Record number of Norfolk pupils take part in annual choir festival

Record numbers of Norfolk high school pupils took part in a rousing celebration of choral singing at a packed St Andrew's Hall in Norwich.

Hundreds of families and friends crammed into the medieval hall for the annual Norfolk High Schools Choir Festival, which was led by Mike Brewer OBE, Director of National Youth Choirs of Great Britain, who returned to the festival for the third time.

Fourteen Norfolk high schools were represented with about 350 pupils taking part, which was up about 100 on last year.

Among the schools represented was Framingham Earl whose director of music, Miles Neville, praised Mr Brewer for the big turnout.

He said: 'I think the numbers taking part is down to the experience of working in a big group and with a professional like Mr Brewer.

'Singing individual parts in a choir is also an extra experience, and there's also the prestige of perform-ing in a venue like this.'

The choir sang a varied programme including spirituals and world music on the theme of light and free-dom, and choral arrangements of popular classics 'California Dreaming', 'Goodnight Sweetheart' and 'Sloop John B'. The night culminated with Handel's 'And the Glory of the Lord'.

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Framingham Earl pupils Rebecca Harris and Roanna Benfield, both 14, also enjoyed singing 'And the Glory of the Lord' and 'This Little Light o' Mine'.

Andrew Day, director of music at Wymondham College, said: 'It's a pretty unique opportunity for them to sing in a a large choir, and with Mike Brewer. He's got an amazing amount of energy and the pupils pick up on that.'

Wymondham College pupil Chris Charles, 15, said it was a great opportunity to perform with lots of tal-ented people, while his schoolfriend Emily Stangham, 16, added: 'Music's definitely one of my favourite subjects and it's wonderful to be a part of something like this.'

Wymondham High School's head of music Mark Horner also said Mr Brewer was the big draw.

Mr Horner said: 'He's an inspiration and kids are not used to working with someone like that.'

One of Mr Horner's pupils, Alasdair Trench, 17, said he had never sung in a big choir before, but added they had been rehearsing at lunchtimes and on extra occasions.

His school friend Adam Latham, also 17. is actually a drummer, but he sang in the choir. He said: 'Music is a big part of what I do. I especially like singing California Dreaming.'

Mary Nobes, school support officer at Notre Dame High in Norwich, said it was a big event for pupils like Lauren Tackley, 11, who was taking part for the first time, and Natasha Yorke-Edgell, 16.

David O'Neale, from Norfolk County Council's Music Service, which organised the festival, said the num-ber of young singers had increased year on year since Mr Brewer became involved.

The festival also featured performances from the Music Service's Norfolk Symphonic Wind Band, a rela-tively new ensemble comprising young players of Grade 6 standard and over.

Other high schools taking part in this year's festival were Acle, Caister, City of Norwich, Diss, Flegg, Hellesdon, Hewett, Hethersett, Neatherd, Old Buckenham, King's Lynn Academy, Norwich School, Langley and Thetford Grammar.

<t> Is your school taking part in a major event in the next few weeks? Ring reporter David Bale on 01603 772427 or email