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.

Photo: Ben Tomlin

Monday 30 August 2021


2021 Fellow Michael McCartan describes the latest phase of the Fellowship programme as 'a whirlwind of workshops, learning and engagement opportunities and many, many lateral flow tests'. Read on to find out all about the last few months' activity.

The exploration phase of the Fellowship Programme has been a special and informative time. We have been exploring in every sense of the word - exploring ourselves musically and professionally, exploring the arts sector on the mend from Covid-19 restrictions and exploring ways in which to adapt and create in this altered environment. It has been a whirlwind of workshops, learning and engagement opportunities, a week spent in Banbury with the National Youth Choir of Great Britain and many, many lateral flow tests.

In June we met with members of the National Youth Choir for the first time in person as part of our conducting workshop with guest conductor Esther Jones. This was an incredibly instructive experience and an opportunity to get feedback on my conducting. I gained knowledge not only from Esther but from the other Fellows and Youth Choir singers who all brought something different to the podium. Following this, as part of NYCGB’s Ready Steady Sing workshops, I joined two past Fellows in a full day of learning through song; merging three generations of the Fellowship Programme to bring a shared love of music to the children at the session. This event stands out for me as being representative of NYCGB as an organisation that encourages growth, learning and an appreciation of choral music for everyone.

National Youth Choir Project 5 brought the Fellows to Banbury where we had a busy week of activities which included singing and improvisation workshops with The Swingles, healthy singing habits with voice coach Nicki Kennedy and a performance at the Royal Albert Hall. Joining the National Youth Choir in their performance of David Arnold’s ‘A Circle of Sound’, was commissioned as part of Royal Albert Hall’s 150th anniversary concert, and was my first time in the venue. It was an emotional experience getting to perform in this space with an orchestra and one that I will carry with me. We finished the concert with the closing movement ‘River of Light’ which promotes a message of optimism for the journey ahead — a sentiment I will try to embody as I navigate the years ahead as a musician.

During our time in Banbury, the Fellows helped to prepare the choir for the recording session at the end of the week through warm-ups and rehearsals. After four days of constant heat and sunshine, rehearsing ‘Jingle Bells’ with the choir was quite a welcome surprise to cool down the system! Another welcome surprise was witnessing in person how the choir functions and seeing how talented these young singers are. When rehearsing the choir, it struck me that there is a real sense of community between the singers where questions are welcomed and advice is freely shared.

If I could summarise the National Youth Choir Project 5 experience in one word it would be ‘warm.’Most definitely in regards to the heatwave temperatures but also to the reception myself and the other Fellows received from the choir and staff. As I finish this blog, I am preparing to head over to Reading for the National Youth Girls’ Choir course which I am sure will be another week of learning and growth.