Wednesday, 22 September 2021

New musical director hits right note with youth choir

New musical director hits right note with youth choir

THE new musical director of Henley Youth Choir hopes to use his experience to inspire the next generation of singers.

Alex Haigh, who has been a professional choral and opera singer for 12 years, already works alongside the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain and London Youth Choir.

He grew up in Fawley and attended the Oratory School in Woodcote before studying music and drama at Hull University.

Henley Youth Choir is part of Henley Choral Society and offers rehearsals at the d:two centre in Upper Market Place for children aged from seven to 17.

Mr Haigh, 33, who now lives in Haddenham, is excited by the opportunity to coach young people and see them develop.

He said: “I have always liked working with children. It is really rewarding and I get a lot out of it.

“I have never really had the opportunity to work with them on a long-term basis until now.

“This means I can work on their development and form a proper educational relationship where we can see their progress.

“I want to increase their exposure to performing. The youth choir has done a great job of organising regular concerts but we can increase their opportunities with things like flash mobs and carolling at Christmas.

“This is where I grew up, so for me it feels like coming home.”

Mr Haigh, 33, sings at St Paul’s Cathedral in London and is a member of London’s “Barbershop-o-gram” .

He is lecturer and performer with Henley-based charity Opera Prelude, which has been organising performance opportunities for young people since 2010. He is also a patron of the Chiltern Centre, a Henley charity providing respite care for young disabled adults.

His niece, Natasha Turner, was previously a member of Henley Youth Choir, while his brother-in-law, Mark Turner, is the treasurer.

Mr Haigh said: “Singing has always been my thing, pretty much since the age of four when I did my first performance.

“When I was a kid, I used to do magic tricks for my family because I wanted to perform and I think that’s where it comes from.

“It is about making an audience have a good time and — in this current situation — distancing people from their troubles and concerns.

“Entertaining people is my passion in life and it happens to be that I’m quite good at singing.

“I want to be a passionate and exciting leader. I want to inspire the next generation and it is a very rewarding job.”

Fi Harding, administrator and manager for the choral society, said: “We are absolutely delighted to have appointed Alex to lead the youth choirs.

“While the quality of candidates was very high, Alex immediately had a rapport with the youngsters and got them all singing, smiling and laughing in his audition. He will be an asset.”

Sessions for junior singers, aged seven to 11, run from 5.30pm to 6.15pm, while the seniors’ rehearsal, for 12- to 17-year-olds, runs from 6.15pm to 7pm.

Mr Haigh said: “There is no audition process and you don’t have to be able to read music.

“If you are interested in singing, I don’t mind what level you are — I just want to share your voice.

“There are bursaries for children that show promise to be able to get membership for free.

“We cover lots of different types of music and there is something for everyone. We want people to have fun and it is not necessarily about creating musical excellence.”

The Henley Choral Society will have a stall at the Henley Festival’s “family day” on Sunday, September 19.

It is also to hold a “come and sing” workshop of Johannes Brahms’s Ein Deutsches Requiem at St Mary’s Church in Henley on Saturday, October 9.

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