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.

Laurence Padfield, Photo: Ben Tomlin

9 November 2020

NYCGB Fellow Laurence Padfield on singing together with NYCGB Fellowship for the first time since March

On a bright Saturday in the middle of October the NYCGB Fellowship reassembled in person for the first time since March, outside of Love Electric Studios in North London. After a brief, distanced catch-up and a few comments about who had the most stylish face mask (Artistic Director Ben Parry won this prize with a colourful, Aztec-patterned number), we were in the studio and singing again. For some of us, this was the first time that we had sung in the same room as other people for over half a year!

We were spaced out around the studio in a large semi-circle, each 2 metres apart and separated by clear screens. Despite being in the same room, we still needed to use headphones to hear each other, compensating for the distance between us. Armed with colourful face masks, copious amounts of hand sanitiser and bananas, we were ready for a busy day of recording.

We had the pleasure of recording music composed by the NYCGB Young Composers, which we had looked at with them online during the summer. The Young Composers were also present for the recording sessions and were on hand to offer their thoughts and guidance.

Beginning with Joe’s Now Is A Long Time, we got to work. Joe’s own text reflects upon the passing of time whilst he was confined to his bed for months, following an accident. Once we’d had a sing through the work, and had finely tuned our microtones, we began recording. The process itself was relatively straightforward; we made our way through the piece, recording multiple takes of each section until Ben, Joe and the rest of us were happy with it.

Next up was Nathan’s Morals + Interludes. This composition is made of five movements, each inspired by a ‘virtual memory’ provided by a fellow. The individual movements vary greatly in tone and intent, but are all entirely sincere. Despite a couple of interruptions from a jack hammer and a wailing siren, we recorded the entire composition in good time and broke for lunch.

All fed and watered, we moved to Lisa’s to tell it like it is. Lisa’s composition uses quotes from different articles addressing global warming and climate change. The entire piece is tied together with the imitation of the Kauai ‘O’ o, a bird pushed to extinction in 1989 due to human activity, and repeated ‘ticks’ and ‘tocks’, indicating the time pressure we are under to save the planet before it is too late. We were able to record some of this piece as individual cells and phrases, which would be repeated throughout the piece, such as percussive ‘ticks’, ‘tocks’, and chest thumps.

Finally, we began recording Amy’s work, A Strange Time and Place. Amy set her own text; a positive reflection on the current extraordinary times we are living in. The piece was, rhythmically, very free, which enabled us to break down and record the entire piece in cells and short phrases, before piecing it back together in post-production. A Strange Time and Place explores the extremities of some of the voices’ ranges, much to tenors’ delight, through lilting, folk-like melodies.

At the end of the 7-hour session, it’s safe to say that we were all exhausted, and not at all envious of Ben who was staying on in the studio to begin the post-production process. It has been such a wonderful experience to see how the compositions have evolved since we first virtually workshopped them during the summer. We all feel that we have truly collaborated with the Young Composers in bringing these works to life and are so excited to perform more of the composers works at Snape Maltings in November.

The NYCGB Fellowship Programme is supported by Principal Programme Supporter ABRSM with additional generous support from the Ofenheim Trust, and by programme partners Making Music and AOTOS (Association of Teachers of Singing).