This Christmas, the Chandos Chamber Choir will be joined by the Bromley Youth Senior Choir for our performance of Benjamin Britten’s A Boy Was Born. The Youth Choir will also be performing a festive piece of their own and join the Chandos and audience in singing the Christmas carols.
The Bromley Youth Senior Choir is part of the Bromley Youth Music Trust (BYMT), an independent music service which provides individual and group tuition in schools, bands and choirs, public performance opportunities. In addition, members get the opportunity to extend their musical education through holiday courses, workshops, masterclasses, concert tours and participation in festivals, in order to provide a ‘very high quality comprehensive and inclusive instrumental and vocal music education to the young people of Bromley and surrounding areas’ (www.bymt.co.uk).
The Senior Choir is directed by Stephanie Seeney, who kindly answered some questions so we could find out a little bit about the choir and her leadership role – she runs 7 choirs – 4 Primary school choirs, the BYMT Junior Choir and Senior Choirs, and Sing! Bromley – a daytime adult choir.
‘I trained as a singer, doing my PostGrad at Trinity College of Music. I then spent 10 years singing, mainly in small choral groups, particularly the BBC Singers and the Academy of Ancient Music. Three years ago I came back to BYMT (where I grew up), and started teaching primary classroom music, including lots of singing. I am now the Head of Singing for BYMT, in charge of all of the choirs and singing teachers.’
The musical background of the senior choirs membership is ‘very mixed – some are big fans of classical music, others are all about the pop – so I try and include a bit of everything. Several have individual singing lessons, but many just come to choir because they love singing.’. ‘We try and sing a mix of everything – in the last concert we did some Italian songs, a Japanese folk song, and Somewhere Over the Rainbow with ukulele.’
In the past, the choir have performed with adult choirs but the current membership have not yet had the opportunity to do so, so when James Davey, a longtime friend from the National Youth Choirs, approached Stephanie to suggest a collaboration, she was delighted. The choir normally performs in churches in the surrounding local area, so coming to central London for a concert is also a bonus. ‘I am extremely keen to give all of our choirs and singers more opportunities – for their personal development – as well as being able to develop and grow the choirs. It
is important for me that we give them opportunities that they wouldn’t get with their school choirs. This absolutely fits that bill!’
The piece presents technical challenges for both adult and treble choirs, but the children are embracing these with enthusiasm, says Stephanie. ‘This is a really new and exciting challenge for the choir. They can sing all their parts really well but following the 8 adult parts to know where to come in can be rather challenging!’ However, they are enjoying the rehearsals: ‘I’ve been surprised (and delighted!) to hear them say that bits of the Britten have been stuck in their heads during the week. But all together I think we definitely enjoy In The Bleak Midwinter most, even if the words aren’t the same as they would normally say!’
The children’s choir will add another dimension and texture to the music that adult sopranos or a soloist couldn’t because they ‘will create a different sound to the adults, which is important when there are so many parts going on at once.’ In addition, children often add an extra air of excitement to Christmas celebrations and we hope they will do the same for our concert this year!