Let the Peoples Sing Gala Concert: Patrick Allen and Ifield Community College Choir
Ifield Community College Choir was one of only two UK choirs selected by the BBC to represent the nation in the Let the Peoples Sing Gala Concert. Choir director Patrick Allen recounts a very special day...
OCTOBER 15 was a remarkable day for the teenage members of Ifield Community College Choir. As one of only two UK choirs selected by the BBC, they made the six hour journey from Crawley to represent the nation and the ‘best of British’ at an international gala concert at the new BBC Media Centre at Salford Quays. The choir had been invited to perform alongside the cream of international choirs, selected by the public broadcasting networks of Europe and North America.
Fellow performers in the festival included the Finnish Vocal Ensemble, Oslo University’s Women’s Choir and the San Francisco Girls’ Chorus. The concert took place in the new studio of the BBC Philharmonic, and was recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in The Choir, presented by Aled Jones on 30 October 2011. Choir members and the director Patrick Allen were also interviewed for the programme.
The day in Salford began with a rehearsal and sound check in the BBC’s brand new, state-of-the-art studio, followed by discussions with producer Michael Emery, and interviews for the broadcast. Pulses raced as the significance of the event dawned on the choir members, since the broadcast would not only go out across the UK, but also across European and North American broadcasting networks. Following the rehearsal, members of the choir were able to chat and exchange musical ideas with their fellow performers, all whilst making final preparations for the performance. The other UK performers at the concert were the Wellensian Consort, who won the BBC Choir of the Year Competition in 2010.
Finally the time arrived for the Ifield choir to file into the studio to sit with the seven other choirs and studio audience in anticipation of the first item. Radio 3 presenter Louise Fryer announced The Youth Choir of Talinn Music High School, whose flawless and beautiful performance demonstrated that this would be a concert of exceptional quality. The Finnish Vocal Ensemble followed with an exquisite programme of sacred music. Ifield then left for a warm-up, keen to perform, but anxious knowing the standards were so high.
Ifield had four items for the audience: two from England, one from the US and one from South Africa. The opening item, Pastime with Good Company (attributed to Henry VIII), is a bright and rhythmic piece, which attempts a moral justification for partying. The arrangement makes full use of the choir’s drummers. An arrangement of Keane’s She Has No Time was followed by the beautiful a cappella song Breaths by YM Barnwell. The drums feature strongly in the final item Shosholoza, a heartwarming song from South Africa, inviting people to join the ‘freedom train’.
Louise then announced the choir, saying they represented “inclusivity and excellence”, and the 45 singers and 5 drummers took the stage, surrounded by microphones. In the end, determination overcame trepidation and the choir delivered a first-class performance, ending in a rousing ovation from the large audience and fellow choirs. At last they could relax and enjoy the applause.
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The Ifield choir stood out from the other choirs in a number of ways. Firstly they are an open access choir from a single school, with more than half of the members boys and young men (aged up to 19). Secondly the choir itself represents 14 nationalities, reflecting the diversity of modern Crawley – Ifield Community College itself is home to more than 40 languages.
The choir is no stranger to success. It has represented the South East five times at the finals of the National Festival of Music for Youth, recorded at BBC Maida Vale studios, reached the international semi-finals of the Let the Peoples Sing competition and performed at the Royal Festival Hall, Barcelona Cathedral and in services at St Mark’s Basilica in Venice. This year it has already featured on BBC Radio 3, been the subject of a feature in The Times and shared two concerts with the BBC Singers. Its repertoire spans the centuries and the continents and ranges from world music to sacred music and musical theatre.
The Chagossian drummers, who perform with and alongside the choir, have been performing since 2009. Performance venues have included the Royal College of Music, the Royal Geographical Society and Birmingham Town Hall. All the members come from Crawley’s 2,000 strong Mauritian/Chagossian community. They have become ambassadors for their own musical traditions, as well as for cultural integration. A recent project with the BBC Singers saw them applying Chagossian rhythms to the Mozart Requiem.
More information and a recording of the Let the Peoples Sing performance can be found at: http://ifieldchoir.com