July 9, 2020
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For more than half a century, eyo has had a tradition of ambitious music-making, including the performance of works by its Honorary Patron Mark-Anthony Turnage, the commissioning of original works and collaborations with schools, fellow youth orchestras and professional musicians.
eyo was founded in 1959 by John Railton, the Director of Music at Ealing Grammar School for Boys. His vision was to provide opportunities and experience for gifted musicians from all the schools of the area. He remained the orchestra’s conductor for 21 years.
Hilary Davan Wetton, Director of Music at St Paul’s Girl’s School, was conductor between 1979 and 1981. He was followed by Stephen Block. The baton passed in 1984 to Mark Gooding who widened the orchestra’s repertoire and in 1988 introduced the annual summer tour. Mark Forkgen took over in 1999 and the orchestra continued to build its reputation for excellence
Since 2006 eyo has been under the inspiring leadership of the present Music Director Leon Gee, a professional conductor with a national reputation for training young musicians. In recent years the orchestra has scaled new heights of achievement, including large scale performances of works normally beyond the reach of youth orchestras, including Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast, Richard Strauss’s Alpine Symphony and Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, and collaborations with leading professional artists including Tasmin Little, the English Chamber Orchestra and London Mozart Players
eyo has stayed true to its original vision by supporting young musicians, even during cutbacks in arts funding and music education. Many members have gone on to careers in music and have graduated to play with leading national and European orchestras, while many others have developed a lifelong love of music and lasting friendships.
One feature of eyo that sets it apart from many other youth orchestras, is that it has no external sources of funding: it finances itself entirely through subscriptions and ticket sales and is administered by volunteers. The orchestra is proud to be able to operate two separate bursary funds to enable full access to all talented young musicians, regardless of family income. The John Railton Memorial Bursary Fund was established in memory of eyo‘s founder and provides financial help towards membership subscriptions, while the Fiona Thomas Tour Bursary Fund, in memory of EYO parent Fiona Thomas, provides support for participation in the orchestra’s annual tour.