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.

Headshot of Sarina, a south asian woman with long dark hair

Photo credit: Ben Tomlin

This year with the fellowship has been WILD! The variety of opportunities we have been offered have been instrumental in shaping the beginning of my career as a musician. Read on to see what me and my cohort of fellows and composers have been up to.

Going back in time to January, we began the fellowship with the Showcase at the gothic Voces 8 centre; the baton passing from the last cohort of fellows to this one. This was an opportunity to hear the flexible fellowship ensemble and have a chilled chat about their programme. We also came together and sang David Bednall’s Alleluia conducted by Joanna Tomlinson which was a lovely way to conclude the previous fellowship and begin ours.

Selfie of about 15 of the National Youth Choir team and singers with Sarina in the foreground

Moving in to spring, we took part in intensive dance rehearsals (not dancercise, actual choreography) and singing in Rickmansworth in preparation for National Youth Choir's 40th anniversary at The Royal Albert Hall. This week was a little taster for life in the National Youth Choir and as someone who came from outside the organisation, there were a couple of traditions that stood out. Firstly, BONG, the news – a National Youth Choir tradition that spans back a generation which is essentially the 'gossip girl' of National Youth Choir. Secondly, the five-minute rule, which when you think about it, is really the ten-minute rule as you need five minutes to get to where you’re going. And lastly, pink Wednesdays stemming from the classic chick flick, Mean Girls, everyone wears pink on Wednesdays, a tradition I whole-heartedly support.

In summer, our cohort of fellows were given the opportunity to integrate with the choral conducting students at The Royal Academy of Music and received coaching from Patrick Russel and Esther Jones. We started this day by singing for the students (enough aleatoric music for my lifetime) and then received conducting advice on our own arm waving which was very helpful (note to self: revisit my third beat…).

The summer courses were in full swing by July and although The Swingles’ concert at Snape Maltings was an exciting endeavour, it was also Ben Parry’s final concert with the National Youth Choir (big fat sob). Then came 10th August 2023 – Audition Day. This day felt like an intensive back-to-back Netflix binge except these episodes were replaced with auditions from some of the most talented conductors up and down the country and the comfort of your duvet replaced with a sweltering room. Congratulations to all conductors and singers involved in what was a very rewarding day.

Group shot of the 9 Young Composers and Fellows

Group shot of 2023 Young Composers and Fellows. From left to right: Alex Tay, Emily Hazrati, Will Harmer, Millicent James, Sarina Rattan, Chris O'Leary, Antonio Oliveira and Emily Varney

More recent excursions took this year’s cohort of fellows and composers to the School Farm Studios in Essex. We recorded the composer’s pieces written for the fellows in this beautifully rustic studio with NMC recordings and conducted by Ben Parry. These pieces were distinctive in their own style and were each so fun to record. I’d like to take a moment to thank the composers for producing such wonderful music for us to sing. I speak for us fellows when I say you are the yin to our yang!

Action shot of Sarina, a south asian woman with long dark hair, singing in a recording studio with a headset

The cherry on top of a wonderful fellowship year has to be singing backup for Mel C (AKA Sporty Spice!) and Samantha Barks (AKA Éponine from Les Misérables) at the Royal Variety Show last week. Performing alongside members from National Youth Choir (18-25 Years) was an unforgettable experience. From singing backup for Melanie and Samantha to watching Cher and Hannah Waddingham have their sound checks, last week was a series of crazy pinch me moments.

Blue lit stage with the word

Thank you to National Youth Choir for giving me a plethora of opportunities this year. I am looking forward to the showcase in 2024!