Our Festival Choirs

National Youth Choir of Hungary

The National Youth Choir of Hungary was founded in 2018 by the Ministry of Human Resources at the Kodály Institute of the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music to commemorate the great composer Zoltán Kodály. This unique, 62 strong ensemble represented the Hungarian population of the entire Carpathian basin.

The main goal of the choir is to demonstrate the strength of human fellowship created through the Kodály system of musical education as well as to showcase the values of contemporary choral art of Hungary. Members of the choir come from a wide variety of professional backgrounds: there are students of music, architecture, chemistry, psychology, graphic design, information technology, linguistics, etc. among them, whilst other members have already graduated.

The choir's programme in 2018 comprised of a one week intensive rehearsal period followed by a series of five concert in three countries, ending in Kecskemét, Hungary, seat of the Kodály Institute.

This summer the choir will reconvene to fulfil two very important engagements. In July they will give a concert at the 30th International Kodály Seminar and Arts Festival in Kecskemét and in August they will perform at abcd's 34th Annual Convention in Birmingham. Before departing to Britain however, they will perform their programme to the Budapest audiences at the Pesti Vigadó.

Conductors

Péter Erdei is an Honorary Professor of the Liszt Academy of Music, Artist of Merit, holder of the Liszt and Bartók-Pásztory Prize for Performing Arts in Hungary as a conductor, and a renowned and determinant figure of international choral life. He is the founding director of the Kodály Institute, Kecskemét, and was the director for over thirty years. During his rich career he conducted the Debrecen Kodály Choir, the Hungarian Radio Choir, the Kecskemét Pedagogue Choir and currently the National Youth Choir of Hungary. In 2010, he founded the New Liszt Ferenc Chamber Choir to renew the traditions of the earlier, homonymous choir. He remains active in his retirement, conducting the Kecskemét Choral Society which he founded.

László Norbert Nemes is a Professor of the Liszt Academy of Music and holder of the Bartók-Pásztory Prize for Performing Arts in Hungary as a conductor. He became the director of the Kodály Institute of the Liszt Academy of Music, Kecskemét in 2008. Between 1997 and 2009 he worked as the Associate Conductor of the Hungarian Radio Children's Choir and since 2014 he has directed the New Liszt Ferenc Chamber Choir. In 2017 he received the civilian Golden Cross of Merit of the Republic of Hungary for his artistic work. As the director of the Kodály Institute he is a travelling ambassador of Hungarian music education, and holds very popular courses, lectures and workshops all around the world.

London Youth Choir (Senior Choir)

The London Youth Choir was formed in 2012 by Rachel Staunton and Suzi Digby OBE. London Youth Choir (LYC) seeks to be a truly representative youth arts organisation, enriching the cultural life of London through the pursuit of musical excellence and social change. LYC provides children and young people living or educated across London with high-calibre singing tuition and performance opportunities. Opportunities are designed to educate and inspire, build confidence, and develop skills in teamwork and leadership; all whilst championing inclusivity and understanding.

There are five weekly choirs, split according to age and experience levels: Boys' Choir (unbroken voices, school year 3 - 6), Girls' Choir (school years 3-6), Training Choir (mixed voices, school years 7 - 11), Senior Choir (mixed voices, school years 11 - 21) and Chamber Choir (20-member choir, mixed voices age 16+). Membership of the youth choirs provides a high-calibre, accessible musical education in a supportive and welcoming environment. Alongside technical and musicianship training and social activities, members benefit from high-level and varied performance opportunities including soundtrack recordings, television appearances and performances in iconic venues such as the Royal Albert Hall, Abbey Road Studios, Glastonbury and Wembley Stadium.

Conductor Rachel Staunton

From an early age Rachel had a passion for all things choral. She began singing with the award-winning Berkshire Youth Choir as a teenager and then with the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain. She gained a choral scholarship to read music at Royal Holloway, University of London, where she graduated with a first class honours degree. With a keen desire to become a choral conductor, she then studied at the Royal Academy of Music, graduating with numerous awards and an LRAM postgraduate diploma in choral conducting teaching.

Rachel is an enthusiastic music educator. She held the post of vocal director for In Harmony Opera North (Classic FM's Music Education Project of the Year 2014) and spent several years establishing the Opera North Children's Chorus. Over the past decade Rachel has worked as Assistant Director of the Training and Senior Choirs of the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain and has directed the Junior Girls' Choir.

Something of a choral entrepreneur, Rachel has founded many choirs in and around London, and particularly enjoys working with young people. In autumn 2012 Rachel founded the London Youth Choir with colleague Suzi Digby OBE. She works regularly with the choir and has a particular interest in developing its education outreach programme. In 2014 Rachel was made associate of the Royal Academy of Music, in recognition of her contribution to choral music and work with young people.

Town Hall Gospel Choir

Town Hall Gospel Choir are a group of singers and friends from in and around The Midlands area. They are passionate as well as committed to sharing the power of love and music in their uplifting style of singing...a sound that guarantees to resonate in people's hearts.

From the re-opening of the Birmingham Town Hall in 2007 it had become obvious that something very special had been created which deserved to be continued. The choir had been formed to perform a full live version of 'Handel's Messiah: A Soulful Celebration' under the directorship of Ken Burton. Singers were initially auditioned and trained by Ken and Black Voices. But it was in 2008, following the appointment of Colin Anderson as the Choir Director that Town Hall Gospel Choir was formally established as a community gospel choir, whose ranks have grown to nearly 40.

