Hereford Cathedral School’s Cantabile Girls Choir – semi-finals of BBC Songs of Praise Senior school choirs 2015
Wow! We’ve made it through to the finals for the second year in a row and against a really strong field of six choirs.
This is a fantastic achievement because each year the choir loses the older girls as they leave the school and Jo Williamson has to remake the mix – blending the new and existing girls’ voices to get a balanced sound. With her inspiration they have worked incredibly hard and it showed in the semi-final on Sunday.
Just to add to the pressure Michael Neaum (the Arranger of the Easter Hymn), was in the Nottingham audience listening to their performance. Both he and Jo have longstanding connections with Nottinghamshire. The competition was filmed in Nottingham’s Albert Hall which is where Jo had her professional singing debut!
We have a brilliant and completely original song lined up for the Final. We used the money we won at the International Eisteddfod at Llangollen to commission Michael Neaum to create a commemoration piece based on on the ‘Skylark’ a poem by Digby Haseler. The poet was a pupil at Hereford Cathedral School and wrote this in the trenches in the First World War.
The Cantabile support team on the day did their bit too and so a big thank you to Laurence John who accompanied them on the piano, Melanie Cuthbert and all the family and supporters of course!
The judges JB Gill, Tim Rhys-Evans and Yvie Burnett were very fair and made some great comments about all the choirs:
- The Chapel Choir of Harrogate Ladies College – They loved the detail and refined nature of this choir and JB Gill felt he was being serenaded!
- Hereford Cathedral Cantabile Girls’ Choir – “Truly a beautiful performance – built right from the start” … “Wow what a sound !!” … “A real mezzo richness …I must congratulate you this is a fabulous choir ..”
- Twyford CofE High School Choir – “Bravo to the 4 boys … fullness to sound that was fantastic … really thrilling performance … ” “They really moved me …” “Texture and arrangement … control was excellent … brilliant performance well done …”
- Tonbridge Grammar School Motet Choir – “beautifully sung .. technically difficult ..long phrases ..” Its going to be very difficult ..”Praise Altos for bottom Gs” ” Lovely blend and really did support each other ..”
- Godolphin Vocal Ensemble – “Congratulations .. lovely clear sound and poised performers ..” “Very crisp …. dynamics throughout were beautiful …” “Overall very precise and lovely phrasing …”
- Strathearn School Chamber Choir – “Such a great tune … folky dreamlike quality … “So beautiful .. the harmonies and blend very soothing … a very beautiful sound” ” I believed that you meant it … enjoyed that alot ..”
See the full programme with all the performances and the judges comments.
Cantabile didn’t win but we didn’t lose either! As we congratulate our fellow finalists on a hard fought choral battle, we can be consoled by the truly lovely comments from the Judges Suzi Digby, Gareth Malone and Laura Mvula that recognised the quality of the singing from the Cantabile girls (and also the beautiful runners up trophy).
Listen to the performances on BBC iplayer and hopefully you will hear both the love and enthusiasm they have for choral singing as well as their technical brilliance which the Judges clearly felt singled them out and provided those ‘Magical Moments’. Jess Price sang the beautiful solo which anchored their second hymn ‘I Got a Robe’.
Jess Price sings her solo in I Got a Robe in the Final of School Choir of the Year 2014
Now the exam season is upon us, their next performance as a Choir will be at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod where they get to show a different repertoire. However choir members Serena Linley-Adams and Charlotte Pawley will also be singing in the Under 18s vocal solo competition this year with Jess Price singing in the 18 and over vocal solo competition.
Cantabile feature presented by Nick Owen
Nick Owen presented a feature on Cantabile’s bid for the finals of Songs of Praise School Choir of the Year today (2/5/2014).
With snippets from their rehearsals in Birmingham and interviews with the girls and Mrs Williamson, it gives a flavour of how much the competition means to them.
If you didn’t have the chance to see it, you can catch up on BBC iplayer for the next 20 hours: Cantabile and Midlands Today, 2/5/2014
At the age of 13, I became a member of the internationally renowned Cantamus Girls’ Choir from Mansfield, having started singing lessons with Miss Pamela Cook, who was the Director of the choir. Pamela Cook was an inspirational lady who taught me to sing from the heart and believe in myself. I was nervous at first as I had previously only sung in my local church choir. Cantamus was a totally different experience – and what an experience it was for me. It was something I will never forget! I was having to learn all my music from memory. Some of the music was easy, but other pieces were extremely difficult. Even today I wonder how I managed to memorise such difficult music as “Prayer before Birth” by Elizabeth Maconchy. Some of my favourite music was Britten’s “Ceremony of Carols”, Three Welsh Folk Songs, Three Hungarian Songs, Hava Nageela, some arrangements by Mr Neaum, who was our piano accompanist and a very talented amazing man, and some lovely madrigals.
My experience with Cantamus took me on many tours – Germany, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Poland and numerous other countries. I will never forget these wonderful memories. Under Miss Cook’s leadership, we enjoyed considerable success in many competitions both overseas and within Britain. It instilled in me a passion for music, particularly girls’ choir music, and I am thrilled to bits that I now have the opportunity of passing on my experiences to the wonderful girls in Cantabile at Hereford Cathedral School.
The girls have won their category at the International Eisteddfod, Llangollen for the last 2 years, and have now reached the semi-finals of BBC Songs of Praise Senior School Choir of the Year for the second time in 3 years. When I think back to my own experience in Cantamus when I was a teenage girl, I am extremely proud of the girls’ successes and achievements when it should be borne in mind that the girls only rehearse for up to 1 ½ hours a week (and they are never all present at any one time!) in a school classroom. Well done Cantabile girls!