In April, the Fellows were assigned to the National Youth Boys' Choir and National Youth Girls' Choir Spring residential course staff teams. Their brief: to be as helpful as possible, and to learn as much as possible! Both courses took place, back to back, at Tudor Hall School near Banbury. First up were the boys...

(JACOB EWENS)

No sooner had we returned from our beautiful but busy stay in Snape Maltings than the Fellows (or at least half of us) were back on the road. Our destination this time: Tudor Hall School, Banbury, where we were to spend six days on the NYC Boys’ course as Course Assistants. As someone with no NYCGB experience before joining the Fellowship, I really had no idea what to expect. We had a day before the boys arrived to settle in, prepare the rehearsal and residential spaces, and enjoy some staff bonding over bowling and pizza! Soon enough, the boys began to arrive in their hordes and there was no time for reticence - getting stuck in was the only answer.

The boys’ choir, comprised of trebles and changing voices, presented lots of educational and pastoral challenges. Their first port of call after registration was a 'range check', where each voice was allocated to a part. This was masterminded by the brilliant soprano and singing teacher, Carys Lane who lead a staff session on dealing with and nurturing changing voices. As a previous chorister, it was really interesting thinking about the psychological and technical adjustments that you are faced with at this stage, and my relevant experience enabled me to empathise with the boys and what some of them might be going through.

Jacob (Front row, first left) and the [football? cricket?] team.  


This course worked really well as an introduction to how it all runs before the Summer course when we’ll be given more responsibility as section leaders. The week proceeded to a busy schedule of rehearsals, games and activities, and we were chucked into everything from troubleshooting musical challenges in sectionals, sometimes even leading the sectional, to comforting homesick boys. I even ended up leading the morning dancersize sessions, which involved me dancing to ABBA and Queen in what was essentially Zumba to the whole course! It was brilliant being able to observe and experience both the musical and pastoral demands which come from this age range of boys, and the different approaches needed from the two course conductors, Lucy Joy Morris and Robbie Jacobs. Robbie challenged us at the beginning to know all 110 boys’ names by the end of the week! I think I got to about 70/80%, but the challenge was a brilliant representation of the ethos of the course, where each child is valued and engaged with by every staff member. I now have an idea of what it means when people talk about the NYCGB 'family', and despite being absolutely knackered, I can’t wait for the Summer course!

The day after the Boys' Choir concert, it was time to welcome the girls...

(ELEANOR PARTRIDGE)

Staffing on NYCGB junior choir Spring courses was one of the most exciting opportunities for the Fellows yet. Each Fellow was either a course assistant or section leader on the girls' or boys' course, and was thrown in at the deep end assisting in any way possible for an intensive five-six days. 

On the girls' course we were set to work immediately, prepping the site for the arrival of 162 girls the following day. With intense daily schedules and a huge number of people to look out for, the staff work literally night and day. The course got even more exciting for me personally when, at the end of day two, course director Rachel Staunton leaned over to ask whether I would be happy to take over the senior Soprano II section. I have been a member of NYCGB for over 10 years, but never in my life have I ever had to take a sectional! The next day I happily stepped up, leading 20 girls for four sectionals. It’s so inspiring as a musical leader to observe both sectionals and full rehearsals, to watch other staff lead and to see young musicians fall in love with the music they are performing! 

Where's Ellie? (We're not sure.)


The course itself was jammed full of exciting things. On day three of the course we were treated to a visit by artist and composer Hannah Peel, who worked with a small ensemble of our girls and performed a number of her songs, accompanied on her very special music box. On day four the girls took part in a professional recording of ‘A Woman Wearing Bloomers on a Wheel’, by the utterly brilliant Jo Forbes L’Estrange, producing the most spectacular result. And on the same day we were joined by another fantastic artist (and former National Youth Choir member), Lucy Potterton, who like Hannah Peel would join us for our concert at the end of the week at Nottingham Royal Concert Hall.

The music on the course was exciting and diverse, from Imogen Holst to the Spice Girls. The final performance proudly featured 100% repertoire composed by or arranged by women composers, and included the premiere of new work ‘Wave’ by Kerry Andrew. The week was hugely exciting and totally exhausting, and it’s taken most of us two weeks to get back to reality. I believe most of us are still humming those catchy tunes under our breath as we go about our ‘normal lives’. Five out of eight of the Fellows have never experienced an NYCGB course before, and we all agree that there really is nothing quite like it for inspiring a generation of singers.