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.

8 November 2019

From coming up with quirky ice-breakers (what kind of fruit or vegetable would you be and why?) to disentangling challenging repertoire, NYCGB's Fellowship had a jam-packed day at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts as they prepared for the National Youth Choir's 'Discovery weekend'. Loren Kell tells all.

For the second time ever, the 5th Fellowship of NYCGB assembled – this time, for our ‘continued professional development’ (CPD) morning. Our location was the marvellous Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, a state-of-the-art building that opened in Peckham only a year ago.

Our CPD training was strategically placed directly before the National Youth Choir’s Discovery Weekend (Project One of this year’s annual programme). This project promised to deliver a jam-packed schedule of vocal health presentations and various musical workshops (including both Indian raga and gospel music), as well as, significantly, the recordings of each of the pieces written specifically for the choir by our four Young Composers: Lillie, Shruthi, Harry and Joanna. The opportunity for the fellows to meet before the project began therefore gave us a few hours to prepare ourselves for the challenges of the weekend, and to settle any nerves!

After orientating ourselves around the building and the assigned section rooms, we all got to work going through each of the four pieces. Some of us had known the pieces since we workshopped them during the summer course a month before, and others had known them since the fellowship welcome day only a week before. For those of us who had seen them in the summer, it was fascinating to observe how the pieces had evolved since the workshops, when the composers heard them sung by the choir for the first time. Each of the pieces, drawn from the theme of ‘discovery’, presented their own challenges throughout the 8 parts but, with the help of Ben Parry, we managed to disentangle sufficiently the fiddliest corners.

The discovery weekend provided the first opportunity for this year’s National Youth Choir to meet, and especially within the stratification of the different voice parts. With this in mind, we then discussed how to approach breaking the ice in our first sectionals in order to get the members to know each other better. Milette (alto 2) suggested ‘Two Truths and One Lie’ (where each section member individually presents three statements about themselves from those categories, and the rest of the group decides which of them is the lie). Other suggestions included going around the section with each member declaring which fruit or vegetable they would be, and why (with bonus points for describing a delicious recipe that involves said fruit/vegetable).

With only a short while before the new members of this year’s main choir arrived, we grabbed some lunch, and prepared to embark on our first ever NYCGB course as the Fellowship of 2019/20.

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).