Pitch perfect: UK children’s choirs find ways to connect during lockdown | Music

Eight-year-old Emily Grills was eager to become a voice teacher this month, forcing her parents on the songs she sang with her children’s choir in Bristol.

“The lockdown has been lonely,” she said. “But singing makes me happy and so teaching my parents to sing means we can do it together even when it’s not time for my class – although my mum doesn’t sing very well yet.”

Encouraging even their youngest members, like Emily, to become ‘singing ambassadors’ who help plan and run lessons, is just one of the new and positive ways the pandemic has forced the Bristol Beacon Choir to innovate.

Bristol Beacon is one of the UK’s largest children’s choirs, engaging with 5,000 children across the city every year. Instead of responding to the lockdown by simply replicating the rehearsals live online, David Ogden, the leader of the Bristol Beacon Choral Center, said the choir treated the crisis as a positive inspiration for a whole new future direction.

Our plan is to use the need for innovation due to the restrictions caused by the pandemic as a springboard for training in the future, ”he said.

“The model of Singing Ambassadors has been developed so that they can teach songs to young singers in the future, training them to have the necessary confidence as they progress in the choir to become the ‘conductors’. singing workshop ”of the future in schools and choirs. “Ogden said. “These skills can also fuel programs such as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award where leadership skills are assessed.”

Good behavior … The Bristol Youth Choir family is singing. Photograph: c / o Bristol Plays Music

Bristol Beacon isn’t alone in organizing a positive reinvention of itself in the face of pandemic adversity: the National Youth Choirs of Scotland (NYCOS) have also developed ingenious techniques to keep their young singers engaged.

“The pandemic has made us even more creative with our methods,” said Mairi Leggatt, director of NYCOS Dundee Choir. “Now we’re singing from home, we can get creative with wooden spoons for drumsticks, plastic cups for percussion, or a pair of rolled up socks if you can’t find a ball.

“The social aspect of NYCOS plays an important role for all of our members – this week we played online musical Pictionary and had a Dundee emoji quiz,” she added. “We also have other things up our sleeves – treasure hunts and treasure trails, whatever we can find to keep the choir growing and developing, both musically and as a choir. youth.”

The National Youth Choirs of Great Britain (NYCGB) have created an innovative calendar of events for their online vacation classes, including guest artists Anthony Trecek-King in the US, Sofi Jeannin from France and Anders Edenroth in Sweden.

“Getting around online has provided unique opportunities to connect our members with a wide range of inspiring international artists,” said Anne Besford, NYCGB Executive Director. “It would have been impossible to put together this prestigious list in person and we are excited about the potential for future international collaborations. “

Julian Forbes of the London Youth Choirs said the big difference for them about this spring concert is that they “embraced the fact that it has to be virtual from the start”.

Their spring concert – which will involve around 300 young people aged 7-24 from 30 London boroughs – will be a fully planned professional event, featuring packages of homemade concert snacks delivered to families’ doors to enjoy the concert.

But some choirs manage to maintain the old ways before the pandemic. The Primrose Hill Children’s Choir has a real live concert later this spring, with uplifting favorites including Monty Python’s Always Look On the Bright Side of Life and lockdown-themed songs such as Born Free and Busy Doing Nothing.

Although Matthew Watts, music director, said there will be “Covid-19 precautions as long as your arm”.

Watts believes that nothing can replicate the experience of live performance. “Performing in front of a real audience, made up largely of family and friends, there is a real sense of interaction between the choirs and the audience, which cannot be recreated online,” he said. .

“Has community music ever been more valuable? ” He asked. “As one parent told me, thank you for bringing joy to the lives of our children in these dark times.”

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