The WYO’s concert home is Lighthouse, Poole’s Centre for the Arts. It’s no mean feat for an amateur ensemble to be able to afford to perform in such a large professional concert venue, but thanks to the WYO’s continued ability to delight its audiences, (aside from a brief gap whist the building was renovated) an appearance at Lighthouse is something that the “Wessex” has managed to repeat, at least three times each year since the building opened in 1979. The WYO has now given more than 100 Lighthouse performances.
During the first few years, the “Poole College Youth Orchestra” as it was originally known, performed in various venues beginning with a concert in the Main Hall at the College in March 1971, and as the orchestra grew, so did the concert venues. In December 1977, the orchestra gave its Bournemouth Winter Gardens debut, accompanying world famous violinist Alfredo Campoli in Beethoven’s Violin Concerto - in front of an audience of more than 900. The “Wessex” tradition of ambitious programmes and large concert venues had begun.
The Gala Concert is the WYO’s showcase performance. Taking place each Spring, it is the WYO members’ opportunity to experience as closely as possible what it is like to be a professional orchestral musician. The programmes of mainstream symphonic repertoire are challenging and the rehearsal schedule, intense. Over the years, the Gala has also allowed the WYO to work with wonderful soloists, both newly discovered youngsters such as BBC Young Musician of the Year finalists and winners and seasoned professionals like Raphael Wallfisch, Melissa Phelps and Lydia Mordkavitch. This annual showcase concert has enabled the WYO to clock-up an impressive list of repertoire – one that could easily be mistaken for that of a professional orchestra.
The first Family Prom Concert took place in May 1982. Featuring children’s favourites “Peter and the Wolf” and “Tubby the Tuba” this child friendly programme quickly became a WYO summer tradition, later developing into the Teddy Bear Prom – a concert where bears could get in for free as long as they brought their owners along. With teddy bear parades, dancers from the Diane Gulliford School of Dancing, Norwegian troll creations by the College’s art students to accompany Greig’s Peer Gynt Suite, snappers to join in with Strauss’ Bandits’ Gallopp and numerous opportunities for audience participation, the Family Prom concert introduced many a first time concert goer to the delights of orchestral music.
This tradition for lively fun-filled Summer Prom shows has continued to this day, incorporating nifty concert themes such as “HMS Wessex” (2007), “Best of British” (2008), “All the World’s a Stage” (2010), “Silver Screen Extravaganza” (2013), “A Night at the Opera” (2014) and more recently Around the World in 80 Minutes – these events remain true to the original WYO Family Prom format – that of quality performance with a light-hearted touch of daftness and ideal for listeners of all ages… former members would be proud.
WYO UK Concert venues across the years: Lighthouse - Poole’s Centre for the Arts, Bournemouth Winter Gardens, Bournemouth International Centre, Bournemouth Pavilion, Christchurch Priory, Wimborne Minster, London’s Royal Festival Hall and Royal Albert Hall, Birmingham Symphony Hall..