Val Javin: How to get children singing, ask Huddersfield Choral Society and partners
I’M LUCKY. I often get to sit and listen to concerts. But this week, I heard one that sounded like the future.
Though first impressions didn’t suggest that it would.
It had been billed as A Choral Explosion and that’s just what it felt like as the doors opened on to my seat in Huddersfield Town Hall.
How else would you describe the decibel level released by the excited chatter of hundreds of children gearing up for what for many was probably their first time singing as part of such a massive choir on that particular stage.
I’ve known adults quake at less. But not these youngsters.
There were more than 800 children from 27 schools on stage, taking the town’s most impressive concert venue in their, it has to be said, mostly tiny strides.
They filled the rises reaching to the top of the town hall stage in their bright primary coloured T shirts. They spilled out and washed brightness across row after row of seats on the floor of the hall.
We were told to expect a musical journey and we got one. Right on into the future.
After a quick salute to home territory with the Kirklees anthem, waved off in style by Thom Meredith and the Kirklees Music School Big Band, the children did what the song said, Seize The Day.
Our starting point was Liverpool and two crews of sailor-suited narrators guided us out of harbour watching closely from port and starboard sides as we eased our way out into the deeper waters that lead to other lands.
We were on a journey which they told us would take us around the world. Music can do that.
But, hang on a minute, Were those stowaways?
Hardly. For they were right on deck, at the heart of the action, a crew of Huddersfield Choral Society singers having a whale of a time. And acting at times as superb ballast too if they will forgive me saying so!
We travelled west to the Americas, sailed through the Caribbean, on to Africa and then the East before sighting Russia and the final turn homewards.
On our musical travels we made many friends and learned about many cultures.
You could feel the wind on the great American plains and the closeness of the native American to the earth. You could feel the simmering heat and jewel brightness of India as the silk of saris soared into the aisles.
Wind ruffled the sails and rocked the boat as our journey reminded us that not everything comes easily.
But then came the haunting sound of Rachmaninov’s Vespers illustrating perfectly the beauty of centuries old traditions at the heart of the world’s biggest country, Russia.
This was a night for voices for imaginations, for percussion, for rhythmic hand clapping and well drilled movement. And miles of smiles.
It was a journey that began weeks ago for the children who have been packing in the hours on learning songs with their teachers in their own schools.
And the talent, dedication and inspiration of those teachers cannot be underestimated.
Neither can the work and support of other organisations which made the town hall a joyful place to be on Wednesday night.
Proud parents and grandparents jumped on board, enchanted by the whistle stop tour around the world which their very own young singers had created.
And there were plenty of other hands on deck. For wherever you looked, there were people willing to launch this musical ship into the future.
There were, of course, lots of Huddersfield Choral Society faces on stage and setting the right course behind the scenes.
After all, A Choral Explosion was part of a special series of workshops which have been devised by the Choral Society as part of its big birthday celebrations.
When it’s your birthday, you are usually on the receiving end of gifts. But this week, the town and future generations got another special one courtesy of the Choral.
Jenny Lockwood, the Choral’s vice-president, said the society had been determined to share its anniversary with the town.
“We are celebrating 175 years of choral music and we wanted more people to have more access to the Choral’s music,’’ she said.
“We decided to do that through a series of workshops, some for adults, some for young people and children, some for singing and another for conducting.”
“It’s a brilliant way to work in partnership with so many people.”
Leading most of Wednesday’s music was musician and teacher Sue Hollingworth who I reckon could make anyone want to sing.
Less visible but just as crucial were other partners, the Mrs Sunderland Music Festival, Kirklees Learning Services and sponsors Syngenta.
Together they made music fun and inspiring and they made it matter. If they build on those connections and those partnerships, a whole new musical journey for Huddersfield could just be starting.
After all, all you need to get started is co-operation, participation and a touch of inspiration.