Rising Stars Showcase Their Talent at Youth Festival

The Kenton stage opened its curtains for three nights for the Henley Youth Festival shows last week starting on Thursday with Young Performer, Gig Night on Friday and ending on Saturday with a Variety Show.   Younger musical performers got the chance to showcased their talents at Music Makers at Rupert House School.

Over 50 acts with performers aged from 5 to 18 got the chance to show off their talents which included singing, dancing, gymnastics and playing musical instruments.

Rupert House was filled with talented young musicians for Music Makers. Children in years 1 – 6, from a range of local schools, performed to a packed hall. Acts included Valley Road School Choir, pianists, violinists and even a young bagpipe player, James Broom. Compere for the event, Alfie Hay, said, “This was the very first thing they did at Henley Youth Festival, twenty-nine years ago, to bring children together to celebrate the skills they have in music.” There was definitely a lot of skill on show during Music Makers, with children as young as five performing solos with confidence and flair. It was a joyful afternoon, and a great platform for children to perform in public, some for the very first time. Specialist Advisers, Charlotte Alder and Hannah King, both teachers at Gillotts, listened intently throughout and will provide feedback to all the children following the event. Alfie Hay closed, by saying, “The young people of our town need celebrating, and this is where it happens.”

Young Performer opened the Kenton shows with Berkshire and Henley Dance group opening the show with a great entertaining dance to Dancin’ Fool.  Colour Crew (Indi, Kiki and Taba Campbell, Anya McGinn, Isabelle Smith, Alexa Stallard and Willow Terry) were awarded the first Rising Star of the Festival for a wonderfully choreographed dance.  Emilia and Beatrice Ziegler performed a sweet dance to Sisters! and Elsa Nieduszynska did a brilliant literal translation of the lyrics and music to  Man in the Mirror.  The show finished with a showcase from Stageworks.

The Kenton really rocked on Friday night at Gig Night.  Opening the show was Paradox, an all-girl band from the Abbey School performing their own song The Psycho, Thriller Romance Killer Murder Mystery written by band member Elizabeth Holden. The girls were all extremely talented and got the evening off to a great start.  Many of the artists performed their own compositions.  Isabelle Weller really entertained the audience with her rendition of Autobahn by Kraftwerk on a Korg Synthesizer, flute and loop! This really was performance to watch, and one that won’t be forgotten! Division X really rocked the roof of the Kenton Theatre with the performances of 7 Nation Army by The White Stripes, Everlong by the Foofighters and Killing in the Name by Rage Against the Machine.  Local superstar Joe Ryder finished the show on a high with his own songs Save Me Now and Yours is Mine and once again gave the audience an absolute show! Joe then led the audience in a singalong of Oasis’ Don’t Look Back in Anger to round off an amazing night.

Dancers, musicians and singers graced the stage for the final show of 2023 Henley Youth Festival at the Variety Show with a mix of contemporary dance, gymnastics, ballet,  jazz, classical music and song.

Stagecoach Henley Troup opened the show with an exciting dance to Imagine Dragons Radioactive and received a huge applause from the audience. Talented Isaac Urch performed Billy Joel’s Piano Man – on his guitar! Not only did his performance win over the audience, but he also won the HYF Rising Star Award for Variety, chosen by the judges for his very confident performance.  HYF wouldn’t be the same without its gymnastic performers. This year the audience were treated to an excellent performance from Springbox Gymnastics to the very catchy Green Grass by George Ezra. The performance certainly matched up to the group’s name! The Maxwell Sisters kicked off the second half displaying their powerful vocals. A beautifully stunning ballet performance from Ella Hanley followed and did not disappoint. Ella has performed at HYF many times and just gets better and better. We were blown away with the classical musical talents of Anjali Shanker who performed a difficult classical piece, Meditation from Thais for violin, the Henley Suzuki Violin Group performed an outstanding rendition of The Bagpipe by Bartok and accomplished violinist Shree Rao played Vidui. All were excellent.

This year we saw the very deserving winner of the Elizabeth Griffin Award, Eddie Pratt. This has been awarded since 2003 by the Griffin family in memory of their daughter Elizabeth to a performer each year who epitomises HYF. Eddie was a unanimous choice; he has performed in every HYF since 2014 and has achieved winning the writing competition, performing on stage with his guitar, showcasing his talent in ballroom dancing and composing his own music.

Special thanks go to the show’s Specialist Advisers Muffin Hurst and Laura Lee for their continued support of HYF.

Chair of the HYF, Laura Matthews said, “This year was another fantastic festival with a variety of events from sports to art, to magical and exciting schools performances and workshops and fantastic Kenton performances! We’re so pleased that so many young people took part and everyone had a great time! This wouldn’t happen without the sponsors, volunteers and coordinators who put the events on each year and we’re really hoping for more volunteers for our 30th anniversary year where our founder’s hope is that we can showcase all the schools in a big performance as was done in the festival when it started. Please let hyfinfo@gmail.com know if you can help out.”

Photos: Asya Barskaya-Lebed, Laura Peters and Cheryl George



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