CBSO Youth Chorus at 20 years old: Sophie

Sophie
CBSO Youth Chorus Alumni

I joined the CBSO chorus family at the age of 11 and have a great many memories of my seven year association; the first two with the Children’s Chorus and then the Youth Chorus for a further five.

Being part of the CBSO Youth Chorus is a wonderful experience, and what I enjoyed most was performing great music at great venues. From the dozens of concerts I performed in over seven years, particular performances that are firmly fixed in my mind are Duruflé’s Requiem at Symphony Hall, and two performances of Britten’s War Requiem. The first of these, at Coventry Cathedral, marked the 50th anniversary of the consecration of the new Cathedral, and was an extremely humbling and moving concert. I was then fortunate to sing the work again, in an extraordinary performance with the CBSO at the 2014 BBC Proms with Andris Nelsons and the BBC Proms Youth Choir.

In addition to our Proms performance last summer, I was also fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to tour with the CBSO Chorus. I sang in Mendelssohn’s Elijah at the finale of the Schleswig-Holstein Festival, and in two performances of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony; firstly at the Beethovenhalle in Bonn and then, the following night, at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris.

The CBSO Christmas concerts always provided exciting performing opportunities for the choruses and it was always good to hear new arrangements and pieces performed by the orchestra. It was also great fun and really interesting to sing on the recording of Karl Jenkins’ composition The Peacemakers in 2011, which the Youth Chorus recorded for EMI.

I learned so much from my time with the CBSO choruses, and am enormously grateful to have been given the opportunity to perform with so many world-class conductors and orchestras. I must also mention the wonderful work of the Youth Chorus’ conductor, Julian Wilkins, whose charismatic approach to choral training has really inspired me and provided me with a deeply embedded knowledge of choral singing and technique. Indeed, when performing now it can be easy to take the venues, orchestras, soloists and conductors for granted, and looking back I can appreciate just how unique my experiences have been – the CBSO really is in a league of its own!

I am currently studying for a Music degree at Royal Holloway, University of London and continue to enjoy my singing with one of the college choirs. I also sing with the Rodolfus Choir and take part in as many concerts as my undergraduate schedule permits.

The CBSO Youth Chorus will celebrate their 20th anniversary with two performances of Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with CBSO Principal Guest Conductor, Edward Gardner. Tickets are still available – book now

If you are interested in joining the CBSO Youth Chorus, why not come along to the open rehearsal on Monday 20 April at CBSO Centre (7pm – 9pm)? For further information, please contact Lucy Wickens at lwickens@cbso.co.uk / 0121 616 6508

 

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CBSO Youth Chorus at 20 years old: Ruth

Ruth
CBSO Youth Chorus Member

The 2014-15 season will be my sixth with the Youth Chorus, and without a doubt I can say it’s been one of the most fantastic groups I’ve ever had the chance to be involved with.

Out of countless concerts over the last few years, my personal highlight would have to be performing at the opening night of the BBC Proms in 2013, singing Vaughan Williams’ A Sea Symphony – it was an absolutely electric atmosphere at the Royal Albert Hall and the conductor, Sakari Oramo, was really inspiring to work with!

Other memorable performances include singing Britten’s War Requiem on its 50th anniversary in Coventry Cathedral with the CBSO and CBSO Chorus, as well as performing Mendelssohn’s Three Motets in Symphony Hall last February. This latter concert was particularly special to me, as it was in this concert that I was given the solo which made it clear to me that I wanted to be a singer. It’s something I will never forget.

I feel extremely privileged to have been part of such an overwhelmingly wonderful group of people, and the Youth Chorus has equipped me with skills that I’ll have for life, plus friends who never fail to make my Monday’s anything less than fun! To be clichèd, it has been a roller coaster ride over the past six years, and I’ll be incredibly sad to leave at the end of this season. I encourage you: if you enjoy singing, please don’t hesitate to audition – you’ll have a great time!

The CBSO Youth Chorus will celebrate their 20th anniversary with two performances of Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with CBSO Principal Guest Conductor, Edward Gardner. Tickets are still available – book now

 If you are interested in joining the CBSO Youth Chorus, why not come along to the open rehearsal on Monday 20 April at CBSO Centre (7pm – 9pm)? For further information, please contact Lucy Wickens at lwickens@cbso.co.uk / 0121 616 6508

 

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CBSO Youth Chorus at 20 years old: Eleanor

Eleanor 
CBSO Youth Chorus Member

I auditioned for the CBSO Youth Chorus in 2012 after a friend, who was already in the choir, persuaded me to come along to the open rehearsal. In my first month with the choir I sang the premiere of To These Dark Steps by Alexander Goehr with Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, and Holst’s The Planets with the National Youth Orchestra. All these concerts came as quite a shock, as my only previous experience of choirs had been singing as a cathedral chorister, and then when I was too old for that, my school choir! That first year took me from my school chapel all the way to the first night of the BBC Proms – I only regret not auditioning for the chorus when I was younger! 

