Singing for the Future: Caroline Gill Joins the 30th-Anniversary Celebrations of the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain at the Royal Albert Hall

Article excerpt

It feels a bit odd, somehow, sitting down in the Royal Albert Hall to hear a performance of the Monteverdi Vespers. Surely we should be in an ornate Venetian-style church somewhere, where the main visual stimulus is an intricate fresco decorated around the domed ceiling that will channel the glorious sound heavenwards? Maybe, but the sight of the 600 young singers who form the constituent parts of the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain coming together to celebrate their 30th anniversary is so exciting that it is surprisingly easy to address the concert with an open mind. For an organisation that has grown from its beginnings in 1983 as a single choir of a hundred young voices to one of more than 600 that includes two training choirs, a girls' choir, boys' choir, main choir and chamber choir, this is the perfect showcase.

In fact, seeing them lined up around the organ of the Albert Hall and behind the period orchestra La Serenissima, I am struck by how much more it looks like the preparations for atruly authentic community performance of a Bach Passion than a sombre, high-Renaissance liturgical piece. That's not to say there aren't similarities, though (if only in terms of scale), even if, in this case, one may be in greater need of an opulent echo to disseminate the music. Of course, it's not that the Albert Hall is lacking in attractive sound properties--it's simply the way the building works; and the sheer scale of numbers in the performance creates an alternative to generous acoustics that almost does away with the need for them altogether. …