Author: Suse Coon

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Friday, March 14th, 2014 at 3:05 pm
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Young Singers Scoop National Prize

Edinburgh Academy’s Senior School Chamber Choir won first place in the Barnardo’s National Choir Competition 2014, the final of which took place on Monday, 3 March 2014 at London’s prestigious Barbican Centre. Seven choirs made it to the final, from a competition entry of over 100.

As one of the winning choirs, they have now been invited to perform at the Barnardo’s Young Supporters’ Concert on July 3 2014 at the Royal Albert Hall, London.

The Edinburgh Academy Senior School Chamber Choir comprises around 40 singers, in four parts, and is led by Mr Angus Tully, Assistant Director of Music. In 2011 they also distinguished themselves by winning the BBC Songs of Praise Choir of the Year Competition.

Angus told us about the exciting day:

“40 pupils accompanied by 5 staff left the Waverley at an all too early 6.55a.m. With nothing being left to chance, even talking on the journey down was to be kept to an absolute minimum… no use wasting our voices traveling down the East coast mainline! Arrival at Kings Cross, collect lunch and on to the coach to The Barbican Centre. It was the first visit to the Barbican for most of the choir and staff. Some ‘downtime’ followed with an opportunity to hear some of the other choirs before an official photograph was taken and we headed to our warm-up room. After a final rehearsal of a few bars and a few words of encouragement, we then walked on stage.

“The Barbican has a great accoustic if you happen to be in any of the 2000 seats in the audience. This, however, is not remotely the case if you are on stage. The choir members could only hear the people on either side of or behind them and it’s a most unnerving experience for singers, who rely on hearing what everyone else is doing. It would be the same for all choirs of course, but makes the task no less difficult, especially as the first time you encounter the space is for the performance on which you are judged.

“The choir sang two pieces: “Jubilate Deo” by William Walton and “Nothin’ gonna stumble my feet” by Greg Gilpin, which is in the Negro-Spiritual style. A Supporters’ concert followed, where all choirs sang one piece ( a repeat of their competition pieces or something else), while the competition adjudication was being made.

“Prior to our going on stage in the evening, I was asked by the Head Events organiser to select two pupils to stay backstage after we had sung. It occurred to me that this could be quite good news, though best to assume that some of our pupils might be handing out raffle prizes or awarding the judges with flowers…. Fortunately, neither turned out to be the case, and the Runners’ up prize was awarded to Lincoln Minster Chamber Choir with our two pupils, Emily Russell and Angus Macnaughton still waiting in the wings. This could only mean one thing. Edinburgh Academy Chamber Choir were announced winners of the competition, no less impressive too, when one considers that it was our very first time in this competition, competing against former winners and some very fine other choral outfits.

The news was of genuine surprise, and it was particularly pleasing to see how our older pupils were so emotionally charged by the news. No fewer than 32 pupils were new to the choir since our the last win in the Songs of Praise competition. The judges commented on our “excellent rhythm”, “a very mature sounding choir with a good choral technique” and “complete understanding of the music”.

Perhaps the memory I shall take from the day, was the large number of parents, relatives and friends who made the special effort to be in the audience. It is a comforting thought if you know that there are supporters rooting just for you. It’s made all the better when they can share and celebrate in a win, too. Another performance in the Royal Albert Hall beckons, but in the meantime, I’d like to thank Cate Bannatyne, Anne Russell and Fiona Penman for their assistance and, of course, the wonderful and ever supportive Philip Coad for his role in accompanying us on perhaps the world’s largest Steinway piano!

The competition judging panel was chaired by Douglas Coombes MBE composer, conductor and music consultant of the BBC Songs of Praise school choir competition. He has also offered to write a song for the two winning choirs.

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