FYC Autumn Concert

St Peter’s Church, Old Woking - 13th October

After saying goodbye to long-standing FYC members and welcoming a new intake of singers (15 this September), the autumn concert provides the first opportunity to hear a newly-blended choir. The venue this time was particularly special because St Peter’s in Old Woking is the local church of FYC’s accompanist, Matthew Rickard. It also dates back over nine hundred years, making it contemporary with Hildegard von Bingen whose O virtus sapientiae made a hauntingly beautiful opening to the concert as the choir processed through the church. 

The first half of the concert showcased some of FYC’s sacred repertoire. In the interval, the large audience was able to enjoy drinks served by some of the team of volunteers who ran the evening so well. The second half of the programme then mixed contemporary pieces with music influenced by folk traditions.

Highlights included the choir’s first performance of Schubert’s Gott ist mein hirt (which required the singers to memorise a lengthy German text!) and what might well have been the first performance anywhere of The Silver Swan by Oliver Tarney, from the newly-published collection As You Sing editedby Neil Ferris and FYC’s Joanna Tomlinson. Three very accomplished solos by Megan Holmes, Charlotte Gill and Jessica Miller completed an evening that hinted at wonderful things to come as the choir begins to prepare for the European Choir Games next summer.   

Review by Helen Cole


FYC Summer Gala Concert

It was a beautiful Summer’s evening for an equally fabulous concert featuring all three FYC Choirs, the Trainers, the Juniors and the Youth choir who are starting their journey towards the World Choir Games in 2020.

Directed by the wonderful Jo Tomlinson, the Youth Choir opened the concert and their first set of sacred music with two FYC favourites: the dramatic Joshua and the contrasting sweet sounding Lift thine Eyes. Then we moved into two pieces by the French composers Faure and Poulenc, giving the Youth Choir the chance to show off their linguistic prowess and their vocal control, right to the very last note of Poulenc’s Ave Verum Corpus. The set drew to a close with the still waters and beautiful melody of Todd’s The Lord is My Shepherd and ended with the wonderful harmonies of Steal Away.

The audience then welcomed the young training choir, led brilliantly by Lucy Morris, onto the stage looking and sounding angelic. They sang four pieces, all contrasting and wonderfully sung. Kenny the Kangaroo was full of the required energy and “boing” and won the prize for best ending pose. In the Training Choir’s finale, Lemonade, the children brought the movement and lyrics together to great effect. What a complicated ending with multiple parts and movement. Wow!

The combined voices of the Trainers and juniors combined forces to tell us all Why we sing – a wonderful reminder of why singing is so fantastic whatever your age.

This Gala concert significantly marked the retirement of FYC Chairman Graham Noakes who has given his full commitment to FYC over the last decade. He has steered the choirs through a period of extraordinary change and under his stewardship FYC has become an exemplar for other youth choirs. Graham was presented with a fabulous framed Platinum FYC vinyl disc to say thank you for all he and the Noakes family have contributed to FYC.

Next it was the turn of the Junior Choir who have flourished under the leadership of Patrick Barrett. The energy that these youngsters have on stage is infectious and was very palpable in their opener Feel Good. They lowered the tempo with Child of Peace, their expressive faces showing how strongly they believed in the words they were singing: “Let us be children of peace, bringing light and love instead of darkness and hate”. This contrasted with Britten’s modern and rather witchy sounding The Ride by Nights, which was breathtaking in its complexity and brevity. The Juniors finished with Bernyanyi Bersana by Jim Papoulis, a wonderful rhythmic piece accompanied at short notice by two youth choir members on bongos and descant.

In the final set the Farnham Youth Choir showed us just how versatile they are. They started with a new arrangement of Scarborough Fair by Michael Higgins for upper voices, this the first time it had been performed. It was extremely beautiful; The lilting melodies flowed and the words were crystal clear.

A stark contrast then followed with the Poison Tree – the piece’s dissonance and wrath were dramatically displayed by the choir. Sweet Georgia Brown had us all toe tapping, and the beauty of the Seal Lullaby came across so effortlessly. Two further FYC favourites, Yo Le Canto and Paloma Faith’s Upside Down demonstrated the perfect blend of effective choreography, tight harmonies and a well-rehearsed choir.

The grand finale – Juntos (meaning Stronger together), with its Latin American rhythms - was an uplifting and fitting conclusion to a wonderful concert that included so much young talent.

