Spring Course and Concert 2014

To think this time last week I was sat in a rehearsal room practicing music that I was going to have to sing from memory on the Saturday. The Yorkshire Youth Choir Spring Course went by in a flash however I can say that it was just as brilliant as always, if not more so.

When I arrived on Monday, I think I was one of the first ones to arrive. The usual stuff happened. Name badges were given out. Concert dress was collected. Music was seen for the first time. However one thing that was very different about this course was the number of new people who had joined. There must have been at least 20, and the majority of whom were new trebles, which was brilliant (as, when I first joined, there were literally 8 trebles). Another major difference about this course was the number of mentors. YYC has a mentor system where older members of the choir who have been around for a while take younger members under their wing and make sure that they are enjoying the course and that they aren't feeling homesick or like they are unable to make friends. Normally the courses have about 10 mentors, however this time there were 16! This meant that, as well as the jobs being spread between such a large group (allowing each mentor to focus on one job), the mentors had extremely small mentor groups of 3 or 4 people. I found that this allowed me to get to know my mentees (yes, that is a word) a lot better than before, as there were fewer people.

The repertoire for the course was an amazing range as always, varying from 'How Lovely are thy Dwellings' from A German Requiem by Brahms (performed in English as Brahms believed that the people of the country the Requiem was performed in should be able to understand it) to a medley of songs written by the Beatles. My personal favourite this course was the piece written by our very own accompanist Paul Feehan. The piece is part of his own Requiem, which we have previously performed a piece from in the past. In addition to these pieces, the choirs sang Vida la Vida, Wonderful World, Laudate Dominum (written by John, our conductor), Blue Moon, Ave Maria, While the Tanks Roll By, Diamonds are Forever, And So It Goes and Fix You among others.

The course itself was brilliant. Queen Ethelburgas is always amazing and the staff are helpful and friendly (and provided Easter eggs!). The space we were provided with allowed us to have great social events, ranging from the disco on the Tuesday night to a quiz in Muggles (QE's activity centre) on the Wednesday. One new event that occurred this course was the Easter Egg hunt, which involved all members of the choir from the youngest treble to the oldest bass (I am looking at you here Mr Walsh) exploring the Queen Ethelburgas campus trying to find as many Easter eggs as possible. Disappointingly, the older guys did not win and lost out on their chance to get a free pass to the front of the dinner queue. The two events that I thought stood out throughout the week were the Pizza Night (for obvious reasons) and the Talent Night that takes place in the Theatre on Thursday night. Talent Night allows members of the choir to show off their talents to their friends at YYC and probably shows the friendly atmosphere of YYC better than anything else, as everyone supports you no matter what you are doing. Acts ranged from new treble Henry Pepper break dancing (following Talent Night host Henry Smith's failed attempt at doing the worm) to Caroline Thornham and Nathaniel Laydon singing a duet of 'The Water'. The mentors and carers all showed off their acting abilities, with the carers performing 'The Carers Panto' of Cinderella and the mentors performing/improvising a shortened and comical version of 'Les Miserables' (nice!). The night was finished with the YYC Panto, which was 'Romeo and Juliet', staring Andrew Featherstone as Romeo, Bertie Yates as Juliet and Dominic Madden as whoever he felt like being at the time (in Doms own words, he may have twisted Shakespeare a little too far). The panto was hilarious and everyone including those involved and those in the audience seemed to have a brilliant time.

The concert came on Saturday night and, after 9 courses (including the Mallorca tour of 2012), I can definitely say that it was by far one of the best concerts we have ever had during my time. The show started brilliantly with 'I am but a Small Voice' and the first half ended with 'Fix You', in which unfortunately a member of the choir who had been ill throughout the week fainted. However the entire choir carried on very professionally and allowed first aiders to get to the member as quickly as possible. This member was not hurt due to the help of the fantastic carers and first aiders in the audience. The second half began with 'Wonderful World' and ended with an encore of 'Hey Jude' from the Beatles Medley, for which we got a standing ovation and managed to get the entire audience waving and singing along. Everyone left the stage with a massive amount of energy in them, with quite a few people saying that they didn't want to get off the stage and wanted to keep going.

This of course brought us to the worst part of the week. The bit where we return to the real world. Everyone said goodbye to one another, found out who was going to the next course, found out who was leaving forever. It's sad to see people go but I think that the experience YYC gives us will last forever and it is always great to see the ex members in the crowd supporting us and occasionally joining in with the songs they know. And of course when we get home everyone is normally attached to Facebook for the next 3 days uploading videos and pictures from the week and talking about the great time they had during the course.

YYC lost it's grant last year. This has been a serious hindrance for the choir and has meant that if not for sponsors and donations, the choir may have to split up once and for all. This would be terrible. YYC has helped so many young musicians over the last 12 years and as a mentor I know that I've seen people grow so much over the course of the week, developing from very shy kids to a member of the YYC family. Fortunately, many people who are in the choir have been doing fundraising events to raise money to keep the choir going. Sarah Moriarty (a 1st soprano and mentor within the choir) organized a carol singing event in Leeds near Christmas, which managed to raise £80.64. The Berry family (comprised of Hannah and Emily plus their parents) raised £400 through their raffle at their annual pantomime. Myself and fellow bass Aidan Cosmini also did a sponsored run, raising around £677 in sponsorship money to run the Bradford 10k that took place in March. Sorrel Briggs ran a raffle during the Easter course this year, although I am not sure how much money was raised during that. Rhian Cairns and myself also had the opportunity on the course to speak on Radio Leeds about the choir, which has helped to raise awareness about the choirs performances, need for money and the general attitude during the courses, which should hopefully pull in some more sponsors. You too can help keep the choir going by simply donating £10 a month to the choir through the 100 Club. This donation will not only help sustain the choir but also gives you the chance to win £500 each quarter. The link is in the brackets (https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B__2KmY4OPhAVXpNc25LaU92Vjg/edit).

To finish, I would like to thank every single member of the choir for being like a family to me and for making the Easter course so enjoyable (special shout out to everyone who raised money or sponsored Aidan and myself), the Offord family (Katherine, Brian and Emma) for being so supportive of the choir and making sure that everyone is well during the course, Liz Wilde and Anne Thompson for organizing the course and John Pryce-Jones, Alison Pryce-Jones and Paul Feehan for getting the choir to such an amazing standard over the course of just two weeks a year (and of course for John's many accents that are both educational and amusing). I am so excited for the next course already and I cannot wait for Summer to come.

Written by Jake Adams


Popular Posts