In 2012, THGC performed with Aswad's Brinsley Forde and Jazz Jamaica All Stars. The choir also provided the soundtrack to the spectacular outdoor production of The Voyage by Motionhouse. Other notable projects include performing with Sir Willard White OM, CBE, the late, great South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Britain's finest female a cappella quintet Black Voices, and international gospel artistes Harlem Gospel Choir as well as Muyiwa & Riversongz.

The choir won the coveted and inaugural title of Songs of Praise Gospel Choir of the Year in 2013 and GXMMA Gospel Choir of the Year Award in 2014. Nationally, the choir has performed on BBC television several times, and has been heard on regional (BBC WM, Heart FM West Midlands) and national radio (BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4).

In 2014, the choir travelled internationally for the first time to perform an International Choir Festival and on the strength of that performance was invited to return to perform in Paris the following year. A year later, the choir sang in Portugal on invitation once more from interest garnered at that first performance in France.

In 2018 the choir partnered with ADM Productions to revisit the 'Handel's Messiah: A Soulful Celebration' project in Wiltshire that was a tremendous success. In December 2018, THGC celebrated its 10th Anniversary with style in 2 parts. The choir as well as the audience were moved from the VIP pre-reception to the gala concert performance.

Lutley Community Voices

Formed in 2012, Lutley Community Voices is a 70 strong mixed community choir based in Halesowen, seven miles west of central Birmingham. From small beginnings, performing at events linked with Lutley Primary School, where the choir is based, LCV has appeared at Birmingham Town Hall and Symphony Hall, Dudley Town Hall and venues across the Black Country and north Worcestershire. The choir has enjoyed collaborations with other local groups, including being part of the Community Spirit project led by Black Voices and supporting Gentlemen Songsters Male Voice Choir at the Dudley Festival of Remembrance. Although starting as a two-part choir, most of the broad range of styles covered are now in four parts. Community is central to the group's activities, singing at residential homes and raising money for local charities chosen by members of the choir. This is achieved through an annual concert and many smaller performances, particularly during a busy Christmas season. In 2018 this included appearances on the Severn Valley Railway, in the local shopping centre and even providing a live house choir for the BBC WM breakfast show a few days before Christmas.

Conductor Margaret Jones

Having been a full time classroom teacher for thirty years, Margaret now has a varied portfolio of roles in music. She formed Lutley Community Voices while music co-ordinator at Lutley Primary School and has since created two other vocal groups in her home town of Halesowen: a singing for well being group, Shenstone Singers, and an upper voices chamber choir, Shenstone Roses. She is also Music Director of Gentlemen Songsters Male Voice Choir. Education remains central to Margaret's working life, teaching part time at Lutley providing a mixture of whole class and small group instrumental and vocal teaching. She also facilitates primary music training to Initial Teacher Training students. Her passion for vocal leadership started with school groups and she continues to lead the school choir and has also directed a massed choir of over 200 voices from Hales Valley Academy Trust, of which Lutley is part. Margaret has valued the training offered by abcd, completing the Initial and Intermediate extended courses under the tutelage of Julian Wilkins, Sue Hollingworth and Keith Orrell and taking part in masterclasses with Nicholas Cleobury, Patrick Russill and Will Prideaux.

Dynamic Voices (Singing Community of Choirs)

SC Choirs - Singing Community of Choirs - prides itself in being a family of five active choirs through its weekly rehearsals and in the community, inspiring a love of music through singing. Based in north Birmingham, it provides fun, inclusive and lively rehearsals which strive for vocal excellence, musicianship and progression through a wide age range, from age 4 to adult. This enriches the lives of its members and their families through unique performance opportunities. It promotes a sense of self-worth, self-esteem, accomplishment and pride through its outstanding choral programme. Dynamic Voices is the family's adult choir: anyone over 18 years is welcome and there is no upper limit and no audition! This is the community adult choir, which learns and performs a huge range of music from classical and musical theatre, to contemporary and popular genres. Both 3 and 4 part harmony is taught, with the chance to perform regularly too. The choir is fun, friendly, inclusive and very welcoming!

Conductor Richard Jeffries

Richard has had a lifelong interest in music and began learning the trumpet at the age of ten. This interest grew as he moved through secondary school, playing in bands and orchestras, performing at the Symphony Hall, Royal Albert Hall and Royal Festival Hall on several occasions. He achieved Grade 8 trumpet before leaving school. Richard qualified as a primary school teacher with music as a main subject in 1997, and then taught at Four Oaks Primary School until 2011.

Richard became a freelance music educator and choral specialist in 2011. He is passionate about music and has taken on numerous musical projects over the past 16 years, musically directing various concerts, musical performances, shows and workshops for singers/choir leaders.

He has always encouraged children to get involved in playing an instrument or singing, and in April 2005 founded the Four Oaks Cluster Choir (now Intermediate Voices - a vision which embraced singing across a community of schools in the area. He is excited that this choir, originally with just 19 members, has since grown into a large collection of ensembles! - The Accidentals and Youth Voices being formed in 2008 and 2009. In January 2012 a new Training Choir was set up for younger children, and currently boasts 60+ enthusiastic singers, which ultimately feed the Cluster Choir. He currently works with ten choirs on a regular basis, including three 'social singing' choirs.

He is a member of abcd and passed their Intermediate Conductors course in March 2009, and now leads workshops for them locally, as well as leading and rehearsing other choral projects across Staffordshire and Derbyshire. Richard completed the 5-day vocal training course with the Voices Foundation in 2012, and is principle trumpeter and Chairman of the Sutton Coldfield Orchestra. He also plays the piano and reached grade 5, but admits that he didn't start learning until he was in his second year of teaching!

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