It has been a very busy few months for our ever-growing Cathedral Youth Choir, who are going from strength to strength. There are now over 30 dedicated members who turn up for rehearsals week in, week out. Rehearsals are on Fridays at 6-7pm, and are led by Youth Choir Director, Ellie Martin, and accompanied by Eden Lavelle or Alex Patterson.
In November, the Youth Choir were asked to lead the music for the Hospitalité Notre Dame de Lourdes Reunion Mass. Attended by the Bishop of Nottingham, this was a more momentous Mass than their usual 6pm Mass, but they rose to the occasion, giving beautiful and sensitive renditions of Caccini’s Ave Maria and Frisina’s Anima Christi.
The choir, along with our two sub-groups, Vivace (girls aged 15-18) and Cambiata (boys with changing voices), also played a significant role in our Carols by Candlelight service, joining in with the Cathedral Choir, and also singing their own pieces. The evening was quite magical, and for the Youth Choir to make such a valuable musical contribution is real testament to their hard work and dedication. That every member (some as young as seven) also managed to carry a candle, whilst negotiating walking, singing, sheet music and limited space, without setting fire to anything, is also a remarkable achievement!
On 24th December, the Youth Choir led all the music for the 6pm Christmas Eve Vigil Mass - one of their most important events in the liturgical calendar. There were special performances from Vivace and Cambiata, and as is tradition, the choir sang for half an hour prior to Mass on the altar steps to an already full Cathedral. Stronger than ever in number and in voice, the choir delighted the congregation with popular favourites, such as Michael Neaum’s Winds through the Olive Trees and Rutter’s Star Carol, and with lesser known pieces, such as Larkin’s Adam lay ybounden and Jesus Christ the Apple Tree, set to the folk song ‘O waly waly’, arranged by Alan Bullard.
In January, it was decided that it was about time the Youth Choir had a social trip together. Accompanied by Alex and Ellie, they went to see ‘Heroes and Villains’, a family concert at the Royal Concert Hall presented by Nottingham Philharmonic Orchestra. Children were encouraged to dress up in a superhero costume and enter a competition for the opportunity to conduct the orchestra on stage. Amazingly, Youth Choir member Frances-Anna’s name was picked out of the hat, which provided some extra entertainment for the other members. It was an enjoyable evening all round, and a lovely opportunity for the choir members to socialise without the pressure of rehearsing or performing.
Rather excitingly, the Youth Choir were requested to perform at a wedding in the Cathedral in February, which was a welcome first. By request, they performed Chilcott’s Londonderry Air, Schubert’s Ave Maria and Rutter’s The Lord bless you and keep you, expertly conducted by Eden Lavelle. By all accounts (the most notable from the bride and groom) their behaviour was exemplary and their singing beautiful. The members of the choir were very pleased to have been specifically asked, and all enjoyed being part of the couple’s special day. They have since been asked to sing at another wedding this Summer.
One of our major ventures for the Youth Choir this term was the trip to Lincoln Cathedral. Kate Bailey, parent of Youth Choir member, Flossie Bailey (aged 9), writes:
It is March 2019 and there are many exciting ‘world firsts’ happening in the modern world - the invention of the first robotic valet system for airports and the launch of a magazine solely for music festival goers...... but none of them are quite as exciting as the first ever trip out of
On Mothering Sunday, the Youth Choir joined with the Cathedral Choir for all the music at the 11.15 Mass, with conducting from both Alex and Ellie. Rutter’s For the Beauty of the Earth and Franck’s Panis Angelicus are known to the young singers, but Vaughan Williams’ magnificent Mass in G minor is not, and is no mean feat. Once again, the young people rose to the challenge admirably and held their own in Mass alongside the Cathedral Choir. Following Mass, the youth choir gave a short concert in the Cathedral Hall as part of our 1pm Recital Series, featuring some of the music they had recently performed in Lincoln. There was also a cake sale to accompany their lovely singing, for which many youth choir members and parents baked cakes. There was a considerably large audience, made up of parents, members of the congregation, and members of the Cathedral Choir. The response, in terms of applause and comments from individuals afterwards, was overwhelmingly positive, and an impressive amount of money was raised to help support the Youth Choir.
