The 2021 Music for Youth (MFY) prom was back after a two-year hiatus caused by the global coronavirus pandemic. The celebration of young musicians was a perfect way to welcome back live music after it had struggled for the last 18 months, nearly 2,000 youth aged between 6 – 18 from schools, choirs and bands all around the country filled the hall.
For many of the performers this was their first live performance in over 2 years and for those from Cornwall, Kirklees and Northampton their day started in the early hours of the morning as they made their way down to the legendary Royal Albert Hall in the country’s capital.
The Proms was directed by legendary composer Tim Steiner who has directed over 500 music projects around the world. Tim Steiner has worked with some of the most decorated musicians and groups in the world but had a different type of challenge facing him on this night with nearly 2,000 children. They say never work with kids and animals and here he was with thousands of children preparing for a prom at the Royal Albert Hall. Tim’s experience was clear when he silenced the hall with a single “Shhhh” and raise of his arm, his key words for the night were to “Engulf the room with sound”.
I arrived at the Royal Albert Hall a few hours before the prom began and found myself watching the rehearsals, sitting in on interviews and just walking the halls of the Royal Albert. The hallways were full of children with cases as big as them, at first, I was constantly questioning the ability of these children to fill the hall, until I heard the rehearsals and the thousand odd young musicians filling the empty hall in rehearsals and their small voices becoming a powerful roar that engulfed the hall. I wasn’t the only person there who was amazed at what I was seeing with many of the performers in awe of the performance they had approaching. “I can’t believe it’s real”, “It’s incredible”, “Even some professional musicians don’t get to perform here” were just some of the things said by the young musicians as they prepared for one of the biggest performances of their lives.
"“I can’t believe it’s real”, “It’s incredible”, “Even some professional musicians don’t get to perform here” were just some of the things said by the young musicians as they prepared for one of the biggest performances of their lives."
The opportunity to perform wasn’t the only thing to be celebrated here, there were children from all backgrounds, ages and abilities there. Some performers were seasoned and were preparing for their second or third performance at the Halls while other were preparing for their first. It was a celebration of youth musicians but for some of the youngest musicians it was a day of inspiration. When speaking to the Percussionist from the Youth orchestra (Northampton) he noted that during rehearsals there was a group of children from one of the primary schools performing at the event sitting behind him and watching him. He hoped they'd go home and share what they had seen and be inspired to want to go and do the same, another member of the Northampton youth orchestra added “That was us at one point”. The MFY prom wasn’t just to showcase the talented young musicians but to show young musicians how many there are and inspire the younger musicians to pick up an instrument they’ve seen or continue with their current passion.
The MFY prom this year was titled ‘All The Halls a Stage’ and was brought to life with performers and musicians in all levels of the halls including the stage of course. Throughout the night the whole hall was performed in.
The prom started at 6 pm and the hall began to fill with crowds of waves and calls of names from parents and friends in the crowd, ignored by the performers as they tried to zone in and ignore the thousands of onlookers before one of their biggest performers to date.
The night started with segments of the on-stage choir being set off by Tim Steiner before the host of the night Remel London came onto the stage to kick things off.
Remel London is a seasoned presenter who has spent years working in the UK music scene having entered the industry in 2012 on platforms such as Link up TV. The presenter now has her own Capital xtra radio show and is the lead host on Sky One’s What’s Up TV.
Remel entered the industry as a young and hungry presenter and has cemented herself in her field with over 10 years experiences so was the perfect person to host a night celebrating young musicians and brought along 3 young presenters with her to help her deliver the night.
"It was a celebration of youth musicians but for some of the youngest musicians it was a day of inspiration."
Phoebe, Aliyah and Lewis were the 3 young presenters and young musicians who helped co-host the event alongside Remel London. Phoebe is a 17-year-old Clarinet player who was a member of Northamptonshire’s music and performing arts trust for 7 years and is now pushing towards acting and studies Actor Musicianship at Guilford School of Acting. Aliyah is a 19-year-old oboist who hopes to change the norms of oboe playing, she is currently applying to conservatories, and as well as playing the oboe she is a self-taught dancer and a member of the Wandsworth music academy. Lewis is a 15-year-old with a deep passion for music, he plays Bass and is currently teaching himself to play the Drums. The talent didn’t just stop with those performing on the night with the 3 youth presenters not only doing an incredible job in entertaining the crowd and keeping everyone involved with humour and energy, but they are also talented musicians who hope to have successful careers in the music field and were celebrated for that on the stage.
Throughout the night the performers used their stage to cover several important topics, the Cornwall County youth choir used their performance to focus of global warming and the waste problem affecting our oceans. The group performed ‘Fix you’ by Coldplay and played clips and videos on the screen behind them showing the damage that pollution and littering is having on the ocean. Being a group from Cornwall, they had worked on helping their area during lockdown with several beach clean ups. This performance was powerful and while all the lights turned off the hall was lit up by phone flashlights. The group also had some very famous fans with Coldplay’s lead singer Chris Martin tweeting them earlier in the day wishing them luck with their Royal Albert performance.
The proms ended with a performance that included all the young musicians in the building. The final song ‘There will always be a reason to sing’ by Rob Strain was performed by every performer at every level in the hall, with different sections popping up from within the crowd to end the night with a bang. The hall was lit up with the voices of nearly 2,000 youth performers and as the song came to an end, the hall filled with balloons that fell from the ceiling, the performers who had just put on a performance even the most decorated musicians would be proud of reminded everyone they are children, with screams and stamps as the balloons fell to the floor.
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