Massed voices as 300 pupils from across the Chichester area unite at the CFT

Emily Barden
Emily Barden

Emily Barden will be the glue as 300 pupils from across the Chichester area unite as one massed choir, accompanied by a live band, to present an evening of uplifting song at Chichester Festival Theatre.

Chichester Sings Live 2019 on January 17 will bring together Chichester Free School, Boxgrove Primary School, Ormiston Six Villages Academy, The March C of E Primary School, St Philip Howard Catholic High School, Kingsham Primary School, St Richard’s Catholic Primary School, East Wittering Community Primary School and Slindon C of E Primary School. The event is a collaboration between West Sussex Music and the participating schools. Singer/songwriter Emily will be working as a West Sussex Music project partner.

As she says, the whole thing is conceived as a celebration of the emotive power of songs and music and how they are used to celebrate, worship, uplift, reflect and to dream – all part of West Sussex Music’s wider singing strategy to enable access for as many children as possible to large-scale events. The children come together to rehearse during the day, and the performance starts at 7.15pm. Tickets from the CFT.

West Sussex Music organises events to mark the key stages in the school curriculum, and this particular one marks key stage three. Music will include Celebrate by Kool & The Gang, a traditional gospel tune, Make Your Own Kind Of Music, a song written by Emily called In Harmony, Gershwin’s I Got Rhythm and Coldplay. Four of the schools will do individual items in the evening. Emily admits the scariest thing is not knowing how it will all sound – though an early January rehearsal will give her an idea: “Before that, you just don’t know.”

And past experience isn’t even a guide: “It really varies. It is fascinating. Every region, even within the county, will sound different. Different groups of children will make a different sound. It depends on the teacher. It depends on the group, and it depends on the music, whether they actually like what they are singing or not. But on the day, the one thing that you can actually change is how they feel about being on stage. For a lot of them, it is their first experience of being on a professional stage, and the CFT are really brilliant in the way that they treat the whole thing as very much a professional company. There is no dumbing down. It is all very professionally done.

“But on the day, you can do work on their stage presence so that you get them to feel that they really own the space. It is about their confidence and their enjoyment and making sure that they don’t have any worries at all and that they know that all the responsibility ultimately falls on me, that I have got their backs and that they have just got to enjoy the experience.They have just got to make sure that they have a really good time. It is about owning the space and making sure that they feel proud to be there. It takes a lot of energy to do that, but it is just so rewarding. They come along and they rehearse and then they go home and have tea and come back hopefully to a full theatre.”

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