Monday, 22 January 2018
ON Sunday, March 12, the Henley Youth Festival’s Junior Proms were held in the cosy theatre hall at Shiplake College.
There were four different sessions from 11am to 3.45pm with each one lasting 45 minutes.
In total 54 acts, involving more than 140 talented musicians,
Richard Curran and Kate Billimore, two of the many volunteers who work with the festival (but there is always room for more), sat at the side, watching the acts eagerly and writing comments on each performance for improvements and encouragement. It was an incredible event, bringing together the local community.
Alfie Hay, one of the founders of the festival, was introducing each act and leading the joyful applause.
When we interviewed him, we asked: “What kind of music do you hear?”
He replied: “That’s the lovely thing about the youth festival, it’s all a mix. Pop still doesn’t dominate and take over, there is always a lot of jazz and classical as well.
“Even this morning there was an eight-year-old playing jazz piano, beautifully. Also a four-year-old playing the guitar.”
As we watched, we agreed there was a variety of music, from the Star Wars theme tune to classical music.
Kate Billimore, an advisor, stated that it was her first time advising at the youth festival but nevertheless she did a wonderful job.
We asked her: “What do you need to expect when you come to the Junior Proms?”
She responded: “Come to enjoy yourself — in the grand scheme of things it is only a friendly concert, not a professional performance.”
We agreed, as when you play under pressure it is hard to concentrate but at the Junior Proms you build confidence, not stress. That is why they are such a helpful part of our local community, encouraging children and (in the Senior Proms) young adults to achieve the best they can in a relaxed manner.
Next we interviewed Katie Shaw, 10, who was a piano soloist. She played a beautiful piece, well-practised and flawless.
She has been playing for one-and-a-half years but it sounds as if she has been playing for 10!
We asked her what she enjoyed about the Junior Proms. She replied: “I enjoy watching all the performers, especially the singing, and I think Alfie is very funny!”
We asked: “If you could sum up the Junior Proms with one word what would that word be?”
Katie responded: “Fun!” We asked other performers and they seemed to have the same view.
Finally, we interviewed the duo Nat-Ella. Natasha and Ella played a string duet and they did a tremendous job.
Ella played the violin and Natasha the cello and they were both magnificent. Their very well-rehearsed performance was terrific.
They have been playing together for three years but sound like a professional band.
We asked them: “What is your favourite part of the Junior Proms?”
Nat-Ella replied: “Watching all the performers play their pieces.”
We then asked: “If you could sum up the Junior Proms in one word, what would it be?”
They replied: “Awesome and inspiring.”
This proved that the Junior Proms was a massive hit this year, giving lots of children a chance to perform on stage.
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