National Youth Choirs of Great Britain
in the press
Summer 2013 reviews
BBC Prom 38, Sunday 11 August
Vaughan Williams Toward the Unknown Region
Mark-Anthony Turnage Frieze
Beethoven Symphony 9 ‘Choral’
'… Waves of joy rollicked off the platform in the finale to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (commissioned by the RPS in 1821). The fervent glow of the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain, the Irish Youth Chamber Choir and Codetta, featured earlier in the homespun wool of Vaughan Williams’s Toward the Unknown Region, sent the temperature soaring, quite outpacing the contributions of the solo vocal quartet.' Geoff Brown, The Times
'This was a special Prom in many ways. For a start, it featured the National Youth Orchestra (NYO) and Choirs which, with two other choirs also in attendance, meant several hundred performers crowded onstage. It also marked the bicentenary of the Royal Philharmonic Society (RPS), and it was the first ever free Prom, which meant a different audience demographic, including many children.
'…The massed choirs more than matched the world-class quartet of soloists, while the orchestra seemed willing to follow Petrenko over the edge. I thought I glimpsed a smile crossing the bust of Beethoven that glowered at the front of the stage.' Nick Kimberley, The Evening Standard
'Vaughan Williams’s Toward the Unknown Region showed off the beautifully rehearsed choirs, making controlled and expressive use of dynamic range through the early parts of the work, but holding something back to give real impact when the text demanded ('Then we burst forth…').' Kimon Daltas, the ArtsDesk
'Prefacing the two commissions came Vaughan Williams’s Toward the Unknown Region, an early work composed around the same time as the much more substantial A Sea Symphony, both having Walt Whitman in common. Whitman’s epic verse about the renewal of the soul is draped with similarly visionary music from the composer, with a reminiscence of Parsifal in the poetry’s pre-occupation with time and space. The 150-strong choir made the setting shine and resonate in a way that would have satisfied the co-creators’ ecstatic yearnings, underpinned by luminous playing from the NYO, which, with Vasily Petrenko’s guidance, abandoned hushed discretion in the monumental closing pages, with earth-shaking beef-up from the organ.
'Petrenko injected a pleasing, ironic ambiguity into the beery beginning of the finale’s march and shaped the movement’s momentum with a bracing sense of inevitability. …The thrilling sound of all those young voices at full throttle in Schiller’s Ode to Joy summed up the excitement that the best performances of this work can generate. For a free concert, the audience certainly got its money’s worth.' Peter Reed, Classicalsource.com
'Glorious singing from the massed ranks of combined choirs was the highlight of this free Prom
'With the platform filled by the huge number of young musicians in the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, the stage was set for a concert on a massive scale. It opened inspiringly with Vaughan Williams’s Toward the Unknown Region, a 10-minute choral work of aspirational uplift, superbly sung here by the combined forces of the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain, Codetta and the Irish Youth Chamber Choir.
'The performance of the Beethoven had tremendous drive… the glory of the performance was again the choral singing.' Richard Fairman, The Financial Times
Snape Proms – Saturday 17 August 2013
'We’re lucky here – the UK surely has the finest tradition of choral music making in the world. Such quality needs regular replenishing if it is to be maintained, which is where the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain come in. This year’s summer tour for the main choir, a troupe of some 90 teenagers and twenty-somethings, came to Snape fresh from singing Beethoven at that other Prom festival down in the smoke.
'The evening started with a full surround sound experience as half of the singers made their way into the audience aisles for Palestrina sung antiphonally. The sound, and sight, of singers on stage and in the auditorium singing to each other made for an imaginative start to what proved to be a highly enjoyable evening. The two groups then traded anthems by Tallis and Byrd before reforming as one chorus on stage for Bach’s demanding motet for double choir, Singet dem Herrn. Although a committed and enthusiastic performance of this tricky piece followed, for me it was maybe the least successful item of the evening. The intricacies of Bach are usually best served with fewer voices and the polyphony was sometimes a little blurred around the edges. With the move to Brahms we were on firmer ground … for the first time in the evening we enjoyed a true pianissimo and the choir’s lush harmonies caressed the ear with warmth and grandeur.
'No choir is going to come to Snape in 2013 and not pay at least a small homage to Britten. The choice of the Choral Dances from Gloriana was a good one and you got the feeling that this was the sort of music the choir lived for. In a second half of great quality, highlight followed highlight: as well as Britten we had Rutter, Shostakovich and even a little Swedish jazz, all lovingly crafted. The evening ended as it began with the singers coming out to their audience as they performed Flame, a 12 part work based on a quotation from Buddha … "thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared".
