On October 28th 2012, Les Sirenes were awarded the coveted title of Choir of the Year 2012. The competition is a biennial search for the UK's best amateur choir and is open to groups of all ages and music styles. Our Choir of the Year 2012 journey began in March of the same year, as we travelled to Newcastle to compete in the first round of the competition. We had competed in 2010, where we were named a Choir of the Day in Edinburgh, but did not procede any further. Two years later, having grown as an ensemble, we were determined to equal our success from the previous competition, and give a performance that would secure our place in the Category Finals. Our performances of Ave Verum Corpus by Poulenc and The Snow by Elgar received a positive critique from the judges. David Lawrence described the performance as "an intensely musical experience...what a delight", while Ken Burton commented on the "Tremendous sound. Wonderful richness and body. Excellent dynamic contrasts and balance between the sections...the sound, whether full bodied or delicate reached every corner of the auditorium."
We were delighted to once again be named Choir of the Day and waited nervously over the following three months for news of whether or not we had progressed to the Category Finals. In early June we received the fantastic news that we had been selected as one of four adult choirs who would compete at Manchester's Bridgewater Hall for a place in the Grand Final.
After a long summer break, we returned to a series of intensive rehearsals in preparation for the Category Finals. In early October we travelled to Manchester nervously anticipating our performance later that day. After a brief rehearsal in a local church we arrived at the Bridgewater Hall, where most of the choir had never performed. It was thrilling to perform Ave Verum Corpus and The Snow in
With only three weeks to go, we quickly began preparations for our Grand Final performance at the Royal Festival Hall, which would be broadcast on BBC television and radio. We were preparing two new pieces, Oh Soldier, Soldier arr. Robert Latham and Billy Joel's beautiful And So It Goes. We arrived at the Festival Hall early on the morning of the competition, where we gave some television and radio interviews, had a warm up and rehearsal on stage and enjoyed a little time to ourselves before our performance. We watched the first few choirs from the auditorium before we were taken backstage ahead of our performance. We were all incredibly nervous, but excited to perform, with several of our friends and family in the audience. The experience was exhilirating, and over before we knew it. We were overjoyed by the comments we received from the judges, with Mary King describing the performance as ""The best legato singing of full-toned piano I have ever heard, it was fantastic", while Ruthie Henshall said: “You had me on a soul level, you literally went into my core and I felt choked up. The blend of your voices was so beautiful, that I was just totally yours." We had done all we could, all there was left to do was wait for the final choirs to perform and for the judges to make their decision. The long wait before the announcement was agonising as each choir was desperate to know the result. The atmosphere in the Royal Festival Hall incredibly tense as the judges returned to the stage and we waited for Mary King to announce the winner. "The winner of Choir of the Year 2012 is Les Sirenes". Quickly we errupted into screams, shouts and tears of happiness. It was the choir's biggest achievement to date and a moment that none of the choir members are likely to forget. Describing his reaction on hearing the news, Musical Director Andrew Nunn said: "I literally started jumping up and down screaming “we did it”! I have never been more proud to conduct such a talented and beautiful group of young women."
the iconic venue, the acoustic was fantastic and once again we received praise from the judges, as Shirley Court compared the sound to "a velvety red wine".We all sat on tenterhooks as the decision was announced, initially we were disapponted not to be awarded Adult Choir of the Year, but that soon turned to elation as it was announced that we had won a place in the Grand Final as a wildcard entry.
As winners Les Sirènes will commission a new choral work by a composer of our choice, working with BBC Radio 3 over the coming months. Details of the composition are currently being finalised and further information will be announced in the new year.