Ben Inman deputised for the 2015-16 Fellowship when they helped launch NYCGB's partnership with Nottinghamshire Music Hub in May. Six months later, he returned as a full member of the 2016-17 octet... 


The partnership between NYCGB and Nottinghamshire Music Hub was launched in May with a performance by local school students and the 2015-16 Fellowship octet at the Royal Concert Hall. I actually took part in this event as a deputy, and it felt as though I had only been away for a short while. Six months on, it was inspiring to see once again how vibrant the arts are in Nottingham, and despite the RCH staff’s hugely busy schedule amidst dress rehearsals for their Christmas panto (featuring star turns from Chico and The Chuckle Brothers), we were immediately made to feel comfortable with a rehearsal space of our own on the upper floor.

Today’s event was ‘An Inspired Christmas’ – a seasonal showcase for schools partnered with NYCGB and Nottinghamshire Music Hub to show off the work they’ve created since September. The Fellows’ role was to provide a set of schmaltzy Christmas favourites in between offerings from the partner schools, to lead audience members and the schools in a mash-up of carols, and to join forces with the schools to sing two final pieces.

Rehearsals were fun but intense because it was the first time the Fellows had sung together since our workshop and recital at RHS Holbrook on the 22nd November and there were only six of us for this particular gig. There was a real learning curve for us here; with under two hours before our sound check on the concert hall stage it was important to balance our rehearsal time, and to find complete note accuracy for such dense close harmony whilst also aiming to apply stylistic interpretations to each piece. Covering four fiddly pieces, one-to-a-part, in limited rehearsal time was, therefore, pretty challenging. Sound-checking also provided valuable experience. The acoustic in the RCH is tricky because the space is so vast and therefore it is easy to sing louder than needed and not get much back. We spent our time wisely and made an effort to conserve as much voice as possible for the gig later in the evening.

Just after 7pm we emerged from our dressing rooms to prepare for our set and decided to wait in the wings of the concert hall. We were all bowled over by the complexity of the arrangements being performed by the partner schools and it was a real testament to the partnership with NYCGB that, on the vast RCH stage, the very talented pupils were demonstrating complex extended vocal techniques with such ease. I think it's fair to say we were all pleased with how our solo set went. The arrangements were very exposed for all voice parts, there were lots of words to tackle and several harmonically challenging sections in each of the pieces. It's testament to our development on this scheme that we remained calm and collected and trusted each other to perform with the levels of consistency and finesse we know we're all capable of.

For me, the highlight of the performance was Rob Brooks’ expert leadership of the carols mash-up. Taking the first line of four carols and piecing them together to make a round, Rob effortlessly captivated the entire audience and all of the performers. At its climax there were four groups, two made up of adults and two made up of partner school classes, each aided by a Fellow or two, serenading each other with their individual round. A fantastic feat of music-making and a really impressive bit of leadership from Rob. -

Having spent the majority of my school education in Nottinghamshire, I was delighted to be back as part of NYCGB engaging musically with the Nottinghamshire Music Hub and the talented pupils of the partner schools. I hope that future Fellows will find similar rewards in future years when collaborating with local organisations that provide young people a platform to be creative and to engage in music making.