Launched in 2015, the National Youth Choir Fellowship Programme aims to create the most highly skilled and multi-talented choral singers in the UK. Each year, 4 singers aged 22-25 are selected from an intensive three round audition process to benefit from a comprehensive, remunerated training programme which develops outstanding skills in performance, education and leadership.

The 2018-19 Fellows, lion around.

Meeting, gelling, jamming: Fellowship 4 assemble!

At the end of September, the fourth NYCGB Fellowship octet met in London for their induction weekend. Following intros and a healthy dose of admin it was time to learn new skills for leading younger singers in scheduled activities over the Fellowship programme year. And there was a welcome opportunity to start exploring repertoire and blend as a group, as Gabriella Noble explains:

A friend once asked me how often I have a musical jam, as someone involved primarily in classical music. I am happy to say after this weekend that I’m a jammer, and intend to jam regularly and often! Anyone who has experienced a Greg Beardsell workshop will understand how infectious creating a spontaneous mash-up can be - on the Saturday we layered ostinatos from seemingly disparate genres on top of each other (think Mozart’s ‘Lacrimosa’ and Adele’s ‘Hello’) on top of mouth beats (after a beatboxing crash course) to create joyfully sour harmonies and an addictive groove. The music-making was accompanied by some uninhibited moves and a hugely positive energy, led by Greg. When we had tired ourselves out enough we covered some more serene sacred repertoire in our conducting workshop, which was a useful opportunity to apply feedback as soon as it was given, immediately experiencing the effect of gesture on responsive singers. After a thankfully short photo-shoot, we went home feeling excited, practicing our beats, and tapping our toes.

Sunday morning’s musicianship session with Esther Jones not only explored exciting methods for teaching musicianship but forced me to reflect on my own musicianship, and how I could improve my toolkit for sight-reading and understanding harmony. Esther introduced us to the ‘magic’ pattern - a sung ascending scale where each degree of the scale is followed by a ‘tail’ (a sequence of notes back down or up to the tonic). The aim of learning this pattern (and eventually being able to isolate any degree of the scale by remembering the sound of its ‘tail’) is to encourage a familiarity with the character of the diatonic scale degrees, to facilitate better sight-reading, tuning, and awareness of where each singer is in the harmony of a piece. I was among a few in the group whose musicianship had developed in a largely unguided process of trial and error, and it struck me that the directed exploration of harmony and intervals that Esther introduced to us could boost the progress of young musicians and give them techniques to fall back upon in moments a pressure. I am really looking forward to seeing this in action on the NYCGB courses and to getting to grips with the techniques myself, solidifying methods I might have approximated throughout my musical life.

While we are all aching to explore our group sound by the time we started on our repertoire on the Sunday afternoon, I am glad we waited until after the workshops as they had broken the ice and taken us out of our comfort zone. The results were promising, as we all offered up musical suggestions in a sing-through led by Ben Parry. I think it was fairly audible that many of the group had sung together as we were soon achieving a decent blend and listening to each other. The repertoire we sung through was diverse and included Toby Young’s joyful ‘Kelele’, encouraging us to explore widely as we search for new repertoire. Although it will be a while until we meet again, we have the beloved admin platform ‘Slack’ on which to bounce ideas around! Following Ailsa’s lovely arrangement of a Flanders and Swann song which we sung through on the Saturday, Sam has been penning some arrangements which we are all looking forward to singing soon. Until next time!