It is with great excitement that we can reveal that the title of BBC Songs of Praise Senior Choir of the Year 2005 now belongs to the Haileybury Chamber Choir. This is the second year in a row that the choir has reached the national finals.
The choir competed against two other senior schools on 26 February in Birmingham’s Symphony Hall, and the result was announced later that evening after 1,800 people were treated to a concert featuring all the junior and senior school finalists. Due to an embargo imposed by the BBC until the programme was aired last Sunday evening, we were unable to announce the news to the world!
The adjudication was based on the choir’s live performance in front of a panel of expert judges who included legendary pop producer Pete Waterman, Malcolm Archer, organist at St Paul’s Cathedral, and gospel singer Sinitta.
Haileybury’s solo performances included John Rutter’s I will sing with the Spirit and an arrangement of the hymn, Be thou my vision, by Director of Music, Peter Davis. The choir’s moving performance of the hymn reduced Pete Waterman to tears in the competition round, and he later spoke effusively about the choir’s 100% perfection, with their superb performance giving just that little bit extra.
During the broadcast on 13 March, he said: "I thought that they were exceptional. I’d give 100% to the bass section because I’ve never heard baritones of 16 to 18 years old with that quality. I mean, they were spectacular!"
Says Peter Davis: "It was clearly a great thrill for the excellence of our musicians to be recognised and applauded in a national competition. Above all, I was incredibly proud of our pupils’ performances. Haileybury’s success is a great testament to their vocal skills and tireless commitment."
The competition sessions and the entire evening concert were filmed by the BBC and formed the basis of two BBC1 Songs of Praise programmes broadcast on 13 and 20 March. The BBC also spent a day at Haileybury earlier in the year filming members of the choir participating in other aspects of school life, and this short film was also broadcast on 13 March.
Members of the choir were obviously delighted, particularly in view of some saying in pre-event radio interviews how much they wanted to win this year’s competition. Ben Stewart (Tr) summed up everyone’s feelings: "To be on television participating in this competition was one achievement for me, but to win the competition just put the icing on the cake! We had a great day, and I never thought I’d enjoy choir so much!"