At the end of my second year with the Youth Chorus, a handful of us were offered the chance to sing with the adult choir – the CBSO Chorus – on two tours to Germany and France to sing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. This was my first glimpse of what a chorus of this standard can really sound like and I still can’t believe they’re technically an amateur choir! Indeed, almost as soon as I’d got off the plane I emailed the CBSO asking if I could audition for this wonderful choir. I’m pleased to say that I now combine membership of both the adult and youth choir, and am loving every second of it.

Although I’ve not even finished my third year with the CBSO it has been a huge part of my life and I hope I’ll be able to continue singing with them in the future. The opportunities available, and the experience of working with Julian Wilkins and James Keefe, have really been excellent – I’d recommend it to anybody!

The CBSO Youth Chorus will celebrate their 20th anniversary with two performances of Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with CBSO Principal Guest Conductor, Edward Gardner. Tickets are still available – book now

If you ar000064e interested in joining the CBSO Youth Chorus, why not come along to the open rehearsal on Monday 20 April at CBSO Centre (7pm – 9pm)? For further information, please contact Lucy Wickens at lwickens@cbso.co.uk / 0121 616 6508

 

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Abu Dahbi Day three.

Good evening gentle readers, and, from the privacy of my music room near Bournville, I welcome you back to the final bit of the blog about Abu Dahbi.

Our last day was a fascinating one, and featured  a venue I shall remember forever. The 19th century fort at Al Jalil was a  unique place to play. Especially, as whilst rehearsing, we paused the proceedings for prayer and could hear the calls of the Mezzuein  echoing around the towers as the sun set. What was also quite astonishing was the fineness of the sand. You can see from the photo of my concert shoes that it was like talcum powder! The concert of film music, one of the many things our conductor Michael Seal is so good at, was very well received. I heard a lady tell one of our cellists afterwards that her six year old daughters dream had come true when she heard the ET theme played live!

Little else remains to say, except to remark on the truly wonderful hospitality we were shown at every turn, especially the packed supper boxes we were given post concert for our late night, ninety mile journey back to the hotel. I was very impressed by Abu Dahbi in general, the amazing modern buildings, the huge new and almost fairytale mosque near the hotel, the incredible demonstration of what unlimited funds coupled with the will to impress can achieve. I was also inclined to reflect what will happen to such magnificent achievements, here in the west, in the middle east and the far east, when the wealth, and the will are gone.

I recalled Shelly’s poem Ozimandias

“Ozimandias”

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

I wish you all a happy holiday, Christmas, Saturnalia, Midwinter or which ever title you prefer or none.

See you in May 2015 Good night and God bless.

Julian Robinson

 

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Al Jahlili Fort “Teaser Trailer”

Good evening gentle readers, just arrived back in Abu Dahbi at ten to one am, happy but very tired! Wonderful concert of film music conducted by Mike Seal with his usual panache. Leaving later this morning to fly home, I will catch up with you  over the next few days. Keep checking!

In the mean time here is a night picture of tonights venue. Without a doubt THE most unusual and exotic place I have ever played!

Good night and God bless. As-salamu alaykum.

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Corniche Breakwater Floating Stage Abu Dhabi

Good evening gentle readers, you find me tonight with little to say, as I failed to awake until 14:30 today Abu Dhabi time and so I got little done other than to get up, sort my self out and report for duty! However I was rewarded with an unusual venue, with an extraordinarily spectacular backdrop.

The Floating Stage at the Corniche Breakwater (not really floating actually built on scaffolding, but, presumably designed to look as though it’s floating) is one of the most unusual places I have played! It’s up there with the jumbo jet factory in Bremen and the marine engine factory in Innsbruck.

 

As you will see from the photographs, the backdrop is the city of Abu Dhabi mostly seen by us and by the audience in its night-time guise. Because it was breezy we had the additional complication of keeping the music attached to the stands with clothes pegs. This is an unfamiliar situation for us, but much more familiar for many, many freelance players who do a lot of “muddy field dates”. That is, marquees, outdoor stages and the like. However we coped (mostly). Nothing much more to report, tomorrow we are off into the desert to the Al Ain Jahil Fort, with a spectacular program of film music.

I suspect that tomorrow night’s blog, much like tonight’s will mostly consist of photographs, however it is possible I may have something else to say you never know! Until tomorrow, here are the pictures. (remember to click on them for bigger higher resolution ones!)

Good night and God Bless. Yarhamuka Allah

Julian Robinson

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Abu Dahbi 03:49 am!

Good morning gentle readers, just to let you know we have arrived safely. Glad to see we are being advertised at the airport!

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Here are a couple of quick night shots of the view from my hotel room (The Ritz Carlton)

Thats an almost perfect crescent moon, most appropriate! If it’s clear tomorrow night I’ll try to capture it more sharply.

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I’m off to bed now, until tomorrow God Bless “as-Salâm Alaikum” “Gods peace be upon you”

Julian Robinson

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Off To The middle East!

Spotty tag

 

Hello Gentle readers! Tomorrow morning I shall be leaving the Misty Moisty Mornings of Kings Norton for the lands of Sun, Camels, Magnificent Architecture, and the fabulously rich. There will be no scraping of the car windows for me for a few days!

