Pupils Sing Their Hearts Out Thanks to In Memoriam Youth Festival Award

Valley Road School were the first recipients of the Liz Balmford’s Henley Youth Festival Sing Speak Be Award who were treated to a singing workshop by Joe Cummings this week.

Liz who sadly passed away last year was an amazing performer and encouraged young singers and performers.

Tim Coulson, Headteacher at Valley Road said, “We were delighted at Valley Road to be the lucky recipients. Liz was a former pupil at our school and keen singer, so we made the decision to invite singing teacher, Joe Cummings in for the day to work with not only our choir (run by the wonderful Annabel Blackwell ) but all the pupils in the school.”

Joe spent the morning working with the infants and juniors separately and after lunch this was followed by a long session with the choir. At the end of the school day the children joined together to showcase the songs they had learned which included Early in the Morning and All is Silent.  The performance ended with the choir singing their Samba song and their HYF Music Makers performance of Revolting Children from Matilda the Musical.

Liz’s Mum, Mary Dickinson was the special guest at the afternoon assembly.  Tim added, “We were so pleased Liz’s mum was present to hear the children singing. And what singing it was! Joe had them making such an enthusiastic volume I wouldn’t have been surprised if they could be heard in Sonning Common! All in all it was wonderful day. Our grateful thanks to Liz’s family for their generosity and to Kate Swinburne-Johnson of the Henley Youth Festival for arranging for Joe to come into the school to weave his magic.”

Joe commented, “It was so uplifting and inspiring to work with a school that are ready and willing to use their voices and bodies to enjoy music! The school have a brilliant choir who were able to work on some really advanced techniques – huge kudos to Annabel who voluntary runs the choir and inspires so many children.”

Mary said afterwards, “I thought was going to cry, it was so lovely but many mixed emotions.  I was very proud too and would like to thank Tessa and Guy Ferguson who came up with the idea of the award in Liz’s memory.  The performance was really smashing and I was very impressed with Joe and I told him afterwards how much I enjoyed it.  Liz was always encouraging people to sing and got me to sing solo after giving me some singing lessons.  She gave me confidence to do my debut solo performance at the age of 68!  A quote that Liz used on one of her student programmes was ‘Most of all I believe in the healing power of music and performance and I’m perpetually in awe of their ability to facilitate growth, build confidence and bring joy.”

Kate Swinburne-Johnson added, “We are absolutely delighted with the outcome of the first workshop for the Liz Balmford Sing Speak Be Award and are very grateful to Mary, Tim, Tess & Guy for their involvement with HYF. It was clear from the performance the children gave yesterday afternoon how much everyone enjoyed their day of singing!  We are looking forward to providing more workshops like this for schools in future years in memory of Liz Balmford.”


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