10 Years of LYC #3: Eva
In the third of our 10th anniversary season blogs, current member Eva tells us about her remarkable journey with LYC to the Royal Albert Hall.
Published December 2022
For the past year, I have been singing in a choir outside school, every Monday. It’s a place I love because I really love singing. I always have. It has become a real passion. I love all kind of performing. Apparently, my teacher can hear me singing as I walk in the hallways at school. If I’m singing, it is usually a sign that I’m happy or having a good day. My lovely singing teacher suggested I audition for the LYC last year after I failed to get into the prep school chamber choir. My heart was broken, and there were days I didn’t want to sing anymore. I would never have auditioned for LYC had I been in the school choir so it was probably a good thing looking back on it now. Life is funny that way.
LYC is a very special organisation. They have 10 choirs all over London and you can join from the age of 7 to 22. You don’t have to have had any proper singing lessons before to join. We come from all over London and very different schools. LYC is a charity, and they pay for their choir members who ordinarily wouldn’t be able to afford the yearly fee. They believe in the importance of music and musical education. Even though we are all very different, we all share the love of singing. We sing at concerts for our friends and family, and free concerts sometimes in the streets! LYC also host singing events for children less fortunate and can be booked for special performances. I used to sing in LYC Junior Girls but in September I moved up to LYC Cambiata Girls which has about 90 girls now.
On the 8th September Her Majesty the Queen passed away at her home in Balmoral. The days that followed were a mix of happy memories shared on the news and television, and sad and official occasions leading up to her state funeral. During that time I learned that she loved her corgis and horses, that she was a patron of a lot of charities and had always loved the Arts.
Fast forward to a gloomy Monday 31st October and LYC had emailed parents to say that Gareth Malone, LYC’s honorary patron, would be sitting in on our rehearsals because our choir was working towards a big event. Little did we know, that that big event was singing at the Royal Variety Performance at the Royal Albert Hall!
Behind the scenes, ever since that afternoon in September, the Royal Variety Performance organisers had been talking to LYC about having us sing in honour of their late Patron the Queen.
The LYC had already sung to honour the Queen at the Platinum Jubilee Concert during her Platinum Jubilee celebrations in June. 10 years before that, Gary Barlow and Andrew Lloyd Webber had come together to write a song called “Sing” for the Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee.
So that evening of the 31st October, instead of trick-or-treating, I went to choir and learned that the LYC had been asked to perform “Sing” at the Royal Variety Performance. Gareth Malone would conduct, and both Gary Barlow and Andrew Lloyd Webber would play the piano. It sounded very exciting, but they said they would email our parents that week to let us know if we had been selected. They could only pick 40 out of the 180 children participating in both choirs.
The email eventually came through, and I could not believe it! I have been picked to sing live at the Royal Albert hall, possibly one of the most prestigious concert halls in the world. I was so excited.
We continued rehearsals on Mondays, and one very special Saturday where we were recorded. I had never used professional equipment before so this was a really great experience too. We each had microphones set up for us, and headphones, and it felt so strange at first, but you quickly forget those things and concentrate on the music and the words you have to get out!
The week of the live performance we had our first rehearsal at the Royal Albert Hall. As always, the lovely staff were there to greet us with welcoming smiles. We had to sign in, and were given a badge. It actually said “artist” on it which made me feel very special. While we were waiting, we could see a circus act rehearsing their act through the glass doors. Once we were all ready, stage crew walked us though the backstage area to the stage. We were rehearsing just after George Ezra. It suddenly felt important. We were stepping onto a stage after real singers! I couldn’t really believe it. I didn’t expect us to be after anyone famous on Wednesday at all, in fact I wasn’t expecting to see anyone famous.
When I first looked up, I realised just how big the Royal Albert hall is. It’s beautiful: I am lucky to have been before to see the Cirque du Soleil, a film with a live orchestra and ballet, but it’s so different being on a stage. It’s huge…
Gary Malone, Gary Barlow and Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber walked onto the stage and we all shuffled around as they got us into our places in the choir behind gsopianos facing each other. I was most excited to see Andrew Lloyd Webber who I was hoping would be there to rehearse with us. I’m a bit of a fan… I really loved Phantom of the Opera, School of Rock and Cinderella. He’s so talented! We performed “Sing” 3 times and got a thumbs-up from Gary Barlow who was really encouraging and said we did a really good job. I think we all felt good after that afternoon and were ready for the next day!
The big day finally arrived. We signed in, had some lunch and then got into our costumes. They had asked for our measurements a few weeks earlier, and I wasn’t really sure what to expect. The boys had grey shirts, black trousers and bow ties. For the girls they picked purple shirts (the royal colour) sparkly trousers and a necklace with hearts. We got to keep it all!
We were handed our artists’ badges again, and they got us into our stage order. We then walked to the Royal Albert Hall with Rachel, Freddie and the rest of the lovely LYC staff members who were looking after us. We went through the stage door (I loved knowing that we went through the door usually reserved for artists) and walked straight onto the stage, where once again Gareth, Gary and Andrew were waiting for us. I could see a really cool neon sign that we were going to be standing under and a screen. I obviously didn’t get to see what was on the screen, but I’m pretty sure it was images of the Queen. We rehearsed for about 20 minutes, sang our song twice, and were ready.
Just before 9pm, we were walked back to the Royal Albert Hall, through the stage door then taken backstage where we remained until show time. We were able to follow it on screens behind the scenes. It felt very exciting. I wasn’t nervous. I thought I would be but I wasn’t. I was not alone, I had my choir friends that I got to know throughout the experience.
When it was time for us to go on, one of the stage crew came to get us and to lead us back onto the stage. We were the very last act to go on. We came on from the back and Gareth, Gary and Andrew walked onto the stage from the sides. The audience was clapping. This was the first time I had looked out to the hall filled with lots of people. We were later told there were over 5,000 people in the audience! Gareth stood up in front of us and then Gary Barlow and Andrew Lloyd Webber sat down at their pianos facing each other. The applause stopped, Gareth made a sign the be ready, and then we sang.
While I was singing, and I was looking around. It was amazing. I was feeling really happy and confident and thinking just what a special moment it was. I was really enjoying it all. At the end of our song, we got a standing ovation. Something I was not expecting at all. It was really special. It wasn’t mums and dads cheering for us like it usually is, the people there were part of a real audience who did not know who we were, and that made me feel very proud. Rachel, Freddie and the rest of the staff members from the LYC were of course clapping and cheering us on, and they did tell our parents how proud they were of us. It was all incredibly exciting.
As it was the finale, the host of the Royal Variety Performance led the artists who had been invited to perform that evening out onto the stage all around us. We got a few high fives and lots of cheers and lovely comments from the performers. As we walked off the stage, I was sad it was over, but feeling very proud and excited. We left the Royal Albert Hall very quickly, headed out through the stage door for the last time, and walked back to our dressing room. I barely noticed the walk back in the cold and before I knew it, our parents were lined up outside ready to pick us up.
On the way home, I thought just how lucky and privileged I was to have been asked to perform in such an incredible venue for such a lovely event. The fact that we were honouring Her Late Majesty made the whole event even more special. I knew that it really was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I really am grateful for everything that LYC has done for me. They gave me a place to sing, be happy and be myself when I had nowhere to sing last year, and have given me the confidence to keep going with my singing and performing this year at school. And they have now also given me a night I will never forget. It may have only lasted five minutes, but now I would do anything to relive it and sing on that beautiful stage once more.
Watch the show!
The 2022 Royal Variety Performance will be broadcast on ITV on Tuesday 20 December 2022, 8.00-10.30pm. Click/tap here for the show link!