When I was asked to plan the music for a live broadcast on BBC Radio 4 of Mass at St Joseph’s Church in Bradford on November 5, I was naturally conscious of the resonance of the date. I was determined that the repertoire would be unequivocally Catholic. What better music than a chant setting of the Ordinary of the Mass, and who better to sing it than the 60 or so senior members of Bradford Catholic Youth Choir?
The 11th-century chant of the Missa Cum Jubilo featured alongside two of Newman’s great hymns from The Dream of Gerontius and the hypnotically simple setting of Anima Christi by Mgr Marco Frisina.
There was no elite choir school in action, no well-resourced private school music department, but rather a host of children from inner-city Bradford. They are a group of true cultural and social diversity, and, I hope, true quality, too. With a full membership of more than 100 young singers, split across two junior choirs, a boys’ choir and a girls’ choir, they have enjoyed some extraordinary opportunities. These include appearances on BBC One, Radio 2, Radio 3 and Radio 4, medals at the World Choir Games in Riga and concerts ranging from Paco Peña’s Requiem por la Terra to the children’s choir part in Mahler’s epic
The singers have forged a fabulous partnership with the Gabrieli Consort, not only bringing the Gabrielis into the heart of Bradford for concerts at St Joseph’s but also enabling choir members to benefit from the consort’s superb vocal coaches and renowned artistic director, Paul McCreesh. Most important, though, are the regular Masses at churches in Bradford and Keighley: musical excellence is a byproduct of faith rather than an end in itself.
Where do these opportunities come from? How are the foundations for the children’s achievement laid?
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