With just a few days left to go until the Choir of the Year 2012 Grand Final at Royal Festival Hall, we caught up with show’s presenter Josie d’Arby ahead of the big day.

You’re going to be presenting at the Choir of the Year 2012 Grand Final this Sunday. What are you most looking forward to about the concert?
This is my fourth time presenting on this competition and I think the thing that always impresses me the most is the that the competition always brings out the best in these already excellent choirs. They seem to thrive on the pressure and no matter how well they’ve sung in the heats, something about the final brings out even more. It makes it a joy for the music lover but also a thrilling competition.

Can you tell us anything about the music we can expect to hear being performed?
Let’s just say the ladies are very well represented this year and everyone has gone for a repertoire which will both challenge them and entertain the audience. Should be a gorgeous afternoon.

Have you ever performed as part of a choir / a musical ensemble
I have , I have been in church choirs and I was also part of the choir at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art for three years, so I know very well how wonderful it feels to sing as part of an ensemble and how you all lean on each other. And when you get it right: it’s magical.

Did you find performing as part of an ensemble to be particularly rewarding experience?
Incredibly rewarding , being part of any team has its own unique specialness, the friendships forged and of course it’s a lovely social activity but above all playing your part in the whole, is the essence of what teamwork is about and a lovely thing to experience

What other talents or skills would you like to possess?
Haha, I’m something of a jack of all trades and put a lot of effort into a lot of different things – still I would like to be a better singer. I used to sing a lot, it used to be my main thing but I haven’t sung in such a long time that my instrument is somewhat rusty and that muscle very weak. Still I get a thrill listening to others who have honed their craft.

Is there a piece of music you would pick out as one of the ‘best’ works ever written?
For a music lover such as myself that is an impossible question. To narrow it down, In terms of choral music, I would say I like the classics, like Handel’s Messiah , it’s so stirring but equally a good gospel choir can send chills down your spine. When the music and the meaning come together wonderful things can happen for the listener.

And is there a work that is for you, emotionally, especially important?
Again so many , when I listen to music I really open myself up and allow it to have the desired effect on me, there are so many pieces that bring to the fore so many wonderful emotions, again it would be impossible to narrow it down. I have a soft spot for strings though, in all their forms….

If you could programme your ideal Southbank Centre show, which artists (living or dead) would you bring together?
These questions are so hard, my taste is so eclectic but Nina Simone would be there, Van Morrison, Berlin philharmonic Andre Rieu and Yanna.

What is the most played piece of music on your mp3 player or in your CD collection?
Possibly ‘ a love before time’ from the ‘crouching tiger hidden dragon’ soundtrack a lovely song called ‘the promise’ by Yanna and Gold by spandau ballet – random I know.

Do you have any strange rituals you carry out before appearing on stage?
I like to say a little prayer and give thanks for the opportunity to once again do something I enjoy so much


Limited tickets are still available for the Choir of the Year 2012 Grand Final.
CLICK HERE to buy yours!
To find out more about the competition, you can visit:


Following the exciting Category Finals that took place last week, we are thrilled to announce that the six finalists for Choir of the Year!


Children’s Choir of the Year:
Lindley Junior School Choir from Huddersfield

Youth Choir of the Year:
Methodist College Girls’ Choir from Belfast

Adult Choir of the Year:
Surrey Hills Chamber Choir

Open Choir of the Year:
Oxford Gargoyles

Les Sirenes from Glasgow
Ysgol Glanaethwy Senior Choir, Bangor

Come and hear them all, plus special guests The Swingle Singers at the Royal Festival Hall on 28 October. The Grand Final will be broadcast by BBC FOUR and BBC Radio 3.

For more information and to book tickets for the event click here

Watch a film of the New Music 20×12 composers talking about their commissions

You can experience all 20 commissions across one weekend at Southbank Centre from 13-15 July. Don’t miss your chance to get involved in talks, debates and workshops, as well as a unique opportunity to book a one-to-one composer surgery with one of the New Music 20×12 composers.

Find out more / book tickets

PRS for Music Foundation’s New Music 20×12 is a UK-wide commissioning programme initiated by Jillian Barker and David Cohen, and delivered in partnership with the BBC, LOCOG and NMC Recordings.


