BBC Radio 3 Youth Choir of the Year 2014!!
The last ten to fifteen years have seen many highlights in the RGS Music scene, but without doubt, one of the most remarkable of these has been the success of RGS’s Close Harmony singing group, named Singers Limited. The group, which is essentially a sixth form group of the best RGS singers, inevitably changes membership every year, and completely re-invents itself every other year, as the students move on. From a regular membership of about 12, it suddenly grew in size about ten years ago, and has never looked back.
2012 saw the then group get chosen for the prestigious Schools Prom in the Royal Albert Hall, but it was the following year that a special group began the journey that has entered folklore in the annals of RGS Music. In 2013, a very strong group of singers took many lead roles in the hugely successful production of Les Miserables, and the next year, a group of about 20 entered the Radio 3 Choir of the Year Competition. Great was the rejoicing when this group got chosen as one of four choirs to appear in the category finals in the Royal Festival Hall, but you can imagine the excitement when, on that memorable evening in October, they were named Youth Choir of the Year 2014!! For the rest of that academic year, the excitement continued, with a recording made by the BBC in the Maida Vale Studios in Twickenham, in the November, a live Radio 3 performance at the St. David’s Day Concert in Cardiff, and then on into the next academic year, when the group performed at the televised Grand Final of the Choir of the Year in the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester. Although they did not win the overall title, they were then offered the chance to represent the BBC at the “Let the Peoples Sing” European Choir Competition, against 8 of the top choirs in the world!!. Although beaten in their Open Category by an extraordinary Bulgarian folk choir, they brought the house down in the Saturday night concert in the Munich concert hall studio of Bavarian Radio – I don’t think anyone in the audience had seen anything quite like the lads from High Wycombe – their confidence, poise, and sheer performing quality blew them away. While all the other choirs showed amazing discipline in their more uniform approach, Singers Ltd demonstrated the charm and performing flair all those that saw them know so well. Excellent musicianship, lovely voices, all presented with a touch of understated (mostly!!) English humour and wit.
It was indeed a special time. The parents of this particular generation followed them everywhere, of course, some of them even coming to Munich in October 2015. The group that started with the competition regional round in 2014 had, by now, mostly left RGS, and indeed a small number (James Venvell and Zach Reading) not only appeared in the Albert Hall in 2012, but somehow stayed in the group until 2015 – they were, by then, technically in School Year 15!!! Many of the core group left Munich in the small hours of a Monday morning to return to their first day at university! Needless to say, the experience cemented many friendships, and a number of the lads went on to further education in music, two as singers at the Guildhall School of Music, several to various universities to read music, and several more to Oxbridge to pursue a variety of subjects. I have been asked both by Singers Ltd members of that time and by students in later groups whether they were a really special talent, or did they just have a bit of luck……. Knowing what they have all gone on to, there is no doubt they were something special, which is to take nothing away from subsequent groups. The biennial competition came at the right time for them, and they were an exceptionally numerous bunch of good singers, who were also confident stage animals, able to put across a song and perform to an audience.
All those involved in school life know things go in waves. Sometimes you just get a particularly exceptional group, who fire each other up, and simply place things on a different level. Such was that time, and the blown up photo of their night of triumph in the Royal Festival Hall, which they presented to me when they left, will always have a special place in the RGS Music Department – the night RGS
Singers Ltd became Radio 3 Youth Choir of the Year 2014! It is an achievement that will never be taken away from them, and we were all so proud of them!!! Special times indeed.