Young Voices, the biggest school choir concert series in the world, is the highlight of our January. My daughter has taken part every year she has been able to – the whole of Key Stage 2. And so to year 6 and her final Young Voices!
Young Voices is performed at huge venues around the UK over several nights. My daughter goes to the Genting Arena at the NEC in Birmingham.
She had had even less practise than ever this year. She actually got the words back in July and learned Birdhouse in Your Soul (one of my favourite songs) at home over summer. She went to choir practise at school until October half-term, then it was cancelled for the first two weeks back. And then it was time for panto rehearsals and she didn’t go to choir again until January. When she realised she only knew four out of 11 songs. Oh dear!
Luckily, she had the words and she could access the music and dance moves online. So she practised at home. And she practised and she practised and she practised. It was lovely to hear her singing at the top of her voice, especially when she had her headphones on and she had no idea how loud she was singing! (I’m surprised her brothers didn’t try to kill her.)
Some of the songs were very short – just a chorus to be sang with one of the adult singers at Young Voices. But most of them were very long. They cover a really good variety of music – pop, rock, country, traditional and folk. A few of the songs are medleys, which is great, because you get even more songs for the price of one.
Young Voices is a long day for the kids, but they love every minute of it. They arrive just after lunch to rehearse with the other 6,667 kids in the choir, as well as the teachers, conductor David Lawrence and the other acts on the bill – singers Natalie Williams and Tabby Callaghan, The Beatbox Collective and street dancers, Urban Strides. Because Young Voices is about so much more than the kids performing for their parents – it’s about the kids seeing these amazing, inspiring performers and singing with them too.
The concert kicked off with 5 Guys Named Moe, which had a bit of a country and western feel to it, before a piece by The Beatbox Collective. These guys are incredible – the range of sounds they produce from their own voices is unbelievable. Very talented and very funny!
It took me a few stressful minutes to locate my daughter in the crowd. We knew what block they were in and could see the school’s banner. I thought I could see her long hair and, when I checked in the binoculars, it was definitely her! I could also see the light glinting off her glasses from time to time. I had a look through the binoculars during every song and it was obvious how much she and her friends were enjoying themselves – singing, dancing and laughing their way through the concert.
Then it was Birdhouse in Your Soul and Over the Hills, a medley of traditional folk songs from around the UK, which included the children singing in Welsh. Although you could tell the bit they all knew and liked the best – ‘Charlie is my darling, my darling, my darling… ‘ sung at about twice the volume of the rest of the choir.
Street dance group, Urban Strides, performed a piece, followed by Tabby (who came third in the XFactor in 2014) performing Sweet Child of Mine. It’s infectious to see how excited the kids get by all the performers. They’re dancing along, singing along, cheering, clapping and waving their little torches.
The kids then performed two of their less popular songs – Stronger Together and Maliswe, which is in a variety of South African languages and had lots of dance moves. I love how Young Voices gives them such a range of different cultures and musical genres. They’re learning so much more than a few songs.
Natalie Williams performed Somewhere Only We Know and I Got Life, which she described as ‘grown up heads, shoulders, knees and toes’. The kids particularly liked the bit when she sang about her ‘booty’.
Then it was back to the choir for You’re the Voice, which will forever be remembered by me as a scene in Car Share, where Peter Kay is singing at the top of his voice. That one had amazing sign language dance moves. I know my daughter knew them, but it was hard to tell whether everyone did as they were so far away.
Towards the end of the concert, the parents were dragged up on their feet to dance along with Urban Strides and the Justin Timberlake remix. Most of the remix was Can’t Stop the Feeling, which is a very special song to us because it was in the panto. I loved hearing it and I knew my daughter would be loving every second of it too.
The song that my daughter liked least and really didn’t know at all, was For Those About to Rock Again – a medley of rock songs. It included Summer of 69, I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll and Keep Yourself Alive, a little-known Queen song. But of course I knew it, because I absolutely love Queen. I’d told my daughter the parents would love the medley – and I was right. The kids were singing with Tabby, so it had a really good rock sound. And when she was going to bed at midnight, still buzzing, she told me the rock song was her favourite. See! Mummy always knows best.
Then it was Proud Mary with Natalie and onto the kids’ absolute favourite – the Pop Medley. They do a pop medley every year and generally it takes no teaching at all, because the kids already know it. This year’s included Coldplay, Taylor Swift, Olly Murs and Adele.
And then we sneaked out before the final song, Ain’t No Mountain, to get out of the car park before the queues. It had been another fantastic Young Voices.
If you kids ever get the chance to take part, encourage them, you won’t regret it! It’s an experience like no other and I’ll be sad not to go next year.