Oakham School’s chamber choir has reached the final of the BBC Songs of Praise School Choir of the Year competition after last night’s enthralling semi-final broadcast to millions of viewers on BBC One.
After months of hard work and practice, the choir impressed both the judges and hundreds of members of the audience at Sheffield City Hall with their a cappella performance of “Amazing Grace”.
Director of music Peter Davis said: “I’m so incredibly proud of the choir – they performed beautifully, under incredible pressure.
“I was confident that they would rise to the challenge of singing unaccompanied, and they certainly held their nerve – despite the sheer number of cameras around them, along with the expectant crowd, not to mention the judges’ intense scrutiny!”
The celebrity judges were incredibly impressed by the quality of all the performances, with presenter Aled Jones saying it was “fantastic showcase” of choral talent.
Connie Fisher is no stranger to musical competitions having won the BBC One talent contest How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? She applauded the way that Oakham’s singers didn’t show any nerves, saying, “It’s not easy going first in a competition that’s bound to have a very high standard -and you set the bar very high this evening.” She described how she had “goosebumps” after listening to Oakham’s Chamber Choir sing, and that it was “an amazing ‘Amazing Grace’”.
Ken Burton, internationally renowned composer and conductor, felt that Oakham’s performance was “a wonder to listen to”, and was delighted that they sang “my kind of music”.
Katherine Jenkins OBE, who is one of the most successful classical music crossover artists in the world commented that Oakham’s tuning and diction were both “perfect”. She also described how the choir “created such as beautiful atmosphere - they really drew us in”. At the end of the competition, prior to the judges announcing the finalists, she summed up the Oakham’s performance as “fantastically strong”.
The last time the school entered the competition, in 2012, they reached the semi-final.
“To have reached the semi-final a few years ago and now the final, of what is probably one of the most fiercely competitive and prestigious school choral competitions - having only entered it twice - really is quite something,” added Peter.
Only three choirs, Tring Park School for Performing Arts, St George’s College, Weybridge, and Oakham, were selected for a coveted place in the final, which will be aired on Sunday, April 24. If you missed the opportunity to watch the semi-final show, you can view it on iPlayer.