Monday, 18 October 2021

Youth festival performers - what happened next?

DAISY LYNCH and Eddie Pratt won a special award for the most original musical compositions at last year’s

DAISY LYNCH and Eddie Pratt won a special award for the most original musical compositions at last year’s Henley Youth Festival.

Daisy wrote and performed her piece on the piano for the festival’s Sing event, while Eddie composed a song on the guitar, which he performed at the Junior Proms.

The nine-year-olds’ prize was to have their songs recorded professionally at Henwood Studios, near Benson.

Joe Henwood, studio manager and himself a former festival participant, says the two children were given a unique opportunity to be in a professional recording environment.

Eddie’s mother Siobhan says: “He still talks about that day. What an experience and opportunity it was.’

Daisy, now 10, says: “I certainly didn’t know that I would end up in a recording studio having one of the best days of my life!’

Her mother Vicky Lynch says: “When the Henley Youth Festival first contacted Daisy with the opportunity of professionally recording her song she was over the moon.

“It was on her 10th birthday and quite clearly the best present of all.

“This was the fourth year running that Daisy had sung for the festival at the Kenton Theatre.

“However, this year she put her singer/songwriting passion to the test and composed her first piece of music, Wind Of The Night.

“We were warmly welcomed at Henwood Studios by Joe and Tom Excell, the producer.

“Daisy was so excited I thought she might burst!

“The patience, professionalism and kindness that Daisy received that day was exceptional.

“It was wonderful for her to see the recording process in action from start to finish and to work with such inspirational and creative musicians. A day she certainly shall never forget. This enriching experience has encouraged Daisy to go on and compose more music and she’s keen to have another recording session with her latest song, Moments.

“Daisy has loved every minute of being involved with the Henley Youth Festival and hopes she may encourage others to enter this year’s event.

“It is such a fantastic opportunity for local young people to get involved in, whatever their talent or passion, and to just have a go, have fun and gain confidence while doing it.’

Daisy adds: “And who knows where it might take you?’

Mrs Pratt says Eddie, now 10, was so inspired by the experience that he’s writing another piece for this year’s festival.

She says: “Last year, we heard that the youth festival organisers were keen to encourage young people to write and perform an original piece of music, or compose their own song or poem, or choreograph their own dance. Lucie Henwood, a long-time supporter of the festival and performing arts, offered to donate a special award to be given to any musician, singer or dancer who composed an original piece of work that showed talent, creativity and an obvious enthusiasm for their particular genre.

“Eddie took the opportunity to perform a song that he had written and composed on his electric guitar at the Junior Proms on Mother’s Day and we put him forward for the special category of original composition.

“Just being able to perform on a stage in front of his family and friends gave him enough of a buzz but actually finding out that he had won took the cake.

“Lucie was impressed with Eddie’s composition and offered him a half-day recording session to record his song, Out of This World, for posterity, at Henwood Studios.

“Eddie still talks about that day. What an experience and opportunity it was to spend a few hours surrounded by real musicians, who played the sax, drums and bass guitar as his accompaniments, and be recorded on professional equipment.

“On the backing track Eddie also got to play the congas and shakers as well as his own electric guitar and did the vocals.

“We still play his recording at home. It’s something that always makes us smile and reminds Eddie of what he is capable of producing and inspires him to keep experimenting with his guitar.

“He definitely prefers playing with other musicians as he now knows what it’s like to share the music-making experience and mix different sounds together.

“Eddie worked with his guitar teacher, Tom, for about three months on the piece they performed together at the Junior Proms and is already working on a new original song to perform at this year’s festival in March.

“This will be the third time he is playing at the Junior Proms. It is a wonderful chance for youngsters to get up on stage and play in front of an audience and overcome any nerves they may have, in a small and relaxing setting.

“I would urge parents of any child learning an instrument to encourage their children to perform at the Henley Youth Festival and to explore their own creativity by making up something new, of their own, to share with the town.’

Teenage band Merge, who performed at the festival showcase at Lovibonds in November, have grown in popularity since they started two years ago.

Jake Collins, Matt Strong, Max Wermann, Matt Bodman and Max White, who are all 14 or 15, met at Gillotts School in Henley.

“We don’t take it really seriously but we do enjoy playing together,’ says Jake, the drummer.

The band are hoping to take part in this year’s festival Gig Night on March 12 along with their new singer Charis Sung, who attends UTC Oxfordshire in Didcot.

Bass guitarist Matt Strong says: “I think the festival is important. It is much better for us to do something rather than stay at home or be out on the streets causing trouble.’

Since their debut, Merge have played at the Face Bar in Reading in aid of Help for Heroes and at an event in Henley market place in September. The band also have regular slots at Magoos in Hart Street as part of Acoustic@Magoos.

Matt says: “At the moment it’s more of a fun thing but it would be amazing to do it as a job and to get paid for something we love.’

This year’s Henley Youth Festival will take place from March 12 to 20.

Now in its 23rd year. the festival will feature original art, music, performance and educational activities for young people aged four to 18.

The theme will be “carnival’ to reflect the Olympic Games taking place in Rio this summer.

The schools launch will take place at the d:two centre in Market Place, Henley, on Tuesday at 7.45pm.

This is an opportunity for the organisers to unveil the festival’s programme of events, including a series of arts workshops, to parents and all of the local schools involved.

The festival, which is run by parents on a voluntary basis, is sponsored by the following: Henley Standard, Invesco Perpetual, Henley Educational Trust, Harpsden Wealth Management, Thamesfield Youth Association, the Mosawi Foundation, Penningtons Manches, Henley Municipal Charities, Henley Royal Regatta, the Arbib Foundation,  Henley Town Council, HEDFAS, Henley Lions, Thought By Design, River & Rowing Museum, Lovibonds, Stonor Park, Henwood & Dean and Quintessa.

• Emma Clark Lam is one of the organisers of this year’s Henley Youth Festival.

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