After months of waiting, the newly refurbished ‘Fairfield Halls’ reopened. Throughout the year, Fairfield Halls displays a wide range of performances - classical performances, concerts, comedy, drama, community shows, conferences, weddings and events.

On the 27th of September, Fairfield Halls had its first concert after reopening. It was a spectacular display of music spanning lots of continents. Performed by Croydon Young Musicians and aided by professional orchestras and musicians, it was a celebration about not just the reopening of the South London’s largest art centre, but also 50 years since Croydon Young Musicians first performed there. As a long standing member of Croydon’s Orchestras, I was very excited to perform at Fairfield Halls again and see how it has changed. The audience also commented on this - Sevgi Erten, a parent, described ‘it was quite exciting for the young musicians to perform at the Fairfield Halls’ and James Carter thought it was a ‘fantastic opportunity’.

The concert was begun with a piece composed by Samuel Coleridge Taylor - the ‘African Love Song Blues’ in which he combines both parts of his dual heritage - African Melody with European Harmony. The interesting thing is that this combination that he created here in Croydon, was found 10 years later in the first published blues compositions - meaning the blues was actually invented in Croydon. Personally, I really enjoyed playing this as it was a very fun lively piece that involved groups of a variety of abilities from those who had only been playing an instrument for a few months to those surpassing grade 8 ability with the experience of 10 years.

As a piano player, a particular favourite of mine was the Piano Concerto in G minor, 3rd movement. This starred Ophelia Gordon, a former Croydon Young Musician, who expertly played a piano solo. Playing with Ophelia was such a privilege because she was an outstanding pianist- she really inspired me and made me want to aspire to be that level. Ophelia also captivated the audience - Sonay Erten, a member of the audience, described her playing as ‘mesmerizing’ and that she ‘was in awe’. Having been a former piano player herself, she felt inspired to play the piano again.

James Carter said ‘I enjoyed the variety of music on offer - the Coriolan Overture in particular was my favourite’ The Coriolan Overture involved the Croydon Youth Orchestra playing alongside the London Mozart Players, a resident orchestra in Croydon. All the performers including myself, enjoyed playing with the London Mozart Players, because they were such an inspiration - they made me want to continue playing into adulthood and practice so that I can become just as advanced them. They also added another dimension to our music.

My favourite piece was ‘Take Time’ - a piece which involved many different groups - from the advanced orchestra music of the ‘London Mozart Players’ supported by the ‘Croydon Youth Orchestra’ to the ‘Jazz Band’ and the ‘Rock Shop’ to the ‘Star Class Strings’ and ‘Voiceworks’. I found that by implementing so many different genres of music, the piece was always interesting. For example, he included voice, jazz and rock with orchestral music. I, in particular, found it interesting that the lyrics sung in the music were inspired by the contemporary climate change crisis and its urgent call for change. We had the privilege of being conducted by the composer himself - Jeff Moore. This was a real learning experience as it meant we could play just as the composer himself designated the piece to sound.

Ending the concert was an ‘Unchartered Voyage’ performed by many of the musicians and led by the Grand Union Orchestra - an orchestra that prides itself on the many cultures of music it performs drawing from the home countries of the members of the group. We played a series of pieces travelling from Africa to the Caribbean to Asia. My favourite was the ‘Song of Four Seasons’ because of its beautiful melody. It combines two chinese folk songs and features the gu-zheng (chinese harp).

Overall, I thought it was an amazing concert. There were many exciting and fun pieces to play with a good variety. Sevgi Erten described ‘I thought it was inspirational for the young performers to play alongside professional musicians and as a parent thought it was a very enjoyable evening’. She also said that she liked the ‘wide genre of music’. James Carter also said ‘the atmosphere was excellent’. I found it quite a privilege to play with very advanced musicians and I found it really inspiring as a level to aim for. I, also, found the history of the music we were playing very interesting. Each one had a story.

All the Performers will never forget this concert. After hours of practice and countless rehearsals, we were rewarded with a spectacular performance filled with a wide variety of pieces. And to play with such advanced players was phenomenal. For the audience, there was so much to see, that it was mind blowing.

By Gulcin Erten, Newstead Wood School