Your support of the charity makes a huge difference to so many children in Barnsley, and we never take for granted your generosity and kindness. The contribution of supporters makes a significant difference to the operational viability of the choir, and allows us to keep subscriptions low and offer bursaries for lower income families, providing an equity of opportunity for children in our town that is central to our work – which has become more important than ever. We were really happy to welcome back singers this week after such a successful 2022-23 season where there are so many achievements to celebrate.
We have recruited many new members, and BYC’s total membership is around 700 now which is, to our best knowledge, is one of the largest youth choral organisations of its type in Great Britain. Our young people took part in 4 excellent Christmas Concerts BYC Christmas Concert Program 2022 (barnsleyyouthchoir.org.uk) including a performance by the Senior Choir at an ‘Unplugged’ Charity Concert at St. Mary’s Church that many thought was the highest standard of singing they had ever heard from BYC. This concert raised £1256 for St. Mary’s Church and the important work that it does to support vulnerable people in our community. That day also featured a ‘Family Christmas’ event that we staged for our youngest children and their families. There were performances, arts and crafts activities, a Nativity by the Music Team and lots of activities for children including a visit from Father Christmas, singing and refreshments. All of this was provided free of charge for families, as we recognised that many were facing challenges because of the cost-of-living crisis. We took the 80 members of the Senior Choir for a tour to Dublin in February and worked with the wonderful Dublin Youth Choir (European Champions in 2018) with rehearsals, workshops and performances at 1 Windmill Lane (of U2 fame) and at the iconic Trinity College Chapel in the most fabulous acoustics. We’d like to extend thanks to Lynsey Callaghan and the team at DYC for taking such good care of us whilst we were there.
In March we held four Spring Concerts BYC Spring Concert Program 2023 (barnsleyyouthchoir.org.uk), and in April we hosted the highest ranked Children’s Choir in the world, the phenomenal Tygerberg Children’s Choir from Cape Town, South Africa who took part in rehearsals, workshops and sell out concerts with us here in Barnsley. BYC Tygerberg Concert Program 2023 (barnsleyyouthchoir.org.uk) It was fantastic to work with Karina Erasmus and her superb team and our children had the most amazing experience. Tygerberg CC also delivered a workshop at Worsborough Common Primary School as well as performing at York Minster. Big thanks to Joanne McDonald for providing wonderful catering and also to our fantastic host families for their vital support.
It was a real honour to have played an important and exciting role in the inaugural Interkultur Hull International Choir Competition featuring over 1000 outstanding singers from South Africa, Sweden, Finland, Turkey, Austria, Greece, Lithuania, Croatia and Ireland as well as choirs from across Great Britain. 120 members of the Senior Choir from BYC performed in a Gala Concert with choirs from Finland, South Africa and GB, and then over 200 members of our Intermediate and Senior Choirs led a 2-hour workshop with around 800 singers and took part in a fantastic closing ceremony on the final day - the atmosphere was electric! It was a moment where parents and friends recognised that BYC had every right to share the stage with these outstanding international musicians after our young people delivered some really high quality performances. Hull International Choir Competition 2023 - Program Book (yumpu.com)
Barnsley Council received central government funding via the Levelling Up Fund after they supported BYC with a bid to develop the Northern Academy of Vocal Excellence (NAVE) here in Barnsley and a home for BYC. BYC NAVE Public Overview (barnsleyyouthchoir.org.uk) We have been working closely with the Council and the team who will realise this exciting vision and next few months will be exciting ones as we anticipate an intense period working with architects and the design team to ensure that the building is realised by March 2025. 33 NAVE Ambassadors have been selected with a remit to be a conduit for all 9 choirs at BYC, ensuring that children remain at the heart of decision making and consultation processes, with regular meetings and workshops scheduled. There is more fundraising to do for the NAVE and opportunities for partners and sponsors to play a role in realising a very special vision. It’s a venue that could have an extraordinary impact on the choir and the Barnsley community more widely and we are indebted to so many in the council for sharing our level of ambition for young people in Barnsley. The vision for the NAVE is that it will develop a national and international profile for excellence and engage with outstanding partners.
We have raised vital funds through a Grand Raffle and a Singathon and have been fortunate to have had support from a variety of sponsors and patrons. We are indebted to Barnsley College who provide extraordinary support to the choir and invest so much into the work that we do which includes major sponsorship and use of their excellent facilities. We’d also like to extend thanks to ASOS who became a major sponsor this year and also kindly sponsored our excellent Gala Dinner hosted by Stephanie Hirst and Dan Jarvis MP. Aside from raising important funds, it was such an enjoyable evening that showcased the talent of our young people.
We’d like to thank those that attended and supported and those that also donated auction and raffle prizes. BYC Gala Dinner 2023 Auction Lots (barnsleyyouthchoir.org.uk) Thank you also to those who have been kind enough to Sponsor a Child for the 2023-24 Season, either to support them with costs for the overseas tour, or to provide a financial bursary so that children and families facing hardship are supported.
