Chamber Choir Report

This has been the final month of rehearsals and performances for Chamber Choir this academic year, as the senior boys are almost ready for study leave and the summer examination series. What a month it has been!

Fairly early in the year, I recognised that the combined talent and commitment of the 22 boys in Chamber Choir this year, was unique and something quite special. For that reason, I felt it was worth investing time and effort to take us beyond Bangor this year, to one of the biggest and best established music festivals in Northern Ireland.  On Wednesday 18th April, we boarded a bus, bound for Craigavon Civic Centre, which was the venue for the senior choral competition of Portadown Music Festival.  We enjoyed performances from Lurgan College, St Patrick’s College Maghera and Markethill High School, whose names are all engraved on the trophies from previous years.  Mrs Helen Deakin was our adjudicator and awarded us first place with an “outstanding” grade and a mark of 90.  We were delighted to hear her praise of our rhythmic precision, well graded dynamics, rich sonority and impressive technical control.  Simon Harbinson (Year 8) went forward to be presented with the E.H. Lamb Cup.  We were then invited to return for the Gala Concert the following week which closes the festival each year.

Wednesday 25th April, saw the opening day of Bangor International Choral Festival, now celebrating its 25th anniversary.  We performed the same programme of Light in the Hallway, by the Pentatonix and Fionnghuala, a traditional Scottish piece, arranged by Michael McGlynn.  Greg Beardsell was adjudicator and his impressive profile includes: “Music Director of the Peace Proms, London Youth Chamber Choir and Deputy Artistic Director of the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain.  He works worldwide as a conductor, adjudicator, workshop leader and presenter.”  Greg’s high profile in music education and performance increased our nerves!  It was lovely to perform alongside other local schools, and especially to see a boys’ choir from St Columbanus winning a commendation award.  Also performing were St Catherine’s College Senior Choir, Armagh, St Columbanus College Junior Choir and Bangor Academy and Sixth Form College Chamber Choir.  The standard of performance was very high, with a varied and interesting repertoire presented.  Greg’s final adjudication awarded us another “outstanding” grading which was labelled “an exceptional performance, both technically and artistically.”  This time, the prize wasn’t a cup, but a substantial amount of money which will fund the purchase of new music for the choir next year, and perhaps a pizza party next week by way of celebration!

Following the end of the Bangor International Choral Festival, we headed off to Portadown again for our final performance of the year at the Festival’s closing Gala Concert. We were treated to an exceptionally high standard of solo vocal and instrumental performances, as well as the Lowry Theatre Group performing an extract from Cats. Our performance was the finale of the evening, following which an awards ceremony was held.  Johnny Mason (Year 14) went forward to be presented with another monetary prize for our performance.  The best surprise of all, was a very unexpected award for the “most memorable performance of the entire festival”.  We were privileged to have been invited back to perform at the closing concert and even more flattered that our performance was significantly memorable.  Needless to say, it was a tiring day, but the mood was buoyant on the homeward journey.

Bangor International Choral Festival also had a closing concert on Saturday night at which we were awarded the Marine Court Shield for the best single performance in the Festival. This was based on our performance of Light in the Hallway.  What an honour.

Thanks to the festival organisers at both Portadown and Bangor for welcoming us so warmly and treating us so well. We are thrilled with the encouragement and success we have achieved at the end of a year’s hard work.  My personal thanks go to Johnny Mason for his exceptional commitment to the technical demands of the Scots Gaelic language used in Fionnghuala and his consistent willingness to carry solo lines in many of our performances this year.  Thanks also to Joel Hatty and Jack Riordan (both Year 14) for their level of commitment and contribution to the Chamber Choir this year.  The standard has been set high for the younger boys, having such talent in Year 14 to look up to.  All 3 of my Year 14 boys will be greatly missed and I wish them well for their university education and future careers, be it in music (or computing, Joel!!)


Claire Buchanan

Chamber Choir Director