Now it was the turn of the North East. When I heard it was going to my home town of Gateshead I had to go along and see how it went. Bearing in mind that the last time I attended a youth singing programme in the North East I was a fair few years younger and a 16 year old Cheryl Cole (Tweedy at the time of course) was part of the line up, I was keen to check out how the Geordie talent pool was coming along.
So on a clear typically cold Sunday morning I headed to the magnificent Sage Opera House overlooking the Tyne whilst 100 young people took their places on the stage ready to be put through their paces by Youth Music Voices creative director Richard Frostick. Within half an hour they were confidently belting out a Cameroon tribesman’s song. Next up was a seamless transition to a melody from the Czech Republic complete with seemingly unpronounceable lyrics to my eyes, all in harmonies that did the Sage main hall acoustics proud.
By lunchtime any remaining bashfulness was completely banished from the singers as Richard split them into three groups for a fantastic version of ‘Dancing in the streets’. Many of the young people who had come for the day had never taken part in any kind of serious singing lessons before, but quickly rose to the challenge of maintaining their harmony whilst being surrounded by others all singing completely different parts.
Regardless of how much experience they’d had previously though, all of the attendees were completely unprepared for the experience after lunch of hearing a performance by, and holding a Q&A with singers Cleveland Watkiss and Nicola Wydenbach. From my seat in the audience I had the perfect view of 100 mouths simultaneously dropping open as Nicola hit notes that dogs could barely hear and Cleveland’s deep jazz voice slipped from gorgeous melody into super-cool scatting.
As I left to catch my train I was struck by what a fantastic opportunity this had been for young people to get a taste of what it is like to be a successful working singer, for them to meet new people and to realise that there are lots of opportunities to get involved in singing in their area – as well as about a new way to be part of London 2012.
So did we find the next Cheryl Cole? Well, watch this space... we'll be back in Gateshead again soon to start to choose some of the singers who'll go forward to be part of the lucky 150 who'll get to sing as a group in London in the run-up to the London 2012 Games. For those who aren't successful we'll be pointing them in the direction of choirs and groups they can join in their local area so they can keep singing and benefitting from this first step.