Penistone Grammar School continues to offer use of their building to support our work in the west of Barnsley. They provide wonderful support through use of their venue on Wednesday evenings for our Children’s Choir West (7-12 yrs) which has rapidly expanded from around 30 children to over 70 this year. We established 3 new Little Singers West Groups (0-4 yrs) and a new BYC Junior Choir West (4-7 yrs) in Penistone at St. John’s Community Centre, taking the number of choirs we now run to 9 (16 if you count the separate Little Singers Groups) and, with around 700 children and young people now on our books, over 600 members regularly attend each week. The new choirs in Penistone have been a real success and the new Junior Choir now has over 50 members already. We would like to thank colleagues at Penistone St. John’s Community Centre for being so supportive and helpful and would like to extend thanks to the town council for its support in bringing this provision to Penistone, providing further opportunities for children and families in this area. The Music team has delivered around 45 workshops to Primary schools across Barnsley, free of charge, to support singing in schools and we’ve had wonderful feedback from these sessions. We really value our partnerships with schools in Barnsley and will continue to do all we can to support singing beyond BYC itself and try to honour our commitment to provide all children in Barnsley opportunities to sing. We’d like to thank schools for their support throughout the year, and hope that these relationships will grow with plans we have in place. The Senior Choir was privileged to take part in the
Barnsley College Excellence Awards in June 2023 at the Metrodome Arena; a really special evening that recognised the achievements of outstanding students.
In July we welcomed the Aurin Choir from the world-famous Kodaly School in Hungary for a series of rehearsals, workshops and concerts which were of a very high standard. The Aurin Choir also delivered 2 fabulous workshops to around 700 primary school children which we offered free of charge at Emmanuel Church. We were overwhelmed with the response and schools really appreciated an opportunity for their children to be able to listen to and work with this stellar international group and learn more about the Kodaly system. BYC Aurin Concert Program 2023 (barnsleyyouthchoir.org.uk) As always, Laszlo Duranyik and his extraordinary choir left so many people inspired by the quality and skill of their singing, and by technical development work using the Kodaly system. Over 1400 children and 1600 audience members experienced world class singing that weekend. Thank you again to Jo McDonald and our wonderful host families for making the Aurin Choir feel so welcome.
In August we took part in the Underneath the Stars Festival with Kate Rusby and showcased around 120 members from our 3 wonderful Children’s Choirs as well as around 45 of our older leaders, with a stunning performance in the main tent seen by over 2000 people. Barnsley Youth Choir - Underneath the Stars - Kate Rusby arr. Jim Clements - YouTube The feedback from social media and from organisers has been wonderful and quite moving to read. It’s yet another example of the impact our children have on new audiences, and it was a joyous day. Huge thanks to the excellent team at UTSF for such brilliant organisation and communication – we were really well looked after throughout and it was a delight to be involved. It was also really good of Kate Rusby to join the children on stage and sing with them too in the iconic ‘Big Brave Bill’! (44) Underneath the Stars Festival 2023 - YouTube
The 60 strong volunteer team continues to evolve and make seemingly impossible tasks possible under the impressive leadership of Debbie Hobson and the Trustees, including the newly appointed Charlie Brammer, and the wider Leadership Team work really hard in the engine room to make things happen. 31 of our adult volunteers and musicians are now fully accredited Youth Mental Health First Aiders following an intense 2-day course delivered by the brilliant Chris Madden with a further cohort planned for the Autumn term taking this number to 47. Chris, who is a highly skilled and qualified therapist, counsellor and training leader, kindly delivered this training for us as a gesture of support for the organisation where both of his children sing. The sessions and training were really helpful and will make a huge difference to the support we are able to offer children.
We are also investing in more first aid courses and asking that as many volunteers as possible become fully qualified chaperones. Currently around half of our volunteers have this accreditation, but all have full DBS checks and have had 1 to 1 safeguarding training with our excellent Safeguarding Lead, Nicola Ellel. We are blessed to have such a fantastic team that work selflessly, unpaid, to provide opportunities for our children and ensure that they are safe. The ‘red brigade’ really is a force of nature and it’s been wonderful to welcome so many new members to the volunteer team; all of which have had a really positive impact on the work that we do.
Karen Davis was selected from a field of 5000 people to become a Kings Coronation Champion because of the extraordinary work she does as a Trustee and General Secretary of the choir which was fitting recognition for her tireless work. We have new section leaders and mentors for the choir, including section leaders for the Intermediate Choir as well as Senior Choir. We continue to invest in young people with singers such as Charlotte Bentley, Tom Masters, Rosie Masters, Gorgey Bennett, Livi Bloomer, Leah Saxton taking on important leadership roles in our volunteer and music teams. They are having such a positive impact and the future of the choir is in safe hands. These are highlights, but there are many more that I could share with you. Some of the greatest highlights are not perhaps ones that would gain attention on a website or social media. Seeing new members as young as 4 years old gain confidence, develop close friendships and become more self-assured is always wonderful to see, as are the moments when vulnerable children with additional needs and families facing hardship realise that BYC is here for them and is a safe and supportive place to be. BYC is accessible, because of the support of partners and the community, and we will do everything we can to provide the best for all children, irrespective of their backgrounds and circumstances.
