This week I have been privileged enough to volunteer with a youth charity called Music For Youth at the Schools Prom. If you’ve ever been part of a school or community music ensemble you may very well have taken part in an MFY event.
Back in 2001, I myself performed at the Royal Albert hall, London, as part of MFYs Schools Proms. I sang in a choir of 500 children from the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, performing a piece called ‘The Salamander and the Moonraker’ written by Edward Gregson that was originally commissioned for Croydon Schools Music Association in 1980. It is an experience I will never forget. The months of rehearsals spent learning this 25 minute piece off by heart, culminating in what felt like such a quick but exhilarating performance in front of 4000 people. All that and I was only 12 years old.
It’s one of those interesting facts you can throw at people: ‘I have performed at one of the worlds most famous music venues. I have sung on the same stage that Katherine Jenkins, Adele, Coldplay, Robbie Williams, The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Pavarotti, etc have performed on.’ I have had the amazing opportunity to be part of something big and special and it was all down to the small team of people called Music for Youth, a passionate charity organisation with 40 years experience behind them.
So this year was my chance to give back, to give other children the same opportunity that I had. I vaguely remember a blur of people moving us from holding area to stage for soundcheck, to the gallery for our lunch, back to our holding area and into our seats in the choir stalls. Until this year I hadn’t really given much thought to the volunteers who had spent their day making sure we were in the right place at the right time. This year that was my job, on Monday 12th November myself and 5 others had to make sure that 650 children from Bradford were in the right places at all times, with instruments, tea, bags and coats.
The MFY team said this was probably one of the most complicated massed ensembles they had ever attempted. The group comprised of around 100 string players, 51 guitarists and bass players, 10 drummers, 20 melodica players, a choir, a brass and woodwind section, a samba band, tabla players, an indian dance group, 2 MCs and a cowbell! I’m sure I’ve missed something out, but you can imagine the chaos.
At the end of their performance there were just 3 short minutes to get half of them off the stage and arrange it back into classic orchestra formation for the traditional finale of Land of Hope and Glory.
During that last performance there were sighs of relief, radio messages of well done and stressed faces started to relax, as the craziest thing they had ever done had been executed quite successfully.
The best bit of all of it was seeing the absolute joy on the faces of every child from 4-21 who performed that night, and the pride on the faces of their friends and family. On top of all that, the sheer talent of these groups of children is immeasurable. From brass bands to choirs, orchestras to bell ringers, jazz groups and rock bands and even rappers. The UKs youth have a lot to offer and MFY make it possible for them to be heard.
Of course we mustn’t forget the teachers, youth leaders and parents who hold it all together. MFY and Classic FM honour teachers at each nights event, recognising the phenomenal work they do with these kids, giving them valuable skills in communication, team work and how to work hard and have fun at the same time.
I would encourage anyone under the age of 21 to find an MFY or local project to get involved in and anyone over that to volunteer to help these groups on their journey to brilliance. In the coming weeks we’ll be featuring some of the MFY acts as Artist of the Week because they were just so good, so keep your eyes peeled.
You can support MFY by donating if you don’t wish to volunteer.
Find out more about MFY:
Check out Classic FM for information, videos and photo galleries of each nights event: