The marvellous National Youth Orchestra Prom concert with Nicola Benedetti last week has set me reminiscing about my time in the NYO (in the photo, I have long fair hair and am just to the left of the middle of the group, playing 2nd violin.)
Watching the NYO Prom on television, I realised that the dress code has relaxed. Today’s young women are clearly allowed to wear a variety of concert outfits – sleeveless, plunge necklines, and so on. But in my day, girls had to wear long-sleeved white ‘school blouses’, respectably buttoned, and dark skirts of a regulation length for concerts. The NYO had no truck with mini-skirts, then the height of fashion. If skirts were deemed by the ‘housemistresses’ to be too short, the hems were let down. I still remember the outrage of one glamorous mini-skirt owner (now an eminent professor) when she returned from a rehearsal to find one of her skirts lengthened.
Worst of all from my point of view was the rule on hair-washing. I was a teenager whose hair became greasy after just one day. At home, I washed it every day. Imagine my horror when the NYO dictated that ‘you should wash your hair before coming to the course, because there will be no opportunity to wash it during the week.’
Disaster! I knew a week of greasy hair would ruin my life, so I became a guerrilla hair-washer, creeping out of the dorm after ‘lights out’ to wash my hair in the darkness of the communal washroom, then going to bed with wet hair to avoid making any noise. Occasionally a housemistress would find me and scold me, but usually by that time my hair was clean and I could face a telling-off.
Funnily enough, we accepted most of this as being just ‘how things were’. I absolutely loved being in the NYO. Apart from the memory of going to bed with wet hair, I have nothing but happy recollections of my time in the orchestra.