This next term will be hugely exciting for the choir. They will feature in the Cathedral’s Hymnathon and Gala Concert on Saturday 18 May, singing music with the Cathedral Choir and on their own. Vivace and Cambiata will take part in the Summer Cabaret on Saturday 15 June, alongside members of the Cathedral Choir. On Friday 12 July, the Youth Choir will give their own Summer Concert. The first half of the concert will feature solo or small group singing and instrumental performances from members, followed by Joseph Hotovitz’s lively cantata, Captain Noah and his floating zoo in the second half – not to be missed! Then, a couple of days later, many of the Youth Choir members will join the Cathedral Choir on tour to Lourdes, where they will provide music for the various liturgies and give concerts in the local area. The choirs will stop off in Paris on the way back to sing Mass in Notre-Dame Cathedral and Saint-Eustache. This will be the first time Youth Choir members have been on a Cathedral Music tour, and will be exciting musical and travelling experience for them, and an important opportunity to form or develop friendships.
Older members of the Youth Choir in need of an extra challenge are being encouraged to sing more regularly with the Cathedral Choir in the 11.15 Mass, which provides a supportive environment for them to develop further in confidence and musicianship. It is hoped that some members may wish to join the Cathedral Choir in the future.
The Youth Choir is open to children aged 7-18, and is free to join, with no audition. Please keep following and supporting the Youth Choir in their endeavours. It is very much appreciated by them and by the Cathedral Music Department.
Photo credit: Ian R Marshall
Described as Thomas Tallis' 'crowning achievement', the 40-part Spem in alium was set to be a challenge. One of the first pieces I sang with the Cathedral Choir was Tallis' Salvator Mundi, and at the time, sight-reading it was an immense task for me, and for the new recruits from the Youth Choir. Since then, having sung a wide range of music, from Joni Mitchell's 'Both Sides Now' with Vivace (the girls' group at the Cathedral) to Bach's Mass in B Minor, singing a solo line amongst seven other choirs didn't seem such an impossible task.
Rehearsals began in the new year and it became evident that we needed to commit in order to perform all the music we had set out to perform. The phrase 'focus on the rhythm first, then the notes' became an important motto throughout both the Handel and the Tallis. The relentless rhythms and challenging harmonies taught us to really listen to each other and work as a whole choir, which has since benefited us in rehearsals and at Mass. Performing the pieces was nerve-racking and intensely dramatic, yet an amazing experience. Singing alongside such an incredible orchestra elevated what we had done in rehearsals and encapsulated the grandeur of the works. It proved an excellent celebration of the Cathedral's 175th Anniversary and demonstrated the hard work of the choir.
Being a part of both the Cathedral Choir and the Youth Choir has prepared me well for further study of music at university. I'm excited to pursue choral music as part of my degree, and to see what the future holds for Cathedral Music. I'm most looking forward to singing at the Summer Cabaret and in Lourdes, where I will continue to learn more about music and improve on the skills I've built so far.
It has been an exciting year for our Cathedral Youth Choir. We appointed our new Youth Choir Director, Ellie Martin, a year ago, which has enabled a stronger focus on our young singers and their involvement with the Cathedral and the local community.
As well as regularly leading the music in the 6pm Mass, the Youth Choir has been involved in many other events over the course of the year. They were invited to sing as part of the Salaam Shalom (SaSh) Kitchen Mitzvah in November 2017 in aid of a National Jewish initiative which aims to bring different communities of different faiths to do good things for the world. They also led the music alongside our Cathedral Choir in the Maggie’s Carol Concert and the BBC Radio Nottingham Carol Service. They also sang beautifully in their regular slot singing at the Christmas Eve Vigil Mass.
A highlight for the Youth Choir was taking part in the community opera Tobias and the Angel by Jonathan Dove and David Lan - the climax of the Cathedral’s first Music Festival, playing the important roles of the sparrows and the fish. This was an excellent opportunity for the Youth Choir, as it allowed them to work together with other young people in youth choirs from local music charity Music for Everyone, as well as professional soloists, the Cathedral Choir, and Streetwise Opera.
We were delighted to premiere a new piece, Gracious Spirit, on Pentecost Sunday, written by Composer-in-Residence Amy Summers, which was specially composed to feature the young singers.
The academic year ended with the Youth Choir’s own Summer Concert in the Cathedral Hall to celebrate all their learning throughout the year. They performed a mixture of sacred and secular pieces to an appreciative audience. This was also an opportunity for members to perform vocal or instrumental solos, and many of the members took up this opportunity - for one of our members, it was the first time she had ever performed on her clarinet in public. This was a very special occasion, and it is hoped that these concerts will happen more often, as they are important in developing confidence in performance skills, as well as being a good opportunity for the young people to support and encourage each other.
