International Eisteddfod, Llangollen

The Highcliffe Youth Choir will be competing at the International Eisteddfod in Llangollen in July 2017. This will be the 45th consecutive year in which the choir have won their way to the final week of competition, a feat unsurpassed by any other choir. For the ‘bigger picture’ of this annual event, read on…

A Welsh United Nations!

Ask any member of the choir what are their favourite things about being in the choir and the annual visit to Llangollen will invariably figure towards the top of the list. This is because the week comprises so much fun and activity in the competition build-up, providing a very positive bonding and team-building experience which adult ex-choir members still remember with fondness. Activities over the years, in and around Kerry, have included quad-bike trekking, pony trekking, canal cruising, ice skating, swimming, pottery and spinning classes as well as visits to zoos, working farms and slate mines. Whoever said that singing in a choir was boring?!

The Eisteddfod was initially conceived over 65 years ago as a way of healing the after-effects of war. The original ethos of international peace is as strong as ever with people coming together from all corners of the world, proudly wearing their national colours and communicating through music and dance; a sort of Welsh United Nations!

Performing at the International Eisteddfod is an experience that no young person will ever forget; it can leave a life-changing impression. The standard of competition is very high and there are many choirs that don’t make it to the final competition week at all, having been filtered out in the preliminary rounds in their home countries. So it is a considerable achievement for any choir to appear on the huge Llangollen stage, regardless of their final placing. The Highcliffe Youth Choir has a very proud record in this regard having won its way through to the final week every year since 1973, on a number of occasions being the highest placed British choir in its class.

For any performer it’s a daunting business to face a 5000-seater arena and singing with just piano accompaniment whilst TV cameras track your every move and a panel of eminent adjudicators listen to your every word and musical nuance. With the Highcliffe choir being one of the very smallest choirs in the competition one might imagine their trepidation as they crocodile onto the enormous open stage but their faces never show it. One of the joys of being in a choir is the sense of mutual support and collective commitment. Nerves are soon forgotten and all eyes focus intently on the conductor. Every face looks animated and totally engaged with the music and the connection with the audience is obvious from the warm and generous applause at the end. If you have ever been to an HYC concert you will know what I mean. If you are a ‘first-timer’, just watch and listen!

Concerts: Beaulieu, Bournemouth Bach Choir, Priory Music and Arts Festival, HYC Celebration Concert, 100 Club

The choir has regular concert commitments such as the annual and very popular ‘Christmas Music’ concert at Beaulieu Abbey Church and the ‘Hundred Club’ concert each Summer which ‘show-cases’ the various pieces that are to be performed in the forthcoming Eisteddfod competition. In recent years, HYC have been engaged in a fruitful relationship with the Bournemouth Bach Choir and Orchestra, providing the children’s choir element when a work demands. Recent collaborative works have included Mendelssohn’s Elijah and Rutter’s Mass Of The Children. In March 2016, the choir will be taking part in Monteverdi’s Vespers in Christchurch Priory.

In any year there will be ‘special invitation’ concerts where the choir are asked to take part in a festival or to sing for a certain occasion. In 2016, HYC were featured in a ‘Celebration Concert’ in Christchurch Priory where the special guest artist was Kate Royal, an opera and lieder soprano of international fame and an alumnus of the Highcliffe Junior Choir (as HYC used to be known). The choir were total stars, the soloists from the choir (three singers and one piano soloist) excelled themselves, Kate’s singing was mesmerising and Simon Earl, HYC Music Director, directed and compèred the whole evening with considerable aplomb. The packed audience were clearly rapt and the atmosphere created by the combination of beautifully sung music and the glorious surroundings of the Priory made for a memorable evening. This concert proved a worthy celebration of half a century of fine music-making by this very special youth choir. The concert brought together a wide age-range of former choir members who delighted everyone by joining with the children on stage to sing a selection of favourite songs and bring the concert to a rousing end. The evening and the pleasure it gave to so many was indeed a fitting tribute to the choir’s founder and Life President, Mary Denniss who was in the audience.

In June 2016, HYC have been invited to give the opening concert in the Music and Arts Festival at Christchurch Priory.

Southampton Music Festival

For many years, choristers from HYC have been entered as soloists in the Southampton Music Festival. In March 2016 all the choir soloists won their respective classes with one choir member achieving an Honours grade.

Bournemouth Music Competitions Festival

The whole choir takes part in this annual competition. In June 2015 the Highcliffe Youth Choir achieved first place in every class they entered.

Choir of the Year

The Highcliffe Youth Choir has an illustrious history in this competition and it continues to compete every year. The heats in May are held in the Guildhall, Portsmouth.

The 100 Club Summer Concert

The 100 Club continues to flourish and to generate funds for the choir’s annual visit to Llangollen. The Club was the brainchild of Bill Baker and David Williams back in the early nineties. It promotes a concert every summer to say “thank you” to all the many friends of the choir who continue to support the choir year after year. The concert is always a sell-out and the 2015 concert at St Mark’s church in Highcliffe was no exception. There was some beautiful ensemble singing as well as solo pieces from individual members of all ages. The atmosphere at the 100 Club concerts is always warm and friendly, probably because most people there have invested something of themselves in the choir, whether as a former member, the parent of an existing member or as a contributor to its fund-raising. It’s rather like being at a happy get-together of extended family! In addition to showcasing the musical programme intended for the forthcoming Eisteddfod, the 100 Club concert is also the occasion for the annual presentation of prizes and trophies to choir members, proving to the young people that all their hard work is recognised and does pay off.

If you are interested in knowing more about the 100 Club, please contact Janet Clifford on the number ot the bottom of the page.