Preston choir on BBC Choir of the Year Contest
Lancashire has some of Britain's finest choirs and one group of Preston singers is about to round off a remarkable 12 months
There was a time when being in a choir wasn’t exactly cutting edge. Not so today. Choirs are not only cool but, for one Lancashire group, they’re quite an exclusive club with intense competition for places.
The popular BBC Choir of the Year Contest and the Gareth Malone’s documentaries encouraging people to start singing have increased their popularity to the extent where it was claimed recently Britain’s choirs outnumber its chip shops.
There have also been claims about singing creating a feeling of well-being - physical and mental. Heart Research UK launched a campaign encouraging people to sing and the previous Government devoted many millions to boost singing in school.
So if singing really is good for you there are 28 young people in Preston who really must be in the pink. They form the University of Central Lancashire’s chamber choir, which is fast becoming the Manchester United of this form of music.
Under the guidance of director Mark Coggins, they won a top national contest and this month they are competing in the prestigious BBC Choir of the Year contest in Birmingham’s Symphony Hall. They have also been heard on BBC Radio 3 recently.
Choir member Rosie Critchley, from Bolton, has been a member for three years. ‘During that time it has become more and more popular and it’s not surprise. As you get into it, singing in a choir becomes very enjoyable.
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‘I wasn’t used to singing classical music so it has helped to me develop and, at the end of the day, singing as a group is just a very nice thing to do. It really does make you feel good.’
Her colleague Kimberley Wareham added: ‘The choir changes each year as students leave the university and I was hoping to get in last year. But there were about 70 or 80 people auditioning for a handful of places so I had to wait until this year. We can’t wait to go to Birmingham for the BBC competition.’
James Lloyd-Skinner said: ‘The fact that we are always refreshing the choir brings a different dynamic.’
Mark started up the choir five years ago. ‘They have obviously got to be good singers to get in,’ he said. ‘But what’s most important is that they show commitment. We rehearse at least once a week so its challenging and takes up their time. It can be hard work but very rewarding. Now days it’s uncool not to be in the choir.’