Crouch End Festival Chorus – special ticket offer

Don’t miss your chance to hear the Crouch End Festival Chorus perform Haydn’s popular Nelson Mass on Thursday 26 April, 7.30pm at Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall.

The first half comprises two contemporary works, the London premiere of Arvo Pärt’s Adam’s Lament, which received its world premiere in Istanbul in 2010. As a tribute to the composer David Bedford, who died in October, the choir and strings will perform A Charm of Joy.

As a special late deal, all tickets are offered at £15. To take advantage of this offer, call 0844 847 9910 and quote ‘Nelson’.

Interview with Dan Ludford-Thomas – conductor of Two Choirs, One Messiah

Dan is in demand as a choral animateur, directing choral workshops and projects both in the UK and internationally. He is currently Head of Singing at Dulwich College, and is a singing teacher at Eton College. He is the Musical Director of Concordia Chamber Choir, the Director of Music of Lewisham Choral Society and the Associate Conductor of the Hackney Singers.

On 20 March you will be conducting the Hackney Singers and Lewisham Choral Society in their performance of Handel’s Messiah. Can you tell us a bit about this choice of programme, and what we can expect from the concert?
This is the first collaboration between the Hackney Singers, Lewisham Choral Society and the Forest Philharmonic. Handel’s Messiah needs no introduction, it is one of the best known and loved oratorios. We hope to bring the work to life with 300+ singers, our fine soloists and the vibrancy of the Forest Philharmonic.

What have been the challenges of conducting a combination of two choirs?
Making sure that the individuals sing as one, that everyone feels they are making a valuable contribution and that everyone is prepared to perform in step with one another to bring the music off the page to the audience.

Do you find working with amateur choirs to be a particularly rewarding experience?
It is a privilege to work with amateur choirs, their commitment and enthusiasm not only in singing but in all the background organisation that goes on is truly inspiring. I am always respectful that everyone present has chosen to give their free time to make music and put concerts on.

Is there a piece of music you would pick out as one of the ‘best’ works ever written?
I can’t say there is one work written that  is the best, but many many amazing pieces we can get stuck into.

And is there a work that is for you, emotionally, especially important?
Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers as it was the first large scale piece I directed making the switch from the perspective of a singer to that of conductor. As with all works you revisit a piece see what you did, remember, redo, refine.

What is the most played piece of music on your mp3 player or in your CD collection?
I have quite a wide range of styles I like from polyphony to pop. I suppose Bach is never far away and the 48 preludes and fugues are a particular favourite as they have such variety of speed and mood each one has an interesting story.

Do you have any strange rituals you carry out before or after you perform?
I need peace and quiet before I perform and then I am happy to let the noise carry on way past the last chord of a performance.

For more info and to book tickets click here.

London Concert Choir return to Southbank Centre

Following their outstanding performance of Verdi’s Requiem in March this year, the London Concert Choir return to Southbank Centre with Haydn’s Mass in Time of War and Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem.

Both works were composed in the shadow of approaching war. Mass in Time of War (Haydn’s own title) was written in 1796 as Napoleon was advancing on Vienna. It is one of his finest compositions, symphonic in scale and richly devotional in spirit. Vaughan Williams composed his profoundly moving cantata in 1936 to words taken principally from the Bible and the poems of Walt Whitman. The martial sounds of trumpets and drums feature prominently in both works and each ends with the heartfelt plea ‘Dona nobis pacem: Grant us peace.’

Here’s a clip from their performance of Requiem earlier in the year.


Hear the London Concert Choir at Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall on Tuesday 27 September 2011. Get tickets here.

Massive Messiah: your chance to sing with The Sixteen

Harry ChristophersWe are searching for 750 singers from around the country (or beyond!) to join conductor Harry Christophers and The Sixteen in a giant performance of Handel’s Messiah on Saturday 14 May. You will need to know the music in advance, but there’s the option of taking part in rehearsals in London ahead of the performance date. Click here to find out more.

You can also simply buy a ticket for the performance and listen, or if you’d like to stand up and sing just the famous ‘Hallelujah’ Chorus, buy a ticket and then come to a free workshop on the day. Click here to book.