There have been great strides made over the past ten months in developing our Youth Choir thanks to the support of many in our Congregation. A testament to this was the Youth Choir’s involvement in singing at the Ordination of Deacons on Saturday 14 July, where Bishop Patrick McKinney publicly acknowledged how much they’ve progressed - “giving our adult choir a run for their money!” Well done Youth Choir!
“The group has definitely helped with not being so reliant on sheet music and having someone leading us. I think we've learnt to listen to each other better, so we're more together as a group. It's also been helpful to sing different parts and work out harmonies.” - Ainé
Vivace have performed in the 6pm Mass, and recently performed in their first 11.15am Mass, where they sang two pieces a cappella. The group also performs close harmony secular music, in order to provide them with a variety of styles. They performed a challenging arrangement of Make You Feel My Love in the Youth Choir’s Summer Concert.
“I love girls’ group as it's brought us girls closer in friendship. I've benefitted massively from the group, as we learn how to sing as an ensemble, and have all challenged ourselves at trying different parts. I'm looking forward to singing different genres of songs. My favourite part of the year was when we performed the Make You Feel My Love, as we worked hard and achieved a great performance.” - Róisín
The atmosphere in rehearsals is a supportive one, where the girls encourage and help each other. The girls in the group also act as mentors to the younger members in the main Youth Choir, helping them to develop good rehearsal technique, and assisting them when they need help. Two of the members of Vivace have been singing with the adult Cathedral Choir for the 11.15am Mass for about a year. Through the formation of this group, the other members were encouraged to do the same, and now all the girls sing with the Cathedral Choir. Several of them also regularly cantor for Masses throughout the year.
“I like this group as it gives me the opportunity to improve my voice and my harmony skills. It also pushes me to learn music by ear, rather than reading it which is an important skill. I’ve made many new friends from joining this group and I’ve really benefited from being in it - becoming a better singer and musician.” - Hester
Responding to the needs of the dedicated young boys in the Youth Choir, a new group for boys with changing voices will be starting in September and we’re looking forward to seeing these young singers develop as their adult voices emerge over the next few years.
Through our new Nottingham Cathedral Music Charitable Trust, we were able to receive funding from Arts Council England’s highly competitive Grants for the Arts programme to support a collaboration with Streetwise Opera (a charity working with those who have experienced or are at risk of homelessness) and local charity Music for Everyone to perform the community opera Tobias and the Angel by Jonathan Dove and David Lan.
The funding helped cover the sizable costs of such an undertaking, including a two month period of rehearsals before coming together to perform the piece on Saturday 9 June 2018 at the Cathedral. The creative team included Director Robin Reece-Crawford and Musical Director Alex Patterson who previously collaborated on a community performance of Benjamin Britten’s opera Noye’s Fludde in Nottingham’s Albert Hall in 2013.
Over 100 musicians were involved, including: Nottingham Cathedral Choir, Cathedral Youth Choir, Music for Everyone Youth Choirs (Junior & Senior Voices and Nottingham Youth Voices), Streetwise Opera ‘Explore’ group, eight professional opera singers (including our very own Youth Choir Director, Ellie Martin, as Edna and former Choral Scholar, Emily Hodkinson, as Sara) and a nine-piece orchestra.
This project has represented a deepening of our relationship with Streetwise Opera with whom we have been working with to provide volunteering opportunities and we are looking forward to building our relationship with Music for Everyone as we embark on a year-long Festival of Youth in 2019.
