Yorkshire Youth Choir

Busy busy busy …

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Not me, you understand; that goes without saying. No, it’s DsSis I mean. As well as it being (a) competition season – Brass Band Area Comp result bad [REALLY bad: don’t ask!**], school competition good [Jess & friend were “only” second in the Senior Duets competiton, but her solo xylophone playing has secured the Senior Percussion Cup for DsMam to polish for the next 12 months] – (b) School Proms with both Bradford Youth Orchestra [Jess now main timpanist] & Bradford Youth Wind Orchestra [flute & oboe]; (c) exam time [Grade 8 Flute & Grade 6 Tuned Percussion exams this coming term], all on top of the usual frenetic academic year-end exam cramming …

* takes breath *

… Jess has just got back from her first Yorkshire Youth Choir residential of the year, which culminated in the usual concert. This year even has a bit of extra pressure there, as this week was their last significant time together before the choir goes to Poland in July for a week of concerts in and around Krakow. I cannot begin to tell you how much the YYC has done for DsSis as a person, and they do a remarkable job harmonising a hundred voices. Normally you’d have to take my word for that, as they don’t allow recordings or even photos to be taken, but possibly because there will be a recruitment drive coming (an unusually high proportion of the choir hit 21yo this year), there’s been some footage posted on the Choir’s Facebook page. If you follow this link –

https://www.facebook.com/yorkshireyouthchoir/#

– and scroll down a little to the Happy Easter post, there is a video of just the senior girls section of the choir rehearsing Jim Steinman / Bonnie Tyler’s Holding Out For A Hero.

Video quality on FB is not, of course, of the highest quality, but I can promise you DsSis – a second soprano – is in there, centre stage.

The Pryce-Jones’, who run the choir, do a brilliant job, and how they get the kids to learn, FROM SCRATCH IN UNDER A WEEK, multi-part songs in a variety of languages (for this concert, Welsh, Latin, Hebrew, Swahili, Polish & French as well as English) is utterly beyond my comprehension. Here’s the programme list from last night:

 YYC Easter concert programme 2017


Anyway, to do my bit, if any of you reading this know anyone under 20 who may want to give this a go, get in touch with me, and I’ll make sure you get the email invitation to the next lot of auditions.


** Actually, yes, DO ask me. I need the opportunity to give vent to a minor rant!

10 thoughts on “Yorkshire Youth Choir

  1. Is there a house elf in these new premises that can sort out my mixed fonts and text sizes, please? I don’t seem to be able to do it myself for some reason.

    • Jess was convinced she couldn’t, Sev. YYC is part of NOEL (Northern Orchestral Enterprises Ltd). NOEL offer prizes and bursaries to young musicians, and Jess’ school put her forward for one. We were hoping for help with her then-imminent flute upgrade (a bill of over £2000 that was making us really queasy). But an interview was part of her audition, and John Pryce-Jones asked Jess if there was a part of her musicianship that she particularly struggled with. Jess said her exam oral, because of a lack of confidence in both speaking to others and her singing voice. When the letter came through, Jess had been awarded a prize, but it was an invite to attend a YYC residential for free. To be honest, we were all rather underwhelmed, and she nearly didn’t go. But boy are we glad she did. Her singing voice and her confidence with it has blossomed immensely (with a noticeable improvement in her exam oral scores up to around distinction levels); she has developed a whole new circle of friends (that’s a BIG thing with Jess, who just NEVER goes out socially); there are two school holidays a year that we don’t have to dynamite her out of her teenage hibernation hole; and the sheer joy of hearing her sing around the house (admittedly from the other side of walls and doors she thinks are soundproof) is ace. And it sounds strange, but she loves it for being able to simply fit in almost anonymously. At 15, she’s already the school’s lead flautist and [from this September also] saxophonist; after last year’s leavers, she’s now the main tuned percussionist (seemingly the only one capable of keeping the orchestra’s knackered timpani in tune) for BYO, and there’s only her and her classmate drummer filling three slots on all things percussive in her brass band. At YYC, she likes the lack of focus/pressure on just her.

