Young Voices

NEC in Birmingham

Young Voices sounded like a labour of love rather than form of entertainment, with over-anxious helicoptering parents handing over wads of cash for the chance to see their little darlings on stage; a big stage at that – an arena even.

With three nights at the NEC Genting Arena, different schools featuring each night, it must be a logistical nightmare for the organisers, but has turned into an enormously successful annual event.

Two and a half hours up the M40, mid-traffic jam, on this guilt-laden trip, our excitement was beginning to wane fast. With crowds of over 6,000 school children, many from Oxfordshire, all converging from all over the country, surely this was just a big rip-off? We didn’t really need to go anyway, we thought. The organisers were just cashing in on our parental insecurities. Our children wouldn’t notice if we didn’t turned up, and they’d never see us anyway. What were we doing? We could have stayed at home.

Thank God we persevered though, because the enormity and professionalism of the concert was overwhelming. It’s not something we would normally have attended, but I cannot remember anything as enchanting. Sold out, I had managed to secure one of the few remaining seats right at the back. Our little darlings were miles away, but we were all in the same boat.

Each school had been rehearsing the songs for months to join the largest children’s choir on the planet; a wonderful collection of universally diverse music from Africa to Wales, from rock to ballads, shanties to pop, all accompanied by choreographed movement, a conductor and orchestra interspersed with a wide range of acts from street dance to beat boxing.

Clad in white Young Voices T-shirts, when the children finally converged in a sea of white, waving tiny lights, and singing their little hearts out, the effect was mesmerising. Innocent, enthusiastic, vibrant, tuneful, their wall of sound was melodic and emotional – even the stoniest heart couldn’t fail to be moved. And on a bleak January night, it was good to be reminded of the positives in life as the sound crescendoed around us.

A wonderfully professional set up, Young Voices should be compulsory for all primary school children.