'Conducting duties were shared by Aldeburgh Voices director, Ben Parry and the experienced American choral trainer, Robert Isaacs. Each brought their own style and direction to the group and coaxed different qualities from the singers. They shared interesting insights on both the music and their response to it and employed an informal style which was entirely appropriate to the occasion. I was hugely impressed by the technical standards of the choir. Intonation, breath control and unanimity of voice were all from the top drawer and if on occasions I may have fleetingly wished for slightly clearer diction, any such concerns were quickly swept away by the choir’s gloriously assured musicality. On this evidence, the future excellence of our choral tradition is in the safest of hands.' David Butcher, www.insuffolk.com
Sunday 14 April, Royal Albert Hall
Mark Simpson Exile (world premiere)
Monteverdi Vespro della Beata Vergine of 1610
Combined National Youth Choirs of Great Britain
Matthew Long, Benjamin Hulett and Mark Dobell, tenors
La Serenissima leader Adrian Chandler
Ben Parry conductor
'Monteverdi's Vespers of 1610 is one of those pieces of Renaissance music of which performance practices are still the subject of debate. It is an astonishing work of virtuosity but with sections of plainchant of lesser difficulty. I have seen it performed by professional choirs with perhaps fewer than 20 singers.
'In a brilliant concert put on by National Youth Choirs of Great Britain around 600 singers from Boys' Choir, Cambiata Voices, Girls' Choir (Senior), Girls' Choir (Junior) Training Choir North, Training Choir South, National Youth Choir and Chamber Choir together with soloists Mark Dobell, Benjamin Hulett, Matthew Long and orchestra La Serenissima conducted by Ben Parry the piece came to life in The Royal Albert Hall on 14 April.
'In the other work in the programme, no less challenging, Exile by Mark Simpson, the singers showed what can be achieved by giving full value to the swirling chord changes very much in the modern idiom, painting the emotional power of Harold Hart Crane's poetry.
'The performance of the Vespers was beautifully judged. With the mighty forces at his disposal, Ben Parry brought out the different sections of the piece to perfection. The simple but very effective "Sancta Maria, ora pro nobis" the younger members sang with skill and confidence. In the more complex fast moving passages the accomplished soloists and chamber choir handled the ever moving, complex writing with great skill.'
Mark Windisch, Chairman, National Early Music Association
Saturday 1 September, The Sage Gateshead
Training Choir North
with The Sage Gateshead's Teen Summer Sing and folk musicians Will Lang, Niopha Keegan, Colin Nicolson and Rufus Miller
'...Opening with Hassler’s Ihr Musici, Frisch Auf (You Musicians, Refresh Yourselves), the focus during the first half of the programme had a classical feel, featuring a range of choral repertoire from baroque master Gabrieli to American superstar Eric Whitacre.'
'...Listening to the technical maturity of the voices, you could easily forget that the performers were all in their early teens, particularly during the delightful musical assault on the senses that was Ives’ Psalm 150.'
'...All in all the audience was blown away by the performance from a group of youngsters with talent beyond their years. If this is just the training choir, just imagine what’s to come.'
BBC Prom 18, Friday 27 July 2012
Beethoven Symphony 9
West-Eastern Divan Orchestra
National Youth Choir of Great Britain
Daniel Barenboim conductor
‘…there can be no gainsaying the tremendously fresh contribution of the National Youth Choir, whose members delivered an encounter with Beethoven's hymn to the intoxications of freedom that none of them should ever forget.’ Guy Dammann, The Guardian *****
'Not only did they sustain Beethoven’s cruelly high lines, they also sang them beautifully in tune, something that seems to tax even the best adult choruses... if the Divan players needed a lift at the end of their exhausting week with Herr Ludwig and Maestro Danny, these teenage British choristers must have supplied it in spades.’ Richard Morrison, The Times ****
‘…the splendid National Youth Choir of Great Britain, a match for the best of their orchestral counterparts, never faltered.’ Richard Fairman, Financial Times
‘…the outstanding contribution came from the National Youth Choir of Great Britain.' Mark Pullinger, ClassicalSource.com
'As for the choir... they were vibrant, disciplined and alert. A frisson of excitement spread throughout the entire Hall when they all shot to their feet in the space of semi-quaver. Their performance was energised, at times utterly exhilarating and wonderfully alive to Beethoven’s song and Schiller’s explosive spirit of joy.' Adrian Hilton, Mail Online
‘It was the chorus that stole the show, though, with impeccable control at “Ihr stürzt neider, Millionen”.' Colin Clarke, Seen and Heard International
BBC Prom 30, Sunday 5 August 2012
Bob Chilcott The Angry Planet
Ben Parry Flame
Bach Choir, BBC Singers, Children's Choirs from London Boroughs, National Youth Choir
Laura Ashworth soprano David Hill conductor
'One joy was constant: the sound of 550 voices – the Bach Choir, National Youth Choir of Great Britain, plus children’s choirs from three London boroughs – singing unaccompanied at epic length without losing pitch. But the richest sounds came in the four-minute curtain-raiser, Ben Parry’s Flame, a gorgeously handled crescendo of warmth and bliss.' Geoff Brown, The Times
'The three adult choirs could easily have repeated Flame at the end of the concert, so impressive was it in its Buddhist ideal of a single candle becoming more powerful in spreading light by the number of people that see it.' Nick Breckenfield, Classicalsource.com
BBC Prom 29, Friday 5 August 2011
Mahler Symphony 2
Simon Bolivar Orchestra
National Youth Choir of Great Britain
conductor Gustavo Dudamel
Watch the performance on YouTube