Pupil choir makes its mark

22nd August 2008 at 01:00
Young choristers hope to hit a high note in their A-levels too

Teenage members of a Welsh choir have hit highs in their A-levels and on national television this summer. Ysgol Glanaethwy is now one of four remaining choirs on BBC 1's Last Choir Standing.

On Saturday night, their haunting rendition of "O Fortuna" by Carl Orff kept them out of the live sing-off. But the young choristers have also clinched a string of A and B grades in A-level drama.

Judges sang the praises of the contest's youngest choir, whose average age is 16, after the opera singer Russell Watson - known as "The Voice" - had called them "forgettable" in an earlier show.

The choir, based in Bangor, is led by husband and wife team Cefin and Rhian Roberts, who opened a "fame school" for local children in 1990.

During the series, the choir has spent weekdays in Bangor but returned to London every Friday for rehearsals and the live show.

Twenty of the young singers received their A-level and AS-level results last week. A further seven went into their respective schools to learn their GCSE results yesterday.

"We usually rehearse until the National Eisteddfod and then take a month off, but they have worked all summer - it shows their dedication," Mrs Roberts told TES Cymru.

The choir - mostly first-language Welsh speakers - gained a slot on the show after Mrs Roberts sent a video to producers.

They competed against 60 other choirs before making it to the television heats, presented by Nick Knowles and Myleene Klass.

The experienced choristers, mostly from schools in Gwynedd, have performed and competed across Europe.

On Saturday night, judge Suzi Digby, a choral conductor and director, defended the choir from criticism of their pronunciation from fellow judge Sharon D Clarke, singer and actress.

"We must remember English is a second language for this choir," said Mr Roberts, who has become known for his colourful and animated conducting. We have had to think tactically every week - what is acceptable and what is going to win us the votes. You have to hit the hearts of the viewers."

Mrs Roberts hit back at earlier criticism by Mr Watson, but said the young choristers could take the heat. "Once you have been through the ritual of the National Eisteddfod, you can go through anything," she said.

The couple attributed their choir's success to hard work and a mixture of youth and enthusiasm, while both acknowledged that "overwhelming" public support had kept them going.

Ysgol Glanaethwy is one of two remaining Welsh choirs in the show. The Cardiff-based Only Men Aloud are also in the running.

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