Youth orchestra expertly pranks their conductor, surprising him on his birthday

5 January 2024, 15:42

Conductor surprised on birthday by youth orchestra
Conductor surprised on birthday by youth orchestra. Picture: NYO-USA

By Kyle Macdonald

This orchestral conductor was expecting to lead a Britten concerto, but instead got an expertly delivered birthday surprise from a host of young musicians.

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Birthdays are a time to have a little fun, and to shine a playful light on the person celebrating a special day – and musicians know how to do it as well as anyone.

It’s just what happened to American conductor David Robertson, who perhaps was hoping to keep his birthday quiet during a full day of orchestral rehearsals with the talented (and ever so slightly mischievous) young musicians of the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America, NYO-USA.

They were supposed to be rehearsing Britten’s Violin Concerto with star violin soloist Gil Shaham. However, on this occasion, music stands were equipped with another piece of sheet music, an arrangement in which the Britten quickly morphs into another piece of music altogether.

And of course, all was unknown to the person holding the baton at the front of the orchestra.

Watch below as the conductor is lovingly trolled – from the initial confusion to the slightly embarrassed realization as ‘Happy Brithday’ rings out in his honour.

National Youth Orchestra USA surprises conductor with birthday treat

Read more: The Berlin Phil hoped to prank a soloist with the wrong concerto... but it didn’t go to plan

There have been a few similar times when music directors have been surprised by performers. Once Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony elegantly transitioned into a triumphant ‘Happy Birthday’ in honour of British conductor Sir Roger Norrington.

On another occasion, Sir Andrew Davis was surprised by Toronto Symphony Orchestra when they ignored his cue during a concert, instead resounding an elaborate rendition of the famous chorus.

Orchestras pranking their conductors on their birthdays | Classic FM

David Robertson was pranked too, thanks to these talented young instrumentalists.

Because it‘s a birthday, there were candles, cake, and a round of applause afterwards – and you can tell by the smile on his face, he was a little caught out, and also absolutely chuffed!