My Experience of YYC by Emily Peace
‘For as long as I have music; as long as there’s a song for me to sing, I will find my way. I shall see a brighter day. The music in my heart will set my spirit free.’
I have been part of this family for over half my life, and as cliché as it may sound, I am who I am today because of this choir, and the people who run it. At school, I was always different because I much preferred the company of a practice room and a maths book to the company of others. Due to this, making friends wasn’t the easiest feat to me and in fact still isn’t, even now as a 20 year old.
However, when I walked into my first singing lesson with Alison Pryce-Jones, aged 8, I was not to know how quickly that would all change. After our first year of lessons, she recommended to me that I audition for this choir, and whilst very nervous, it being my first audition for anything before, I accepted and went along. Shortly after I was accepted into the choir, and just after my 10th birthday I attended my first course at Giggleswick School. The week went by far too quickly, as they always do, and although I was nervous about not fitting in, I shouldn’t have been. The older members were at first terrifying, mostly due to their overwhelming height, however they were all so lovely, and I remember thinking that I couldn’t wait to be one of them. Music brings people together in a way that cannot be described, unless it is described through more music. People I spoke to on my very first course still attend the choir, and I see them more as siblings than I do them friends, and I know that they will remain in my life and heart for my whole life, as will the songs that I sung on my first course. People I went to school with looked down on the fact that I went to ‘choir camp’, but slowly and surely, as I convinced more of them to join, their opinions changed and they all fell in love as quickly as I did. When you see the repertoire list for the very first time, as I remember doing before my first course, it seems a miracle that we manage to memorise either all or most of the music, but somehow, all together, we manage and it’s always phenomenal. The concert is over before you know it and you have leave the YYC bubble with a sense of a longing that aches, as you know you have to wait until the next course to sing with these beautiful people again.
Now aged 20 and almost having reached the end of my time here, I’m reflecting on how different my mindset is now. When I was younger, I couldn’t wait to be one of the older singers, the ones who seemed to rule the choir and were so confident. Now? I’d give anything to relive those early days and cherish them for a little longer. In my time, I’ve only ever missed one course but I can honestly say it is one of my biggest regrets. You miss the music; you miss the people; but most of all you miss a place where you can truly be yourself, with no pressure, no judgement and no prejudice. I look upon the 10 year olds that just joined this course, my last course in this country and I envy them so much, that they’re just beginning this wonderful journey together. The repertoire list is more familiar now, and I don’t fear the memorisation as much, but I always dread the end of the week. Not because of the concert, but just because I have to go home, when really YYC is my home too. I almost feel as if I should be driving back to Queen Ethelburga’s, not back to Sheffield. To anyone thinking about joining, you will forever be making a mistake until you send that application form off. Don’t think about; do it. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
I am halfway through my 2nd year of studying opera at one of the top conservatoires in the world at the moment, and I know that I would not be studying singing had it not been for the choir, and the opportunities presented by Alison and John. When I was 10, Alison put me forward for an audition at Opera North which ignited my passion for opera, and that told me that I wanted to make my hobby a career. I will be forever grateful for her teachings and starting me on the right path musically. I was always told that if you love your job, it will never feel like work, and that is YYC in a nutshell. The long days and short nights never feel like hard work and they always zoom past much too quickly for anyone’s liking. To incoming members who I probably won’t get to sing with, I wish you every happiness in the world and hope that you love this choir as much as I do, did, and will always. To members new and old that I spent this Easter with, I can’t wait for the tour with you and remember to love yourselves, because this choir is the one place you have no choice but to. To all the leavers and the people I grew up with, I don’t have to say goodbye, because I know we will stay together, both in the music and in friendship.