Review by Sara Acworth 



FYC Junior Concert with All Saints Choir, Marlow

On a glorious Summer’s evening, in All Saints Church on the banks of the river Thames, basking in the afterglow of the Royal Wedding, FYC Juniors and All Saints, Marlow Choristers treated us to an uplifting concert. In preparation, both choirs had an enjoyable rehearsal throughout the afternoon and even managed to find time for a riverside photo shoot moment before taking to the stage!

All Saints Choir, which has a lovely mix of girls and boys of all ages performed their mainly sacred choral pieces with professionalism and harmony. Their repertoire included Totney’s Magnificat from the Durham Service and Hutchings’ We are one Voice but perhaps the highlight of the All Saints repertoire was Waring’s piece, At night, which featured a young cellist, Thomas Bull. The combination of the mellow tones of the cello and the wonderful choral melodies was truly beautiful.

FYC Juniors were on fine form and brought their energy and charm to the stage and worked together to produce a wonderful overall sound.  They met the technical challenges of Kodaly’s Ladybird and literally sang their hearts out to Why we sing by Greg Gilpin. The choirs sang two joint pieces: the moving, A child of Peace by Wagner and the uplifting Feel Good by Tyson & Scott, both becoming firm favourites with the choirs and the audience.

All credit to the conductors: FYC’s Patrick Barrett and All Saints, Martin Seymour, the accompanists: FYC’s Susan Holmes and All Saints, Rhidian Jones and all the children for their hard work. Their commitment really showed.

Review by Sara Acworth


FYC Spring Concert with St Bartholomew's CofE Primary School Choir

The Spring Concert held on 10th March at St Bartholomew’s Church, Haslemere, had a new dynamic to it. The children from St Bartholomew’s CoE Primary School joined FYC and walked on poised, and with a great air of professionalism for such young singers. Together they opened with Festive Alleluia by Lyn Williams, with every performer transfixed on conductor Joanna Tomlinson.

The younger children then joined the audience to experience the most beautiful choral blend of O Virtus Sapientiae (Hildegard von Bingen) by candlelight. In stark contrast was Joshua (arranged by Kirby Shaw); the impact of such a powerful sound was dramatic and with such precision a sea of faces communicated so earnestly. 

And Then We Knew Peace was specially commissioned for FYC, and speaks of being “united by music” as these singers certainly are! It was especially moving. The Seal Lullaby (Eric Whitacre) was performed with the most beautifully exquisite lilting phrases, and its effect was spine-tingling and full of emotion.

The finale was Alleluia Jubilate by James Whitbourn and was sung by both the school choir and FYC. They made a rousing sound. What a wonderful experience for these young singers!

By Carolyn Smith


Christmas Gala Concert

The Gala Concert at the Maltings in Farnham is a memorable occasion each Christmas that brings together the girls’ choir, the boys’ choir and the main youth choir. When the three join forces, for the first few moments the youngest singers at the front are often visibly startled by the wall of sound behind them! The stage is always brilliantly lit, and thanks to the stage decorations the effect is very festive – although unknown to the audience, the heat from the lights presents a challenge for the singers and there tends to be a casualty or two (expertly gathered up and spirited away by volunteer first-aiders). Things like this demand professionalism from the choirs and they always cope extremely well. Jo Tomlinson, Jo McNally and Patrick Barrett led the singers through a varied programme that showed their range, supported throughout by accompanist Matthew Rickard.

Two soloists opened the concert from the auditorium, getting proceedings off to a traditional, spell-binding start with the first verse of Once in Royal David’s City. When the audience rose to join in with the rest of the carol, the gentleman sitting next to me had to be coaxed to his feet – ‘do I seriously have to sing?!’ – but as the concert went on he found his confidence and relaxed into his new performing role. By the time Jingle Bells came around at the close and everyone was asked to shake their keys in time to the music, he was reluctant to sit down again. His party had come to the concert out of curiosity to see what Farnham Youth Choir was like. His verdict? ‘I think they must do a serious amount of work to achieve all this’, he said. 

Review by Helen Cole


Christmas Words and Music

On a cold winters evening – snow in the air outside – what better than the fabulous sound of the Farnham Youth Choir to warm the spirit.

Inside Farnham’s United Reform Church the candles were glowing and the newly decorated Christmas trees were sparkling gold and russet red. A beautiful setting for the first of the season’s Farnham Youth Choir’s Christmas concerts.