As always, I shall keep you posted about our mini-tour of Abu Dahbi with the redoubtable Michael Seal at the helm and the Fine Canadian Violinist James Ehnes performing Bruch’s Violin Concerto. There are two concerts as part of the Abu Dhabi Classics Concert Series.

I shall give you details as we go along, Tomorrow (Sunday) we travel all day, so Ill try and get a post out to you on Monday night or sooner if I can.

Until then God Bless, or should I say “as-Salâm Alaikum” “Gods peace be upon you”

Julian Robinson

 

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CBSO Chorus at 40 years old: Rose Watts

Rose Watts cr Tom WhiteVoice type: Alto
Occupation: Producer of BBC Radio 4’s The Archers
Member of the chorus for 15 years

I vividly remember my first rehearsal with the chorus way back in the late 90’s. We were learning Harmonium by John Adams, an extraordinarily complex and relatively new work. I’d achieved a music degree some 15 years earlier, but hadn’t sung in a choir since, and I was a bit nervous. At that rehearsal I can just remember repeatedly singing ‘no, no, no, no, no, no’  and whipping over the pages of the score as quickly as I could; trying to turn the pages at the same time as everyone else, so they wouldn’t know I was lost!  I really wondered whether it had all been some ghastly mistake. But some 15 or so years later, I know joining the CBSO Chorus was the best thing I ever did. I’ve been lucky enough to perform with the fantastic CBSO and several other brilliant orchestras, under many talented conductors.  I’ve sung in concert halls across the UK, in France, Germany, Switzerland, Finland, Malaysia, Canada and Australia.

My abiding memory of Australia was singing Mahler’s Eighth Symphony for the first time at the opening concert of the Olympic Arts Festival at the Olympic Superdome in 2000. It was an extraordinary sound; the symphony is not called ‘the symphony of a thousand’ for nothing, as we joined choirs from across Australia under the baton of Edo de Waart. We all had great fun learning the Australian National Anthem, which we sang before the start of the concert. And singing  ‘Veni Creator Spiritus’ to an audience of over 17,000 was a truly uplifting experience, and something I’ll never forget

The Chorus should fit in with everything else in life, but I find that it’s often the other way round, and when I’m not singing, I’m proud to be working for Radio 4 at the BBC in Birmingham.  My partner Andy is a great support, and happy to wave me off to rehearsals which may occur three or four times a week.   I’m a bell ringer, and occasionally play the organ for church services.   I spend any free time I have left on my allotment.

The CBSO Chorus marks its anniversary with a performance of the UK Premiere of the CBSO co-commission, James MacMillan’s St Luke Passion, conducted by the composer himself. Tickets are still available, book now.

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CBSO Chorus at 40 years old: Charles Barwell

Charles Barwell with Bridget Blow and Simon Halsey cr Anthea BevanVoice type: Tenor
Occupation: Private Banker at Barclays Wealth & Investment Management
Deputy Chairman of the CBSO Board of Trustees
Member of the Chorus for 8 years

Singing in the CBSO Chorus is an honour and a pleasure. Its also so important in keeping perspective on the pressures of professional life for the volunteers of the Chorus many of whom have highly responsible and challenging careers. When you’re singing an engaging piece, focusing on the conductor, listening to our amazing orchestra, to your section and the other voices around you, and thinking ahead, your phone can’t ring, emails can’t be answered, and time sensitive projects just have to go on hold. What an inspiration and mental release this can be.

I’ve been so lucky, joining in 2005, to sing with some of the world’s great conductors in some simply amazing venues. Highlights beyond Birmingham include Mahler’s Second Symphony in Hong Kong and Vaughan Williams’ A Sea Symphony in Kuala Lumpur. Musically my most fulfilling experiences have been performing Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius with the CBSO under Sakari Oramo at the Philharmonie in Berlin, Andris’s amazing and beautiful interpretation of Puccini’s La bohème in 2009 (even though the Chorus part is very small),  the exhausting performance of Brahms’s A German Requiem in 2008 when Sakari forgot that the Chorus needs a moment between movements to sit and catch one’s breath, and of course the extraordinarily emotional performance of Britten’s War Requiem in Coventry Cathedral in 2012 where almost everyone from Andris to the whole soprano section were moved to tears.

We’ve had some fun too. I’ll never forget the horn section of the Orchestre National de Lyon almost jumping out of their seats at the volume and precision of the Chorus entry “Freude” in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Only rarely do they hear a massed choir in France, so the reaction was tremendous. In Cologne after the performance all the performers are greeted back stage with a glass of local beer, that goes down extremely well – Symphony Hall take note!

Lastly, we have the privilege of being trained by one of the world’s great choral directors, Simon Halsey. Demanding, of course. Challenging, often. Precise, always. But respectful and appreciative of the commitment of so many volunteers who come together to make up one of Birmingham’s cultural jewels. CBSO and CBSO Chorus, thank you. Here’s to the next forty years!

The CBSO Chorus marks its anniversary with a performance of the UK Premiere of the CBSO co-commission, James MacMillan’s St Luke Passion, conducted by the composer himself. Tickets are still available, book now.

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