Schools Prom 2014 – Inspiring Young Futures
Each year more than 3,000 musicians take to the stage at the Royal Albert Hall for three nights of amazing music at the School Proms event organised by Music For Youth. Spotlighting the stars of tomorrow, the concerts provided a mix of classical, folk, indie and urban music, a massed ensemble of 400-600 people each evening, and an explosive finish in three concerts that had been carefully curated to create three unique nights of themed music: Metamorphosis, Freedom and Words.
SfP tutor Imelda Shirley conducted a massed choir performance of a commissioned work at the Prom. A donation from Sing for Pleasure enabled the choirs, from Greater Manchester, to attend the event. Imelda shares her experiences of this wonderfully inspiring event.
Early morning on Tuesday 11th November 2014 several coaches left from nine different regions of Greater Manchester and headed to the Royal Albert Hall. This was the day nearly 600 children and young people had been waiting for, a day that would be remembered in their hearts and minds for a lifetime. These young singers and musicians were part of the Greater Manchester Music Hub which had been selected to give a large scale ensemble performance in this year’s Schools Prom series. The GM Music Hub presented a spectacular ‘massed choir’ and jazz orchestra performance of a new composition by Ed Puddick – Secret Music– a setting of the poem by Siegfried Sassoon, a fitting and respectful commemoration for the centenary year of WW1.
Secret Music features a Ragtime style which coincides with the period at the start of the war, and, in the third section, echoes of Jazz, which were emerging by the end of 1918. These musical features were to develop into the strong swing rhythms of the big bands, popular during the war time era. Sassoon’s words at the end of the piece tells us that even amidst this hell of war, “music dawned above despair.” This through-composed piece lasts for 13 minutes and offers many vocal challenges for the singers; not least some dissonant 2-part work, angular melodies and some tricky rhythms contrasted with longer phrases, requiring good choral technique.
The children were involved in some extensive rehearsals from early September and I had the great privilege of visiting each choir, all of whom worked exceptionally hard to ensure the notes were learned and the words were memorised! Indeed it was these visits which made me realise just how many of the teachers and choir leaders who had strong connections to Sing for Pleasure. Many had been on our courses and were now working very hard towards ensuring that their young singers would sing with confidence and pride at the Royal Albert Hall. These SfP trained conductors included Michael Betteridge, who is a graduate from our Young Conductor programme; Rachel Hughes, Carrie Morrow, Dinah Hypolite, Margaret Curzon and Fran Pearson. In addition, Jill Henderson-Wild, one of SfP’s most experienced Conductor Tutors was also involved; with her 70-strong Stockport Junior Voices.
Sing for Pleasure has a strong partnership of the Greater Manchester Music Hub, which comprises nine music services (Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Wigan) working together with other organisations to secure the best musical opportunities for all children across the region. The GM Jazz Youth Orchestra is one of a number of newly created flagship ensembles; the Massed Children’s Choir was drawn from music service and primary school choirs across the Hub. It was an exciting and exhilarating moment when all the choirs came together for the very first time for a massed rehearsal. After an energetic and fun warm-up we were ready to go! How thrilling to hear all these young voices sing so beautifully and with confidence! The concentration and diligence throughout the rehearsal was amazing; this was the first massed-choral experience for most of these young singers.
When we finally rehearsed with the Jazz Orchestra, it was electric! Ed Puddick, the composer was all smiles and was impressed by the diligence of the children. This was such a success – we were buzzing! If this was the rehearsal, what was it going to be like three days later? The Royal Albert Hall…here we come! Finally, the day had arrived and everyone arrived safely and on time to that very special venue, full of energy and raring to go! The children had a chance to see other groups rehearse before our technical rehearsal. The Music for Youth staff were amazing. Nothing was too much trouble.
Suddenly, the amazing lighting and fabulous sound technicians were able to work their magic to enhance our performance to the next level. The lights went down and the music from the Jazz Orchestra began. Every single young singer gave their all and sang as a wonderful huge choir, engaging and captivating the audience with a simply stunning performance of this inspirational music. It was such a privilege and honour to have had this once in a lifetime experience. I will never forget it and I know I won’t be the only one!
A special thanks to all the choirs who took part: Bolton Junior Youth Choir, St. Saviour’s CE Primary School Choir (Bolton), Christ Church CE Primary School Choir (Bury), Oldham Junior Choir Vocal Recall (Oldham), Oldham Girls’ Choir, Rochdale Girls’ Choir, Middleton Parish CE Choir (Rochdale), Salford Singing Squad, Stockport Junior Voices, Manor Green Primary School Choir (Tameside), Trafford Youth Choir, Altrincham Youth Choir (Trafford), Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School Choir (Wigan) and Wigan Junior Youth Choir.