Welcome to Highcliffe Youth Choir

Welcome to the Highcliffe Youth Choir (HYC). This celebrated choir has been making fine music for close on half a century. Formerly known as the Highcliffe Junior Choir (HJC), it was formed in 1968 and is a small but dynamic children’s choir with a glittering history. The choir’s repertoire is mostly classical and it has long been a beacon of choral excellence in this area, with its trade-mark purity of sound. Attracting commissions from well-established composers and performing with professional musicians and orchestras, the Highcliffe Youth Choir continues to perform to the highest possible standard, whether in prestigious concert halls up and down the country or in more local venues around the New Forest and Christchurch areas.

HYC serves its home community unstintingly throughout each year, with concerts and recitals in churches, schools, hotels, and other public places. The community in turn holds the choir in great affection, along with its founder and Life President, Mary Denniss MBE. Mary has guided the choir to many triumphs over the years, most notably when they carried off the Sainsbury’s Youth Choir of the Year Award in 1996. The choir went on to reach the finals twice in subsequent years. In 1994, the choir was chosen to perform in a televised Prom at the Royal Albert Hall in the Proms’ hundredth season, with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. The choir has participated in numerous choral workshops including one given by the Chorus Master of the Vienna State Opera, in Vienna.

For a record-breaking 44 consecutive years the choir has reached the final competition week at the International Eisteddfod in Llangollen and it was placed first in all of its classes at the 2015 Bournemouth Music Competitions Festival. The choir has sung on BBC’s ‘Advent Calendar’ and has performed alongside professional choral ensembles as diverse as the Swingle Singers, the Grand Central Chorus, the City of London Chamber Choir and the King’s Singers. There are a number of commercial recordings featuring the choir including an award-winning disc of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Chorus under Marin Alsop.

For any young person who enjoys music and who is excited at the prospect of singing in a well-established and distinguished youth choir, then this is definitely the right place to start looking. The HYC ethos has always been about diversity and inclusion; bringing music alive and making it accessible to as many young people as possible. No previous musical experience is necessary, just a willingness to develop and learn through the exceptional choral training on offer. The reward package sells itself; the thrill of public performance, the buzz of competition and the glow of being surrounded by true friends forged through team spirit and mutual respect.

Joining this choir could be a life-changing experience. Over the years, many of the choir’s former members have gone on to become professional musicians, some enjoying successful international careers. There is every reason to celebrate a choir that continues to delight audiences far and wide with its beautiful sound and which continues to give to its young members a real sense of pride and achievement. The Choir exists to give young people aged between 6 and 18 the opportunity to sing together, to give pleasure to others and to help further this country’s great choral tradition.

But, being in the choir is not just about hard work. There’s lots of fun to be had and a range of activities to enjoy, alongside the more serious business of preparing for concerts. The choir always welcomes new members, could one be you? Further information on how to join HYC can be found under the ‘Recruitment’ header.

About Us

The core aims of the choir

To make music and music-making as accessible to as many young people as possible, regardless of previous experience.

To encourage self-confidence and personal development through singing and learning together with like-minded peers.

To foster group support and team spirit through performance and competition at a high level.

To promote a sense of belonging and friendship between choir members.

To help develop a sense of achievement and pride, whether winning or losing.

To provide choral training of the highest standard, including solo tuition and small group classes as appropriate.

To enable each choir member to achieve his or her musical potential, dependent upon their enthusiasm and their readiness to develop their own skills.

To ensure that choir members are able to enjoy a range of activities outside their choral duties. These might include residential workshops, master-classes and various leisure activities during the Llangollen week.

To ensure a fair balance between choral training and discipline and the need for young people to let their hair down and have fun.

The Music Team

Music Director: Simon Earl

Music Consultant and Tutor: Mary Denniss

Accompanist, Main Choir: Lisa Timbs

Director of Training Choir: Helen Wright

Accompanist, Training Choir: Susan Ivemey

Music Librarian: John Warden

Music Director of the Highcliffe Youth Choir, Simon Earl

Simon’s career in Cathedral music has gained him an enviable reputation as a choir accompanist, director and organist. He is Director of Music at Christchurch Priory and, since the start of 2016, the Music Director of the Highcliffe Choirs.

Born and educated in Surrey, Simon’s first cathedral position was through an Organ Scholarship to Southwell Minster where he was accompanist to both the Girls’ Choir and the Minster Chorale. Simon went on to take a degree in Music at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne where he was an organ scholar, studying under David Sanger.

Simon performed regularly with the university orchestra and chorus, sometimes at The Sage in Gateshead. Simon was also Organ Scholar at Newcastle Cathedral, working with the choirs in their weekly round of services and accompanying them on concert tours.

Simon took on the extra responsibility of directing the lay clerks and choral scholars in the interregnum between Directors of Music. In his final year at the university, Simon became Director of Music at All Saints Church in Gosforth and Organ Scholar at St John’s College in Durham, performing in Cathedrals around the country and playing organ in two live BBC radio broadcasts. After a period as Sub-Organist at Guildford Cathedral, Simon took up his post as Assistant Director of Music at Wakefield Cathedral in January 2011.

In addition to his role as principal accompanist for the cathedral choirs, Simon regularly directed and trained the choristers and lay-clerks, invaluable experience which he now brings to the Priory and HYC. Whilst at Wakefield, Simon’s performances were featured on television and radio as well as in several CD recordings, including for the Priory label’s prestigious ‘Psalms of David’ series. Simon has performed with many large ensembles including the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, The Northern Sinfonia and the Newcastle Bach Choir. He has worked under the baton of several notable conductors including the eminent choral conductor, Simon Halsey.

Simon is an associate of The Royal College of Organists and a much sought-after teacher, accompanist and conductor. In his free time, such as it is, Simon enjoys sailing his dinghy Windaloo and he has a passion for Indian food!

Choir Committee

Founder and Life President: Mary Denniss

Chair: Sheila Leete

Secretary: Ann Guest

Treasurer: Robin Wilson

Music Librarian: John Warden

Publicity and Promotion: Laura McLean-Wade and Peter Leete

Digital consultant: Kate Dingley

Simon Earl and Choir representative(s) attend committee meetings by invitation.