We are busy with recruitment to all of our choirs and would ask that you encourage anyone aged 0-24 years old to get in touch. Aside from usual joining processes, there’s an opportunity to join in a taster rehearsal, free of charge, and have some fun with one of our choirs. There’s information on joining the choir available here Join the Choir | Barnsley Youth Choir with a booklet of information (barnsleyyouthchoir.org.uk) and a short application form also available here Barnsley Youth Choir - Enquiry to Join in 2023 / 24 (google.com)
A difficult decision has been reached to not take part in the 2024 World Choir Games in New Zealand due to significant escalating costs that have emerged. It’s a decision that has not been taken lightly but is in the best interests of the choir, our families and supporters. These unforeseen additional costs that came to light would have placed such a pressure on the choir, families and supporters and we felt that we needed to make an early decision and protect all stakeholders. We are clearly really disappointed, as Interkultur provide a gold standard in organising festivals and competitions and this will be the most fabulous event. Instead, we will look to take our young people to South Africa in October 2024 for a 9-day tour which will include working with outstanding choirs in Durban, Drakensberg, Johannesburg and Pretoria and a cultural experience that will be truly life-changing for our young people. Whilst this trip will be considerably cheaper, it still provides an acute fundraising challenge and we hope that our supporters will get behind the choir and make this possible. We are busy organising workshops, rehearsals and concerts with world class choirs and leaders in South Africa and we know that our young people will have a life-changing experience. Parents, members and supporters have been supportive of the decision not to take part and we’re grateful for their understanding and unwavering support. We will also look to represent Great Britain in the European Choir Games in Aarhus, Denmark in July 2025 which will provide the cutting-edge international competition from which I know the Senior Choir will really benefit. The 2023-2024 Season will provide exciting new opportunities for members, including visiting experts from across the world and really interesting events and projects. We are excited to be welcoming Dr. Beverly Shangkuan-Cheng from the Philippines and Primož Kerštanj from Slovenia as guest conductors.
Both of these conductors work with the finest choirs in the world and represent some of the finest choral leadership in the internationally. It is such a privilege to welcome them to Barnsley to work with our young people. They will work with us on new music, provide workshops, rehearse with us and finally lead our choirs in concerts. In October 2023 we also welcome the outstanding Soprano Charlotte Mobbs from the Harry Christopher’s famous group ‘The Sixteen’ who will work with our Intermediate and Senior Choirs. In December we will welcome Alistair Scobie from South Africa, who is the Assistant Conductor of Tuks Camerata from the University of Pretoria and a fantastic hand drummer and Djembe expert. He is a teacher in Pretoria and he will work with our choirs as a singer, drummer and conductor in our Christmas Concerts, as well as potential African Drumming work in partner schools.
In July 2024 we hope to stage a large festival in Barnsley, ‘Barnsley Sings’, which will celebrate the last 15 years of BYC. Ambitious plans include a School’s festival at the Metrodome Arena featuring around 1500 Primary School Children and 3 large concerts, and an additional 3 concerts by the BYC family, including our sister organisation Barnsley Singers adult community choir. We will invite special guests to take part including other choir partners. Whilst this festival will be dependent on us gaining some additional funding, we are highly optimistic that it will take place and we’re excited about the prospect of putting all of our singers together for the first time in many years. We hope that schools will engage and join in what should be a fantastic spectacle at the Metrodome Arena.
There are a number of key events including concerts calendared for 2023-24 that are listed on the back page. Whilst some dates are still to be confirmed and there are a number of other exciting projects still in the pipeline to be announced, we’d be grateful if you could pencil them in your diaries as we’d love to see you at some of the events. There will be more dates added in the coming weeks and we’ll communicate them via our social media channels.
On behalf of all young people involved, I’d like to thank musicians, volunteers, patrons, sponsors, partners and supporters for their unwavering support of the organisation. BYC is led by moral purpose; by selfless and generous people and is supported by a very special community. I do hope that you feel that your support is not only recognised and appreciated, but is having a real impact on children and young people in the town.
As ever, please do not hesitate to contact either Karen or myself if there is anything that you’d like to discuss.
Artistic Director, Barnsley Youth Choir
As we start the 2023-24 season, I wanted to thank you for your support last year and also seek your support for this season too.
Karen Davis is one of 500 outstanding volunteers chosen as the nation’s Coronation Champions.