The Fellows and Nottinghamshire school students rehearse at Royal Concert Hall. Image: Neil Pledger/Inspire.

Bringing it all together on the big stage.


On the morning of Monday 4 December, the Fellows gathered in my home city of Nottingham to spend the day working with pupils from schools across Nottinghamshire ahead of a concert, 'An Inspired Christmas', that evening at Nottingham’s Royal Concert Hall in partnership with Nottinghamshire Music Hub. It was a particularly enjoyable prospect because in as well as performing with over 200 students we would also be giving our first performance of the repertoire we had been developing as the 2017-18 Fellowship Octet!

We spent the morning and afternoon working with Greg Beardsell as he led the schools workshop, including warm-ups, teaching a piece by rote and creating an amazing mash-up of different Christmas carols and pop songs, including ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’, Adele’s ’Rolling in the Deep’ ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’ and Lady Gaga’s ‘Telephone’. It was amazing to watch how a short mash-up of Christmas carols became a fully formed piece and to see everyone gain confidence throughout the workshop. The fact that it was being created then and there for performance that evening added to the excitement and expectation, really encouraging everyone to sing and perform to the highest standards.

Walking onto the stage at the Concert Hall for our octet rehearsal that afternoon was a thrilling experience, as with only a short amount of rehearsal time we had to get used to singing in this vast space (over 2,000 seats) and how we were going to present ourselves on stage. Our programme was formed of ‘I’m A Train’, ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’ and ‘Sleigh Ride’. It has been an exciting process over our small periods of rehearsal since October to work out our group dynamic and vocal blend, so to finally be showcasing the music we had worked so hard on filled us with anticipation.  Alongside the mash-up and our own music, we also worked on a piece that featured the Fellowship and all the secondary and primary schools. The performance was very impressive as all the schools learnt it by rote that day and yet again, performed with such feeling and confidence and created such a fabulous sound that it made a very moving end to the first half of the concert.

The concert displayed amazing performances from all the schools, with them performing things they had prepared alongside the big ensemble pieces, and proved just how vital music-making is in schools and the overwhelming feeling of community that it can bring.  For the Fellowship, it was a wonderful day to put into practice our workshop-leading skills, testing our ability to think on our feet and to lead and work with groups confidently. Furthermore, we were so proud of our performance in the concert, the audience were very receptive of us and we all felt that we had connected as a group and given it our all. We left the stage with huge smiles on our faces after a fabulous day of music-making!