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500 York Primary School Children to sing in the Schools Prom

20 October 2009

Five hundred primary school children in York will be off to the Royal Albert Hall on 9th November to sing in the Music for Youth Schools Prom.

The NCEM (National Centre for Early Music) is working in collaboration with the National Singing Programme, Sing Up, to train these young performers from 12 different primary schools to perform 'Ode on the 350th Birthday of Mr Henry Purcell', a specially commissioned piece from Cathedral composer Dr Richard Shephard with the libretto by Mary Holtby. The participating schools are: New Earswick; Dringhouses; Dunnington; Heworth; Fishergate; Wigginton; St Wilfrid's RC; Park Grove; St George's RC; Robert Wilkinson; Hempland Primary and Bootham Junior Schools.

In preparation for this major event there will be a special public preview concert at York Minster on Wednesday 4 November at 5pm.

The children, aged between 9 and 11 years old, will be the youngest and the largest group on stage at the Royal Albert Hall. They will be directed by Susan Hollingworth, musical director of the Scunthorpe Co-operative Junior Choir who won the BBC Radio 3 Choir of the Year in 2008. Sue has been working with the young singers alongside their teachers in school since September preparing them for this event and has been joined by Em Whitfield-Brooks who has created the choreography to go with the piece.

Sue commented: "The children have really enjoyed learning and singing these genuine Purcell melodies and have really taken to the combination of music and movement to help them to tell the story through the witty libretto, which focuses on three elements of Purcell's life: the Fire of London, the Coronation of King James II and the funeral of Queen Mary. They will be using lots of colourful flags, which will look stunning in the Hall and at the Minster. There is a great sense of excitement about preparing for both the event in York Minster and of course their big trip to the Royal Albert Hall. I am sure this will be a moment in their lives that they will never forget. To sing in such a fantastic venue, which will be full to bursting, will be a memory that will live with them for ever."

Composer Richard Shephard, also Chamberlain of York Minster, says of the special commission 'Ode on the 350th Birthday of Mr Henry Purcell': "The idea of the piece is to introduce young people to a few of the best-known melodies by Henry Purcell. There are quotations from his dramatic works Dido and Aeneas, The Fairy Queen, and King Arthur and from his substantial religious output, there are references to the Funeral Music for Queen Mary and the anthem Jehovah quam multi sunt hostes mei. In addition there is a chorus for the whole audience to sing - the great hymn tune Westminster Abbey, which is taken from the anthem O God thou art my God."

Caroline Gilderdale, teacher at Dunnington Primary School in York which is one of the participating schools added: "The project is absolutely brilliant and really helps to raise the profile of singing. Our children have enjoyed learning the 'Ode on the 350th Birthday of Mr Henry Purcell.' It has been quite difficult music, but, as always, they have risen to the challenge and have loved it! They take a great pride in their performance and their singing technique is developing really well.

"It is such a wonderful opportunity for the children to perform in the Royal Albert Hall - which we know will be an unforgettable experience for them. Everything has been so well organised for us, both in the excellent administrative support and the superb vocal tuition we have had from Sue Hollingworth and local voice coach Ruth McCartney."

The young York choir will be one of 34 carefully selected groups who will perform over the three days of the Schools Prom, with full orchestras, jazz bands, music theatre groups, steel bands, soul singers and almost every other genre of music represented by gifted young people. Richard Stilgoe will host these hugely popular concerts.

Howard Goodall, National Singing Ambassador, who will be co-hosting the event, says: "Sing Up is delighted to be working with The National Centre for Early Music on a performance for the Schools Prom. Supporting the development of new music for children, whilst making the most of our rich musical heritage, is something at the heart of the Sing Up programme. We are also committed to providing inspirational opportunities for children and young people through the Funded Programmes strand of Sing Up, and the Happy Birthday Mr. Purcell project is doing just that."

To book tickets for this year's Schools Prom on Monday 9 November, ring the Royal Albert Hall Box Office on 0845 401 5045 or book on-line at: To book tickets for the preview event at York Minster on Wednesday 4 November ring the NCEM Box Office on 01904 658338 or book on-line. 


Press Contact:

National Centre for Early Music Shona Galletly PR
07813 796 733

Editor's Notes

The National Centre for Early Music, is an award-winning centre of excellence for music-making of all kinds. Situated in the medieval church of St Margaret's, in York, it is home to the internationally renowned York Early Music Festival and runs a wide ranging education programme for early years, primary and secondary schools students and adults. 

Sing Up is the Music Manifesto National Singing Programme, produced by Youth Music with AMV-BBDO, Faber Music and The Sage Gateshead, supported by the Government.

Richard Shephard is Chamberlain of York Minster, so like Purcell; he is used to great formal events, church music and even fires - in that he arrived in York in 1985, just after the fire which destroyed the South Transept of York Minster. As a composer he is perhaps best known for his church music which is widely sung in this country and in the United States. But theatre has always been an interest, and he has written musicals, operas and incidental music - perhaps most notably the music for the production of the Millennium Mystery Plays which played to great critical acclaim in 2000.