  2. Lovely story, what a talented daughter you have! I wouldn’t worry about her not going out much. Imagine if you didn’t know where she was half the time… So, go on, tell us the Area Comp Results thing – vent away!

    • Why thank you!
      Is anyone here familiar with the judging arrangements for the major brass band competitions? It’s ludicrously self-important. The dozen or so bands’ names are put into a hat, and randomly drawn to give them a number. Then the process is repeated to give them a place in their running order. So all you know is that the band with, say Draw No. 5 will be playing in slot No. 3, for instance. Although the band is allowed to wear their colours – in fact, scratch that: they HAVE to wear their best uniforms** – they are not allowed to announce, speak or show their name on stage. In fact, if there is even any show of appreciation from the audience that may betray which band is on stage, that band is automatically disqualified!
      The judges are in a completely enclosed marquee-style tent in the middle of the auditorium floor. They don’t come out during competition; they don’t even speak to anyone except each other. They indicate their readiness for the next band to start by the ringing of a bell. No communication outwith the tent is allowed; again, if any attempt is adjudged to have occurred, the band on stage is summarily disqualified.
      OK, so far, so bad …

      But then here’s the rub: the competition pieces are fixed. Now you’d think that’s fair enough; if everyone is playing the same pieces, you are judging apples against apples, no? Well that’s OK if you have every band with a full complement of players. There were three percussion players needed for this year’s pieces of music. Friendly Band only have two – Jess and her school classmate drummer, Matthew. During the runup to the competition, they did try to recruit, but the percussion slot went unfilled. They even gave Darcey a go, at Jess’ recommendation, but she couldn’t get to the standard in time. So Jess, on top of everything else she has going on, brought all of the sheet music for the pieces home, and rescored / arranged it all so that her and Matthew could [just about] play it between them. Matthew (and his dad, the band’s lead euphonium player) jerry-rigged frames for some of the percussion items so that they would be literally to hand for either Matthew from his drum kit, and/or Jess from the timpani or glockenspiel. I missed the competition, but I am reliably informed that both of them ran around like mad things, and came off stage exhausted and sweating, but GOT THE JOB DONE with no major crashes or missed beats. What did the judges think of all that effort? Placed the band flat last and criticised “the over-loud percussion”.
      With all that adrenalin pumping around the pair of fifteen-year-olds legging it around the stage doing the job of three adults, WHAT THE FUCKING HELL ELSE COULD THEY EXPECT??

      And this is from the same sanctimonious set of up-their-own-arse dickheads who have the gall to offer a prize to the Youngest Player in a competition – funnily enough, WON by Friendly with their ten-year-old cornet player – as a means of encouraging youth into the brass band fraternity.
      And the same set of snotty-nosed gets who consistently tut and get sneery at Friendly’s conductor for putting Jess up-front and central on the xylophone for their entry in competitions’ Best Soloist category, with precisely the putdown that the xylophone “isn’t really a brass band instrument, is it?”!

      MAKE YOUR TINY CLOSED MINDS UP: IT EITHER IS (in which case judge the soloists on their merits) OR IT ISN’T (in which case it’s no grounds to slap the band down for the volume, and ONLY the volume remember, of the percussion)!

      I’m coming to love Friendly Band. They’re never going to “do a Leicester City”, but they’re a damn sight more competitive than Eddie The Eagle. The band has an age range in excess of SEVENTY years, they all play for the right reasons, and get absolutely no financial reward for it (without their major sponsor, the band would stand no chance of breaking even). Over a hundred 2-hour practice sessions a year, umpteen playing commitments during summer weekends, barely a day off in the month up to Christmas, annual four-figure mileages (on my car, who knows on the others), and for what? For some wanker who won’t even show his/her face, let alone have the good grace to discuss a performance, to dismiss them out of hand.

      You want to encourage today’s youth to get involved with brass bands? Get out of your nineteenth-century tent and engage with them. Encourage them. Learn what the 21st century youth is. Reward their mentors. And above all, use your eyes as well as your sodding ears.

      Rant over.

      ** Oh yeah? Why is that, if it’s supposed to be only a test of sound? Think about it, and then tell me if I’m wrong to be deeply suspicious.

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