Keeping Scotland Singing

Last month we passed a previously unimaginable milestone in our history, six months since we pivoted all our activity online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

These past six months we have moved every strand of our activity online from choir rehearsals and training, educational resources and Kodály musicianship training. We have also provided resources and training videos to schools we work with in West Lothian, Renfrewshire and Edinburgh. These times have given us an opportunity sometimes to address some things that we wanted to do for years but couldn’t find a way to do before.

See an overview of our work over the past six months below.

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Mini Music Makers
Online Video Resources
NYCOS TV
National Youth Choir of Scotland Releases
National Choir Courses
Kodály at Home
Musicianship Classes
Regional Choirs

Mini Music Makers

This month we welcomed our youngest ever Mini Music Makers participant at just one week old. These classes are the very first strand of activity we pivoted to online sessions in March.

Every bit as engaging as our in-person sessions for ages 0-7, we will continue to run these classes for the remainder of the year.

Mini Music Makers Parent

Every Monday my son is transfixed and his face lights up and this morning’s class was no different… It’s also nice to see him interact and respond to what is going on with me rather than passively watching. I am so glad we joined in!

 

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Online Video Resources

When schools closed we wanted to support parents and teachers to help keep Scotland singing. Our solution was a series of daily online activities delivered by Karen Clark. The very first one Senua De Dende aired on 23 March and it’s been viewed over 7,500 times. Over the six months, we have uploaded 163 videos and they’ve been viewed from all over the world.

Some weeks later, the Daily Activities morphed into ‘Wee Summer Sing’. It was five weeks of activities, including one week of Gaelic song, and it was aimed at children aged 5-8. Karen was joined by three or four other presenters and BSL interpreter Paul Whittaker.

There was a lot of concern as to what this lockdown is doing for us all, no more so than Scotland’s young people. With help from the Wellbeing Fund, we started a three-strand ‘Sing & Smile’ project in July. Videos were uploaded for pre-fives and ages 5 – 8, including a week of Scots songs and versions in British Sign Language. We also ran a songwriting class for young people aged 9-12.

In addition to the Daily Activities, we introduced a Friday treat each week with a previously unseen concert recording of one of our National Choirs. How bittersweet it was to hear this sound knowing that we couldn’t create it this year.

Educational Videos


WATCH
Concert Recordings


WATCH

 

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NYCOS TV

Our next innovation of the summer was introduced as part of the online residential course for the National Youth Choir of Scotland. Artistic Director Christopher Bell wanted to introduce something really special and unique for this year’s members. He recorded a series of ‘NYCOS TV’ interviews.

Some of the interviewees were members in the past and others were conductors and composers that the choir had worked with previously. To date, these guests have included composers James MacMillan and Eric Whitacre, conductor Donald Runnicles and Scottish traditional/folk musicians Hannah Rarity and Robert Robertson. There was also an online masterclass with international mezzo-soprano and NYCOS National Girls Choir Patron, Karen Cargill.

Sir Donald Runnicles

If I had my way, I’d be working with you and the choir every second week. It’s just the logistics of being in all these different continents.

 

Eric Whitacre

I believe that that feeling when we’re finally released and we can all sing together, I think we’ll actually enter a genuine golden era of choral music.

 

WATCH NYCOS TV EPISODES

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National Youth Choir of Scotland Releases

On Friday 8 May, almost three and a half years after we had done the first recording session with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, we were able to release our new album Cantos Sagrados. It was significant for a number of reasons. It was twenty years the sound of the National Youth Choir of Scotland was been captured on CD. It was the first recording of the orchestral version of James McMillan’s piece Cantos Sagrados, a peace that Christopher Bell commissioned for the RSNO Chorus in the 1990s.

It’s a supremely effective work impeccably delivered by these young and agile singers.
Alexandra Coghlan, Gramophone
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there are flawless, riveting performances of difficult and profound contemporary works *****
Tim Burgess, The Scotsman
Read full review

this accomplished album from the National Youth Choir of Scotland is a joy from start to finish *****
Philip Reed, Choir & Organ Magazine

On the 4th of July, we also released Irving Berlin America, recorded at that session three and a half years ago. All this served to remind us of the power, commitment, passion and extraordinary diction of the National Youth Choir of Scotland.

 

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National Choir Courses

Only three or four weeks after lockdown started we were supposed to be running our residential courses for NYCOS National Boys Choir and NYCOS National Girls Choir. We rushed to put together some pre-recorded material online from several of our vocal coaches and choir directors.

Many of those boys and girls did take part in the activity, but it taught us one very important thing which was the missing aspect of the personal connection; the chance to meet your friends and the chance to sing together.

When it came to July and the National Youth Choir of Scotland’s course, we did something very different. We organised a three-day Zoom course from 9 am to 9 pm, mimicking the way a course usually runs. There were warmups, sectionals, singing lessons for the Training Choir and Tutti sessions for absolutely everybody. In the afternoon, when there would have been recreation, we had optional sessions including sight-singing, score-reading, introduction to conducting and yoga. Each evening there was a recreational activity including a quiz, NYCOS TV viewing or ceilidh.

Members of NYCOS National Girls Choir have made a virtual choir recording of One Candle by Andy Beck, with British Sign Language by Dr Paul Whittaker.

NYCOS National Girls Choir (Virtual Choir) 2020 - One Candle, Andy Beck

 

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Kodály at Home

Every year we run a Kodály musicianship training course during the summer at Merchiston Castle School with around 90 attendees. This year we instead ran online sessions. This gave primary staff, class music teachers, instrumental teachers, nursery practitioners and freelance musicians the chance to learn, network and sing together from the comfort of their own homes.

Session topics included Kodály teaching methodology, Colourstrings courses, choral and singing technique and songs from across the British Isles and South East Asia.

The statistics for our online course soared far beyond what we expected. Three of the sessions were so oversubscribed that we ran them again two weeks later with 253 attendees.

 

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Musicianship Classes

For years we’ve wanted to offer musicianship classes to people but couldn’t work out how to work with the small groups all over Scotland. Bringing them all together on an online session can achieve that very easily.

Our online musicianship training courses have brought together 110 participants in 13 classes at 5 different levels. People participating come from all over the world, including China, Hong Kong and Kenya and tutors were from Hungary, Australia and Scotland.

Lucinda Geoghegan, Creative Learning Director

I think [working online] has certainly opened a lot of doors for a lot of people. It’s made the things we do much more accessible.

I’ve had feedback from lots of people who couldn’t attend a course before for a number of reasons… It [lockdown] has kind of forced us to do something we never thought we would do.

I would never have done this through choice and actually, I really enjoy it. I love it.

SEE UPCOMING TRAINING EVENTS

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Regional Choirs

Our fifteen NYCOS Regional Choirs across Scotland have continued rehearsals and musicianship training online. The first of these went online in April and we will now continue these through to December with the fervent hope that we will meet face to face next year.

Some Regional Choirs created their own virtual performances over lockdown.


NYCOS Inverness Choir (Junior Choirs)

Believe, words and music: Lin Marsh


NYCOS Renfrewshire Choir (Senior/Chamber)

As Long as I Have Music, Don Besig

NYCOS Renfrewshire - As Long as I Have Music


NYCOS Stirling Choir (Post-Gold Group)

Pastime With Good Company


NYCOS West Lothian Choir (Chamber Choir)

Irish Blessing, Bob Chilcott

 

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None of our work this year would have been possible without the support of our funders and the people who have made donations. If you enjoy hearing about what we’ve been up to during lockdown, please consider supporting the continuation of this work.

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