Throughout the concert, meaningful readings were interspersed with wonderful singing. We enjoyed beautiful moments of purity such as the first verse solo of Once in Royal David’s City as well as the more dramatic pieces including Joubert’s Torches and Britten’s This Little Babe. In between we were treated to favourites including the upbeat melody of Rutter’s Star Carol and the accurate, chiming tones of the Carol of the Bells

The Holly and the Ivy showcased the many wonderful individual voices in the FYC choir and the audience carols were topped off by stunning descants – how wonderful to have so many voices soaring up high above those of us watching and singing along.

Jo Tomlinson, FYC’s Musical Director, brought the readings to an end with Dickens’s festive Fezziwig and the lilting King Jesus hath a Garden with its “cymbal, trump and timbal and the tender soothing flute” left us feeling well and truly warmed up for Christmas tide. The evening was nicely rounded off with mulled wine and mince pies for everyone.

Review by Sara Acworth



Junior Choirs Christmas Celebration

Each year the junior choirs in the FYC family give a concert that launches the Christmas season in a uniquely joyful way. Parents and grandparents in the audience sit on their hands to start with but in the end a discreet wave or thumbs-up to their choir-member just can’t be suppressed. Then everything gets underway and there’s so much to be proud of.

Serious music-making came with a generous measure of fun in this year’s Christmas Celebration at the United Reformed Church in Farnham. Scattered through the programme were seasonal readings that were beautifully and confidently delivered by young choir-members. The Girls’ Choir under Jo McNally gave us lots of colours in four contrasting pieces, from the traditional (In the Bleak Midwinter) through to the spiritual (Tiny Little Baby born in Bethlehem) with syncopations, rhythmic clapping and singing in rounds along the way – and a burst of dancing at the end. The Boys’ Choir showed that they could do ‘cheeky’ like no-one else, whether punching the air (‘pow!’) in Super Santa! or calling the reindeer home with a Sami drum (Lapland Joik), guided by their director Patrick Barrett. The Training Choir eased us from autumn into winter with songs that included movement and impressive finger-clicking, director Sarah Burston donning a Christmas jumper along the way. By the time the choirs came together to end with Hava Nashira the audience knew that these young singers had worked hard all year yet still had energy to spare, even if sometimes opening your mouth wide to sing can bring on a yawn that just won’t be stifled. There was nothing sleepy about the heartfelt cheers of thanks for accompanist and organist Matthew Rickard.  

The next few weeks place many demands on singers but these young musicians showed everyone that they are in fantastic shape as they head towards Christmas, and beyond.  

Review by Helen Cole


Farnham Lions celebrates its 50th anniversary in song

There was not a spare seat to be had in St Andrew’s Church, as Farnham Lions hosted Farnham Youth Choir in a concert of sacred and secular music spanning 900 years as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations.

The evening started in magical fashion, with the church in darkness as the choir entered from the rear of the church with a suitably atmospheric performance of O Vitus Sapientiae by the 12th century composer, mystic and philosopher Hildegard of Bingen.

Lions President Andrew Lodge then welcomed everyone, thanking all for their support in this special year for the Farnham club (which coincidentally marks the centenary of Lions Club International). Among the many highlights in 2017 he especially pointed to the ‘Summer Spectacular’, 18 months in the planning, which had raised over £40,000 for four local youth-based charities.

It was then on with the music, as FYC journeyed through the centuries with sacred pieces by Croce, Pergolesi and Mendelssohn. Motets by Maurice Duruflé and Francis Poulenc - complete with typically French crunchy harmonies - represented the 20th century and the first half finished bang-up-to-date with three modern works - David Hamilton’s O Vos Omnes, an FYC favourite, James Whitbourne’s Alleluia Jubilate and the jazzy inflections of The Lord is My Shepherd by Will Todd, perhaps best-known for his Mass in Blue.       

After a short interval, the mood changed again as the choir grabbed the audience by the ears with Lyn Williams’ Festive Alleluia, followed by two other FYC ‘classics’, Michael Neaum’s gentle arrangement of the traditional Scottish ballad, Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go and David Brunner’s infectious Yo le Canto.

Composer Janet Wheeler was in the audience to hear the choir’s sensitive performance of her And Then We Knew Peace, a special commission first performed by FYC at the Farnham Festival in March. In contrast to its comforting, reflective mood, this was followed by the angry, more aggressive tone of A Poison Tree, including body percussion: also written by her for FYC, this was being given its world première at the Lions’ concert. “FYC’s energy, rhythmic precision, wonderfully clear diction and professional presentation were awesome,” she commented. “I really enjoyed the performances of my two pieces, which the choir delivered with supreme musicality in the two very different styles they demand. Congratulations to Joanna and to all.”

