Friday, April 5th, 2013
A CHOIR based in Sutton Coldfield is looking forward to what it admits is its biggest gig yet when it competes at the prestigious Llangollen International Eisteddfod in July.
The Four Oaks Cluster Choir has already built up a formidable reputation in the eight years since it was formed.
But it sees its appearance in the junior choirs section of the Llangollen festival, which runs from July 9-14 in the town’s world-famous Pavilion, as the pinnacle of its achievements to date.
Richard Jeffries, the 38-year-old music teacher who founded the choir and is now its joint musical director, said: “Llangollen will definitely be our biggest gig so far and we what makes it so special is that we will be singing against choirs in our category from around the UK and abroad.
“We are quite daunted but excited about this opportunity and we know it will require some steady nerves.
“It is the first time we have entered this festival, so we will be preparing hard to make a really lasting impression.”
The choir was formed by Richard in 2005, a few months after the idea came to him at a schools Christmas carol concert at Lichfield Cathedral.
He recalled: “The schools in Sutton Coldfield always work quite closely together and the concert in 2004 involved a number of them.
“It occurred to me then that this co-operation had been so successful that we ought to have a permanent schools choir.
“I suppose you could say the idea was that a choir’s just not just for Christmas but for all the year round.”
The ensemble Richard formed the following April had just 20 members but over the past few years has grown into a strong and diverse organisation taking in four distinct musical groups – a training choir for youngsters aged six-nine, the main children’s choir for those aged nine-12, a choir for 12-18s called Sutton Youth Voices and even an adult outfit, known as The Accidentals, whose members are aged right up to their eighties.
It is the children’s choir which will heading for Llangollen this summer proudly carrying the banner for the West Midlands.
However, although Richard, who shares its musical direction with fellow music teacher, 56-year-old Liz Birch, sees Llangollen as a major challenge, the choir has already has an impressive competition record.
In 2011 and 2012 it was invited to the National Festival of Music for Youth, following successful regional rounds.
In 2010 it reached the national selection stage of the Choir of the Year competition, and in October 2012 reached the category finals – one of only four choirs nationally to get to that point.
The choir also performs regularly in the local and wider area, and venues have included Birmingham’s Symphony Hall and the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester.
Support for charity also figures large on the choir’s agenda and one of its latest big money-spinning appearances was at a concert at St Michael’s Church in Boldmere, Sutton Coldfield, when £1,000 was raised for Childreach International, which works with local communities in the developing world to help improve children’s access to healthcare and education.
The Four Oaks Cluster also raises hundreds of pounds for good causes with its annual Christmas carol concert at the Mall in Sutton Coldfield town centre.
Eilir Owen Griffiths, Musical Director of the International Musical Eisteddfod, said: “It will be wonderful to have the Four Oaks Choir here this year.
“They have a terrific track record and we were delighted to be able to invite them here – we do have high standards but they have met them and I’m sure our audiences will enjoy them.”
The choir are fresh from performances at the Manchester Amateur Choral Competition and just down the motorway at Birmingham for the regional round of the Music for Youth competition and are again hoping to get through to the National Festival.
That’s in July, just after that exciting trip to Llangollen and Richard added: “We are certainly looking forward to it and we are already working hard in rehearsals to prepare for our appearance. It’s such an honour for us to be at the Eisteddfod.”
Strictly Come Dancing stars James and Ola Jordan are part of a stunning lineup at this year’s Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in July.
The glamorous couple will perform on a night of Latin American music with Cuban maestros Buena Vista Social Club and other top attractions at the six-day festival are Jools Holland, harpist Claire Jones, tenor Noah Stewart, percussionist Evelyn Glennie and a 200th anniversary performance of Verdi’s Requiem.
The Eisteddfod runs from Tuesday, July 9, to Sunday, July 14, at the Royal International Pavilion site and as well as the star-studded concerts there are top class music and dance competitions.
The event, now in its 67th year, is billed as where Wales meets the world and attracts colourful competitors from five continents to what is a carnival of nations.
Tickets for this year’s concerts are on general sale and are available from the website at www.international-eisteddfod.co.uk.
For more information go to the website or Facebook at www.facebook.com/llangollen