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Reviews: Voices of authority; National Youth Choirs of Great Britain Symphony Hall *****.

Byline: Maggie Cotton

A palpable buzz of excited anticipation greeted everyone arriving for this 25th Anniversary Gala concert. Symphony Hall was duly packed with families eager to hear and support their young nightingales.

With 24 pieces on offer, this was a choral feast covering a huge time span from the 16th century to real live composers taking part. We witnessed a miracle of organisation, as youngsters entered and arranged themselves on the vast empty stage. All presented a truly professional spectacle of quiet confidence within the serried ranks.

Thankfully, the expertise of Richard Stilgoe as MC delighted, directed and involved the audience during necessary scene shifting; a tour-de-force for all concerned.

NYCGB's distinguished president, Sir David Willcocks set the scene with Parry's magnificent Blest Pair of Sirens. Junior choirs showed a great variety of controlled style with gentle clear words contrasting with colourful jazzy rhythms, It was especially delightful to hear fresh boys' voices in other than church choir mode.

Nine instrumentalists from the South Asian Musicians Youth Orchestra added magical spice to Richard Allain's exotic world premiere: Mortal Immortal. An interweaving of mesmerising slow chanting grew into gutsy spoken rhythms over long held notes, the moving ancient Sanskrit prayer committed to memory. Beautifully impressive throughout.

Diverse arrangements by a phalanx of choral specialists covered every possible technique for the singers, from mystery in Eric Whitacre's premiere The Stolen Child, to foot tapping insertions by Will Lang's bodhran, five talented brass players from the National Youth Orchestra, soloists from within the choral groups and examples of how to thoroughly enjoy singing from the incomparable King's Singers.

Go forth, and sing - little short of four hours, this was indeed value for money.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Apr 15, 2008
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