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National Choir Competition Report

On a cold and wet evening after the entertainments final in the Queen’s Hall a few girls got talking and after one or two cocktails, of the Hexham variety, they decided that Northumberland County YFC should get together and enter a choir into the competition at the Northern Area Competitions Weekend.

A facebook page was set up, making it official, and potential candidates were invited to attend. Slightly anxious as to whom, if anyone, would actually turn up at Standforham Village Hall, ladies from all corners of the County came together. It was at this point that we realised the competition was literally a few weeks away so if we were going to do this it was going to have to be now!

Catlin Younger from Berwick, Charlotte Walton from Bellingham, Helen Pearse, Heidi Craighead and Kerry West from Ponteland, Vicky Harrison, Carly Hall, Jade Hunter from Stamfordham and Jojo Chomse and myself from Whitley Chapel stepped up to the mark and Northumberland YFC choir was born. With Ducky as choir master, Lucy Adamson in charge of music and Emily Carter as our groupie this was going to be a team to be reckoned with.

We split ourselves in to the very technically termed ‘highies’ and ‘lowies’ and after a little debate and a lot of youtube listening we decided to sing Proud Mary, Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree, Wimba Way and I Just Can’t Wait To Be King from the Lion King. The rules of the competition said that the repertoire must be varied and include a range of genres, I think it was safe to say that we had a big fat tick in that box and what the the group lacked in technical knowledge it made up for in enthusiasm, determination and volume.

We all headed to the Northern Area Competitions weekend held at Longridge High School in Preston on Saturday 1st March 2014 and with our black dresses and array of brightly coloured shoes we actually looked like a choir. The stage was set and the rest of Northumberland YFC filtered in at the back of the sports hall to offer their support. After a nerve wracking 6 minutes we had completed the set and with the judges parting comments being that they like our shoes…. we really had no idea how they had taken our choir.

The results were given our and we were awarded second place, absolutely thrilled with this we were blown away when we were told we heading to the National final which was to be held at the National AGM in Blackpool.

We knew we needed to step it up a gear and the vocal power houses in the form of Joanna Harrison from Stamfordham and Fran Johnston from Cambo were called upon and made a most glorious addition to our group. With their style and power there was no holding us back.

Ducky managed to get in touch with Musical Director of the Newcastle Choral Society who got us tickets to go and watch a variety of choirs perform at the Sage in Gateshead. A fantastic night was had by all and the girls who attended did an excellent research job and came back with inspiration to help us at the national final.

It was decided that a fresh repertoire was required and a new line up of songs were decided upon. The Gambler by Kenny Rodgers, Just The Way You Are by Bruno Mars (which was to become the bane of our lives), Thought Shall Have A Fishy, which the girls had brought back from their night at the sage with a simple arrangement to go with it and Guns and Roses’ Sweet Child Of Mine was going to be our National Finals entry.

We practice when we could and it became apparent that Bruno Mars was our achilles’ heel. Credit to everyone we practice that song so much to get it right I literally turn the radio over if it ever comes on!

11th May 2014 the date, the Winter Gardens in Blackpool the location. Armed again with our signature black dresses and brightly coloured shoes we headed to the competition. Waiting back stage was slightly terrifying as we sat there with our bottles of water and bags of crisps all bar one other choir looked quite the professionals doing vocal warm up with their very professional looking choir masters. Slightly daunted but never deterred it was finally our time to shine as we hit the stage and gave it our all.

The crowd’s reaction was immense and this spurred us on. Waiting for the results was again a nerve wracking experience and when our name was called out in THIRD place the utter elation for what we had achieved hit us. In the end the team from Wales won but they were fantastic and I commend them on their achievement.

The judges commented that they could feel the emotion we put in to the Bruno Mars song which made me laugh. I was certainly feeling something for that song but I fear it was not quite the emotion the judges had picked up on. The only real issue we had was a slight timing problem which was no fault of our own so all in all – we had smashed it!!

Who would have thought that 9 girls from that most northern county could go up on that stage against choirs twice their size with probably twice the help and professional training and not only hold their own but make everyone in that place sit up and listen to Northumberland. Just imagine what a little more time and perhaps some professional influence could do……..

I am sad that my time in YFC is over but I am thrilled to have been part of this and to end YFC on such a high with a fabulous group of girls

I would encourage anyone to join any choir it will have such a positive impact on your life and with new friends made and an achievement to be proud of all that is left to say is…. BRING ON NEXT CHOIR COMP! I will be your number one fan!

Rachel Forster