The impact of the whole project, particularly the final performance, has been heart-warming and encouraging:
“I thought it was brilliant, every group did their part, not just us, every group. It was absolutely great to be part of something like that.” Streetwise Opera Participant
“We really enjoyed the opera on Saturday. It is a real experience for the young people to work both with professional musicians and the members of the Streetwise Opera, and to sing, to a high standard, music to which they would almost certainly not have access elsewhere. The girls have really enjoyed the experience and seem to respond positively to the high expectations that are set both musically and in terms of being responsible for themselves and the younger children in the choir. Involvement with the Streetwise singers in particular has opened the girls’ eyes to the way in which music, and music-making can, and should, be accessible to all.” Youth Choir Parent
“It was fantastic to be part of this project and to see that music at the Cathedral is really flourishing. I can't imagine how much hard work it has taken to put together the opera, let alone the whole festival, so what the team have done with the first one is amazing.” Opera Soloist
“The whole Music Festival brought about a real sense of community, bringing together a whole range of people from both the Cathedral and the City. Most notable with Choral Scholars and Cathedral Choir volunteers working alongside the Women of St Barnabas and members of Streetwise Opera to coordinate all front of house and refreshment duties across the four days. Tobias and the Angel was a completely unique experience in that it was truly collaborative and inclusive without sacrificing very high artistic quality. The pre-performance talk was accessible and fun, drawing in an engaging crowd, and bringing together all the threads of the event – faith, community and basic human things – giving a big reason as to why we do what we do.” Choir Member
A reflection by Eden Lavelle, Assistant Director of Music:
Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater is not a piece to be undertaken lightly. I have seen a number of adult choirs struggle with its myriad challenges over the years: controlled dissonance, complex rhythms, long phrases, and the Latin text, to name a few. As such, the prospect of the Youth Choir – many of whose members are under the age of ten and new to the task of reading music – caused me, as their rehearsal pianist, some concern. However, from our very first rehearsal in February, the way in which Ellie Martin handled our rather limited rehearsal time assuaged all my anxieties. Knowing that the task of reading such complex music might have been a stumbling block for some members of the Youth Choir, Ellie taught much of the piece aurally, with commendable efficiency, musicality, and patience. As a result, the way in which the choir’s eyes were fixed on Ellie throughout the performance served as proof that vast swathes of the music had actually been memorised. This, combined with the choir’s
unshakable focus, had the added benefit of enabling them to respond to everything Ellie was showing
them through her skilful conducting, meaning that, as well as being an accurate and detailed recreation of the score, the performance was a living, breathing, and deeply expressive musical and religious experience for both performers and audience members alike.
A personal highlight was the eighth movement, ‘Fac ut ardeat cor meum’, a complex two-part fugue that is undeniably the most challenging bit of the piece. After weeks of struggling to conquer this particular movement, Ellie and I asked the Youth Choir if they would find it helpful to have some members of the Cathedral Choir come along to help. Inspiringly, however, this suggestion was met with defiance. After two months of hard work, the choir was determined to stand on its own two feet and showcase its talent. As it happened, this movement turned out to be, in my opinion, the most cohesive, impassioned, and exciting part of the performance, enhanced by my knowledge of how challenging the music is and how dedicated the choir had been with getting to grips with it. Credit and thanks must also be given to SaraBande, the local string quartet who so kindly volunteered their services, and the soloists: choral scholars Grace Bale, Rebecca Sarginson, Kate Price, and Georgia Grattan.
Finally, it was worth noting that the gravity of the occasion was not lost on the Youth Choir. They did
not shy away from the enormous responsibility of performing a setting of a text as important as the
‘Stabat mater’ in the Cathedral itself on Good Friday, one of the most significant days in the Church’s
calendar. It was wonderful to see the Cathedral provide an opportunity for young people to come
together from all corners of the diocese on such an important day, with the faith that they would do
nothing but enhance people’s Good Friday experience.
I sincerely hope that this concert has been recognised for the resounding success it was, and that it will pave the way for more high-profile opportunities for the Youth Choir in the future. Having been distracted by the task of accompanying the rehearsals, it filled me with pride to be able to sit back during the concert and marvel at the finished product. Many congratulations to Ellie and the Youth Choir for their achievement.
The Cathedral Diary during December is full of a whole range of organisations who have chosen to hold their annual Christmas Services and Concerts in our Cathedral Church. 2017 was no different
with the Cathedral supporting charities such as the Alzheimer's Society, Rainbows, and Maggie’s.
This year our Youth Choir contributed carols to Maggie’s ‘Carols by Candlelight’ Concert on
Thursday 7 December alongside the Trent Brass Quintet and Southwell Choral Society.
2017 also saw the return of the BBC Radio Nottingham Carol Service, last held here in 2013. It is always a pleasure to welcome BBC Radio Nottingham to the Cathedral and we have it on good authority that they enjoy working in the lovely acoustic.
The Carol Service featured a range of traditional carols including one particular request from the BBC, Neil Page’s arrangement of ‘While Shepherds Watched’ to the tune ‘Cranbrook’, commonly used for the Yorkshire folksong ‘On Ilkla Moor Baht 'At’. The Cathedral Choirs gave performances of John Rutter’s ‘The Colours of Christmas’ and Bob Chilcott’s ‘Where Riches Is Everlastingly’, also accompanying soloist Emma Browne in Adolphe Adam’s ‘O Holy Night’. No carol service is ever complete without a touch of brass and we were delighted to welcome back the members of Essentially Brass who performed ‘I Wonder As I Wander’ with soloist Emma Browne and also ‘Gaudete’ and a lively festive medley ‘The Many Sounds of Christmas’. Members of the Bestwood Male Voice Choir and the Linby and Papplewick WI (LAPWINGS) rounded off the service which was later broadcast on BBC Radio Nottingham on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.