NCO's National programme consists of three symphony orchestras - Main (13-14 year olds), Under 13 and Under 12 - who meet for two week-long residentials in the spring and summer school holidays, culminating in astounding concerts in public concert venues.

The Spring National programme 2023

The Under 12 Orchestra kicked off the year in the spring with their Let's Dance programme under the baton of Rebecca Miller and featuring music including Antonín Dvořák's Slavonic Dance, Dorothy Carwithen's Suffolk Suite, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's Bamboula, Pytor Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker and more. The orchestra will also divide into smaller ensembles to explore pieces for string orchestra and for wind, brass and percussion.

The Under 13 Orchestra experience the sheer joy of Venezuelan super team - conductor Natalia Luis-Bassa and Orchestral Choreographer Juan Carlos Maggiorani - for their Music in Motion programme. Featuring Arum Khachaturian's Gayane Suite, Alexander Borodin's Polovtsian Dances, pieces by Arturo Márquez, Leonard Bernstein and Perez Prado, the programme got the children up on their feet, moving with the music and having lots of fun.

And the 13 and 14 year olds of NCO's Main Orchestra performed their Sounds of Home programme, brought to life with Conductor Dominic Wheeler and soloists soprano Yolisa Ngwexana and Baritone Chuma Sijeqa. Exploring the feelings, sights and music of home from the perspective of a variety of composers and artists, they performed Ethel Smyth's The Wreckers Overture, George Gershwin classics, three South African Songs (by Qinisela Sibisi, BJ Tyamzashe and Miriam Makeba) arranged by Andrew Cottee and Ottorino Respighi's Pines of Rome.

The Summer National Programme 2023

Under the baton of Jonathan Bloxam, the National Main orchestra presented a magical 'Dreams, Myths, Fantasies' programme featuring Paul Dukas, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Bernard Herrmann, 'Prelude' and 'Nightmare' from Vertigo Suite, Gabriela Ortiz, Kauyumari, and Hector Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique.

The Under 13 orchestra performed their ‘There’s no planet B!’ programme which included Leonard Bernstein’s Slava, Jean Sibelius’ Finlandia, Rachel Portman’s Endangered, Gustav Holst’s ‘Jupiter’ from The Planets, Hans Zimmer’s Earth, Benjamin Britten’s ‘Dawn and Storm’ from Peter Grimes, Debbie Wiseman’s Carnival of the Endangered Animals, Aram Khachaturian’s ‘Fire’ from Gayane Suite.

Last but not least, the National Under 12 orchestra performing their 'Shimmer and Glow' programme. It featured some of classical music's most famous melodies in a programme including Maurice Ravel 'The Fairy Garden' from Mother Goose Suite, Edvard Grieg Hall of the Mountain King, John Williams Harry Potter Symphonic Suite, Monty Norman James Bond Theme and more!

Main Orchestra's Winter Concert

Made up of our eldest musicians, the Main Orchestra come back together for a non-residential Winter Concert in November each year. The programme brings together music from both the spring and summer programmes and is a wonderful showcase of the hard work and dedication musicians have made across the year at NCO. It's a fantastic showcase of their remarkable playing before they move on to new adventures.

In 2023, the Winter Concert will be at Woolwich Works on Sunday 19th November at 3pm.

For details of National Orchestra concerts in 2023, please see our Calendar.

"NCO has meant the world to me. As each activity passed, I immediately looked forward to the next one, both for the pure enjoyment of playing in an orchestra with such such talented young musicians as well as seeing friends that live nationally." NCO National Member, aged 14.

"Rehearsing and performing the most ambitious and varied repertoire, the 300 exceptional young musicians of the National Orchestras will be immersed in the skill and joy of orchestral playing. How they help us to shape their learning and show us what a difference they can make to the world is one of the great joys of NCO." Catherine Arlidge, Artistic and Educational Director

Joining NCO 

Auditions have now closed for 2024. Results will be sent to applicants soon. We will open auditions for 2025 in spring 2024.

See more about joining NCO, including information on auditions, fees and financial support.