Youth orchestra releases ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ for NHS and key workers

Musicians from Bristol Youth Orchestra have released a stunning version of ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ as a way to thank NHS staff and key workers for their ongoing hard work throughout the covid-19 pandemic.

The piece, which was made famous by 1939’s The Wizard of Oz, was performed by 60 BYO musicians and recorded in their homes throughout lockdown.

Bristol Youth Orchestra is the city’s flagship instrumental ensemble, featuring over 70 of the most talented young musicians in Bristol and facilitated by Bristol Plays Music.

Run by Bristol Music Trust, the charity that also runs Colston Hall, Bristol Plays Music facilitates music education for over 10 000 students in Bristol’s schools.

Phil Castang, Director of Creative Learning and Engagement at Bristol Plays Music said:

“Somewhere Over the Rainbow symbolises hope of better times after difficulty. The brilliant BYO musicians wanted to make a virtual performance of the piece, and dedicate it all the key workers including everyone working in the NHS, to say thank you for all their efforts, helping the country through.”

The individual musician’s recordings were pieced together by Nathan Jones to create the incredible full version.

Castang continued:

“It’s been wonderful to see our musicians and teachers adapt through lockdown and continue making beautiful music online. Music was such an important part of lockdown and gave solace to so many at such a difficult and isolating time. This performance captures that lockdown spirit and reminds us of the benefits of giving children access to music making.”

Hannah Killick, a Viola player in the Bristol Youth Orchestra added:

“I really enjoyed recording ‘Over the Rainbow’ during lockdown. It motivated me to keep playing and helped me to feel more connected to everyone in the orchestra. I wanted to give something back to the key workers who have all worked so hard during this difficult time so I really hope that this performance is enjoyed by them and the primary school pupils. I think all young people should have the opportunity to play a musical instrument.”

Miriam Alsop, a Cellist in BYO, also said:

“Through the lockdown period, it has been important to continue sharing music, and I enjoyed playing this song which has become so linked with the NHS and other key workers. We are all looking forward to being able to play together again soon.”

Bristol Plays Music normally facilitates music education to over 10 000 young people across Bristol, but due to Covid-19 this was severely disrupted. Instead, the organisation took music lessons online, and opened its Virtual Academy. Tutors provided 20 and 30-minute music lessons via video call to new and existing students, seeing hundreds of students take part in the programme.

BPM also provided free lessons for NHS and key workers.

“It was important to give something back,” said Castang. “We encourage parents to start their lessons again, now that children are returning to school and our music centres are reopening again for choirs, orchestras and ensembles.”

To learn more about Bristol Plays Music, the Virtual Academy and other programming, please visit or follow @bpmbristol on Twitter or @BristolPlaysMusic on Facebook and Instagram.

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