Easter Course 2017

We are all back home now after another wonderful course at Queen Ethelburga's school in York. I know I say it every course, but this one really was the best one so far.


This Summer we are going on tour to Poland to celebrate our 15th anniversary where we shall perform the same repertoire that we learned this Easter. Some of our songs were chosen with this in mind, for example,

  • Bogoroditse Devo (Rachmaninoff), which shall wow the audiences in the beautiful acoustics of the Polish cathedrals.

  • God is Gone Up (Finzi), to make the most of having access to an organ.

With such an amazing selection of songs, choosing a favourite is a practically impossible task. Instead I shall give a top 5;

Baba Yetu - This song featured the two beautiful soloists Matthew Wilson and Bertie Yates. It is an arrangement of the Lord’s Prayer in Swahili that can only be described as an absolute outpouring of joy. It is very difficult not to be swept up in the elation of the song, especially since Alison conducts it with so much passion. We frequently sang this in the common room and the lunch queue because when you are at choir camp, singing 9.30am-8.30pm in rehearsals is simply not enough!

Fix you & Carrickfergus - For many of us these songs were emotional high points of the week. A lot of the choir are preparing to move on after Poland because we are getting too old to be classed as ‘youth’ and the words we sing in these songs perfectly sum up our feelings about YYC e.g. ‘My Childhood days bring sad reflections of happy times spent so long ago’ (Carrickfergus) or ‘Tears stream down your face when you lose something you cannot replace’ (Fix You).  

Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree - This was the debut performance of Bertie Yates, our multi-talented tenor, as a conductor for the intermediate group (formerly Paul’s group/Emma’s group). This upbeat number was a wonderful change in pace, it put a smile on everyone’s face and featured some great choreography.

Holding Out for a Hero - This was Paul Ayer’s very difficult arrangement of the song featured in Shrek 2. Our hard work paid off and it was so rewarding to hear all the parts coming together to leave the audience blown away by our performance. A snippet of the song can be heard on our facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/yorkshireyouthchoir/videos/vb.1500432206916442/1697387747220886/?type=2&theater&notif_t=like&notif_id=1492336738504128)

Musical Development

This course we had the usual sessions where we split into groups based on ability and worked on our sight reading and aural. This helps us to improve our confidence in our own singing so we can get through the music of the week faster, then we can have a better sounding concert and attempt more difficult pieces. It also helps us outside of the choir for any musical exams we may be coming up to taking.

In addition, with the range of languages we attempted to sing in this course; Russian, French, Hebrew, Latin and English, we really had to focus on our sound and pronunciation. Cantique de Jean Racine (Faure) was particularly challenging for the seniors. However, we are lucky enough to have a few language experts in our midst who could help coach the rest of us through our vowel sounds to make sure the piece sounded as good as it possibly could.

Talent Night

As is YYC tradition we held our talent night on the fourth evening of the course, this year the comedic duo of Matthew Rhodes and Matthew Wilson acted as our hosts. This show is not a competition, it is just a chance to share our talents with our friends and have some fun. There were so many wonderful acts. To name a few, Oran’s moving performance of empty chairs and empty tables, Leona (aged 10) showing us all how she got a distinction in her grade 4 violin exam, Rastrick Chamber Choir singing And So It Goes together one last time and the YYC Kids On The Block which featured dancing to both the Backstreet Boys and the Spice Girls.

Talent night is always a chance for us to come together to support each other, cheer each other on, share the love and have a good laugh. It was, as usual, a highlight of the week.


Each course we have a guest tutor come to work with us in order to help us with skills which shall complement our singing. In the past we have had the wonderful Paul Whittaker, who taught us sign language to accompany our singing, Owen Farrow who helped us with our performance technique and many more. This course Kath Nisbet joined us to help us work on our Pilates, this was aimed to help us maintain a good posture and help with our breathing.

In our sessions we worked on being able to identify various aspects of our breathing system and learning which exercises will help to exercise and warm up the relevant muscles. A video can be found of our facebook page of our diaphragm warm up (https://www.facebook.com/pg/yorkshireyouthchoir/videos/?ref=page_internal).

The sessions also featured a funny race in teams to help improve our pelvic floors, the catch was that we were all sat down. We were required to walk on our sit-bones. Not only did this help us to become more aware of relevant areas of our bodies when we are working on our posture but also it was quite a good workout!

John carried on our posture education throughout the week by encouraging us to think of our ‘happy spines’ and to stand ‘proud’. We were also given an anatomy lesson on vertebrae and the water filled disks in the back, this lead to a ‘swishy-swashy’ sway being added to morning warm up.

Concert Emotions

The concert, in my biased opinion, sounded spectacular. It proved to be an overwhelmingly emotional affair. As we walked off stage to the anthem of Change In MyLlife, whilst accompanied by all the ex-members who were in the audience, the longing to stay at the residential for another week or longer became too much and lead to much crying.

This course we had quite a problem with hay fever amongst the choir which lead to many people being under the weather or losing their voices throughout the week, but as always, the adrenaline of the concert restored us all briefly to perfect health so we could wow the audience with all of our hard work and get a standing ovation to bring the week to a close.


The songs, musical development, social events, Pilates session and concert all made the course great but what makes YYC so special is our mantra of respect. This has always been so important to us, we respect our accommodation, the facilities we are given to use and all the team who are there to help us through the week. Most importantly though, we really respect each other. YYC is a safe space where every member is valued, loved and not judged for their background, interests or differences. Our love of singing unites us and our mutual respect gives us the indescribable feeling of knowing that from the moment we join the choir we shall never walk alone.

This is why we say we are like one big family.

This is why it is so difficult for us to go home at the end of the week.

But really we know we aren’t really going home or moving on, our hearts will always be together singing in Queen Ethelburga's even if we are not physically together.

Even after we leave we know that our choir family are ready waiting to welcome us back with open arms and respect.

Thank you to all the members and the team who made this course possible!


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