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Last night I had the privilege of attending a concert to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Barnsley Youth Choir. Founded in 2009 by Keith Norton and Mat Wright, the choir has grown to international fame and is a registered charity run by volunteers that seeks to provide outstanding opportunities for young people who live in Barnsley and has developed a reputation for excellence. The choir is ranked 5th in the World Rankings in its category and has won 8 first prizes in some of the biggest international competitions in the world. Barnsley Youth Choir were presented with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service (MBE) in January 2018.

This tenth anniversary festival features four concerts over two days and last night’s concert involved choirs from Hungary and Sweden as well as songs from the National Youth Choir of Great Britain’s Fellowship scheme and soloist Paul Phoenix (former King’s Singer). To see the talent of these young people and to know the choir is giving such tremendous opportunities to children from the age of four was utterly mind-blowing. There aren’t enough adjectives to begin to describe the quality and sheer joy of these singers: suberb, stunning, spectacular are just a few. I’ve had the privilege of working alongside their accompanist, Gareth Taylor, for many years and to see some of my former pupils singing their hearts out was nothing short of amazing.

There are many Christians involved in the group, and the choir’s rendition of ‘John the Revelator’ (watch here for a version at a previous concert) made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up! It was so awesome (and I don’t use that word lightly) to be at a concert attended by hundreds of people and hear the name of Jesus sung out with such passion by young people from our borough. Other choirs sang ‘Amazing Grace’ and other church choral work; one choir sang the words of Philippians 4:4, 7 to us, urging us to rejoice in the Lord always and to let the peace of God keep our hearts and minds in Jesus Christ. Song has always been one of the main ways we are urged to praise God, but it is truly humbling to hear His praise sung out in this way in a concert.

Even more exciting to my heart is the fact that last year the choir opened its Dearne section (Barnsley Youth Choir East) which meets every Wednesday at Astrea Academy Dearne, bringing the choir to our area for those aged 7-12. Last week during one of the mosaic workshops, the class at Sacred Heart sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to a pupil. One boy sang with such passion and skill that I asked if he belonged to a choir; sure enough, he sings with the BYC East! It’s wonderful to know another outlet for championing creativity in our area and to see the sense of unity, purpose, discipline, quality teaching and sheer joy that singing is bringing to these young people, who truly are ambassadors for our town. Those who feel there is nothing good in this area and that young people are ruining our town need to look long and hard at Barnsley Youth Choir, for they are champions in so many different areas and show us a wholly different story. If we have ears to hear, let us hear!