after the interval was riveting from first to last.
The Molto Vivace second movement was razor sharp, propelled by the superb timpani playing of Laura Bradford.
The Adagio was chastely beautiful, and the choral finale profoundly joyful, with no resort to bombast.
The concert will be repeated at the Millennium Forum in Derry on Thursday 8th August, and is simply unmissable.