The lighter, secular mood of the second half concluded appropriately with three popular songs, including Bob Dylan’s Make You feel My Love, more recently a hit for Adele, and ending with Paloma Faith’s Upside Down, in a really crowd-pleasing arrangement by Michael Higgins. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening however was Ivo Antognini’s Wah bah dah bah doo bee!, a fun piece in which we were encouraged ‘not to listen to the lyrics’ (no surprise) but ‘listen to the music’, which we most certainly did given the choir’s evident relish and infectious enthusiasm in performance.

Not only did the young singers’ voices blend perfectly under conductor Jo Tomlinson’s direction, but there are also outstanding soloists within the choir, as solo performances by Charlotte Gill, Annia Grey, Jessica Miller and Millie Brake throughout the concert showed to great effect.  

Jo was clearly delighted with the performance of her young singers, nearly one quarter of whom joined the choir at the start of term just six weeks ago. It was evident that the choir continues to show a rare ability to get under the skin of an extraordinarily wide range of repertoire and convey the essence of every piece - and their ability to communicate this to the audience just gets better and better.     

FYC Chairman Graham Noakes thanked Farnham Lions and Farnham Institute Charity for sponsoring the concert and outlined some of the plans for the FYC family of choirs over the next three years. In helping achieve this ambitious momentum, he was delighted to announce that David Whelton MBE, a Director of the Three Choirs Festival and until recently Chief Executive and Artistic Director of the Philharmonia Orchestra, had agreed to become FYC’s Honorary President.

In praising the choir for an excellent evening’s entertainment, Farnham Mayor Mike Hodge echoed the audience’s gratitude for Farnham Lion’s unique contribution to town life and wished the organisation every success for the next 50 years!

Review by Graham Noakes

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A Date with a Traction Engine

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A big thank you goes to David Miller who took choir parents Jason and Sally Harris out for a scorching day out on his 1913 traction engine, "Cromwell".  Jason bid for the day out at the FYC fund raising gala dinner last year at Brasserie Blanc in Farnham.  Jason and Sally took their daughters Catherine and Eleanor to share the unique, rather hot and some what dirty experience. At the end of the ride, everyone enjoyed a well earned lunch at the pub in Micheldever!

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Summer Gala Concert 2017


The concert held on 8th July at Farnham Maltings had the usual celebratory feel, bringing all the choirs together on the stage and summing up what has been achieved during the past season. It is always lovely to see singers from age 6-18 performing with joy, directed by their various conductors and all ably accompanied by pianist Matthew Rickard.

The concert opened with a set from the senior FYC choir, directed by Jo Tomlinson, who sang several sacred pieces from the sixteenth century up to the present day, including the dramatic piece To Agni with text taken from the Hindu Rig Veda. The final piece in this first set was a World Premiere of And then we knew Peace by Janet Wheeler, commissioned by FYC.

Next to the stage came the crowd-pleasing Trainers Choir who despite their young ages performed wonderfully, with clear diction, good intonation and smiling faces! Conductor Sarah Burston has them well trained!

After the interval we were treated to songs in English and in French from the Junior Girls Choir, conducted by Jo McNally, followed by songs performed jointly by the Girls and the Junior Boys Choir, directed by Patrick Barrett. Both these choirs had enjoyed the opportunity to perform together this year in a new work, Dies Irae, by Ian Assersohn at Dorking Halls. As a thank-you for their dedication, Ian composed a setting of the words Silver by Walter de la Mare, and this was given a World Premiere performance with the composer present in the audience at the Maltings.

Patrick Barrett then directed the Boys Choir with songs in Congolese and Hebrew, followed by Panis Angelicus, ably assisted by the senior boys from FYC.

Jo Tomlinson conducted a set of lighter pieces from FYC to close the concert, including the quirky and demanding piece Wah Bah Dah Doo Bee! by the Swiss jazz composer Ivo Antognini and a charmingly choreographed version of Paloma Faith’s Upside Down, arranged by Michael Higgins who was present in the audience.

All choirs rose together to perform the final piece Goin’ Up a-Yonder which has been a favourite in the FYC repertoire for some time and brought tears to the eyes of the leavers!

Laura Brown