10th Anniversary Schools Programme: Singing is the Golden Thread

Published 17 March 2023

Singing is the Golden Thread

An insight into our 10th anniversary schools programme from Head of Engagement, Ishani O’Connor

“Music should be embedded in every primary school. Singing should be the golden thread through these years, with a clear commitment to quality teaching and opportunities for progression for all children from the start of their school education.”

National Plan for Music Education (NPME)


LYC has embarked on an exciting journey on the road to the 10th Anniversary ‘big concert’ at the Royal Albert Hall in May 2023, working once again with children and their teachers in their musical training by enhancing and supporting singing in schools. Reviving the LYC Experience initiative, we are working with 1,100 children in Key Stage 2, aged 7-10yrs old from 14 state primary schools in boroughs across London: Ealing, Brent, Tower Hamlets, Lambeth, Southwark and Redbridge.

To see how singing can be the golden thread that inspires and energises children, creating a feeling of unity, watch this LYC film about the children’s experiences during the workshops at thee brilliant London Primary Schools!

© Medhurst Media

The school children will be singing together in a mass choir of 1,500 at the Royal Albert Hall alongside 400 LYC members. However, all of these London boroughs each have particular needs, diverse communities and varying capacities when it comes to music provision in schools. This is due to shrinking state school budgets and varying priorities amongst complex external socio-economic factors but participation in music and the enthusiasm, energy, delight and joy the LYC team have experienced from the children when they sing in the workshops has been a unifying factor in all schools.

The LYC primary schools workshops began in mid-January 2023 and the participant groups have ranged from whole year groups of up to 120 children to smaller groups of 45 pupils and are not limited to those that regularly attend choir at school – the majority are singing for the first time. They are learning 6 songs, led by the LYC artistic team of Conductors, Accompanists and Assistant Leaders, including a new LYC song commission by composer Brenda Rattray which was workshopped and written alongside LYC Junior members of the same age.

The children, supported by teaching staff at their schools have three, 2hr visits from LYC this year, at no cost to them or the school. Workshops are high energy, fun, intense and cover a lot of music! We have provided teachers with a free, online website resource with lyrics, music and video tutorials presented by Rachel Staunton, LYC’s Artistic Director. Teachers have been using this resource in the classroom so that children can continue to learn the music in-between our workshops. The aim is for children to feel confident and ready to go at the dress rehearsal and concert; an exciting day at the impressive Royal Albert Hall!

When reading the refreshed National Plan for Music Education or NPME a phrase has been reverberating throughout this intense yet amazing schools workshops process: ‘Singing is the Golden Thread’.

The ‘golden thread’ is a powerful metaphor – singing in a choir can be a shining beacon that links communities, encourages self-expression in young people, democratises groups, creates something in common. The dictionary definition is, ‘​an idea or feature that is present in all parts of something, holds it together and gives it value.’ Singing brings us together, wherever we are in society – music uplifts and connects us. The golden thread can be tied, wound into a ball to strengthen society or it can be woven into the fabric of something beautiful and inspiring, creating a legacy; like a highly decorated celebration sari or an heirloom quilt. Singing is the common thread in the rich and diverse tapestry of society; creating a feeling of unity.

The NPME goes on to say,

“Singing is key to developing musicianship and will be a core part of the curriculum offer at primary”,

and we are proud that LYC advocates in such a dynamic way for children at this stage in their education to have access to excellent musical training for free. Equal access to a quality music education has of course been the core project for LYC for the past 10 years but from observations in the 14 schools we have the privilege to be working with as a mini case study, there is such variation in capacity and resources for music delivery right now.

The children’s engagement has been enthusiastic and focused – they are learning the music quickly and this is as much about LYC’s excellent team, as the commitment of the teaching staff we have been lucky to work with. It is not just about the logistics of getting everyone in the same room at the same time, it’s also about enabling children across all walks of life a way to taking part and giving them the right support, encouragement and sense of belonging.


Below: LYC staff members leading singing workshops in London schools

4 LYC staff members round a piano
An LYC staff member leading a workshop, with another staff member playing the piano. A group of schoolchildren are sitting in front of them.
2 LYC staff members leading a singing workshop. A group of schoolchildren are sitting in front of them.

Access to a quality music education and these first experiences of performing should include a belief for children from every background that they belong on stage at a world-class venue like the Royal Albert Hall and to bring along their families, in the audience, who we hope will be proud to see them taking part in something special.

We have made sure that the optimum amount of family members can come to the concert by offering children on free school meals a free ticket for their adults, with 500 complimentary tickets made available which is around 20% of the on-the-night audience seating capacity. People from perceived excluded groups coming through the doors of a venue like the RAH is a big issue for participation in music (both for audiences and the talent pipeline for the future) and it is a huge bonus that we can make tickets even more accessible for families.

LYC’s music leadership is also a fundamental component of the golden thread; conductors, accompanists and assistant leaders are providing inspirational guidance to the children and are motivating and encouraging primary teachers to carry on with music at school, even though they are under a lot of pressure. I have witnessed this happening in the workshops on many occasions during the past few months and it means the children are energised and ready for the concert but also have cheer leaders that believe in them and champion their singing efforts.

We hope that these schools workshops have created a golden thread for all the school children involved this year, which will shine and intertwine throughout their lives for many years to come; bringing families and communities across London together to sing in this spectacular choir on a night of celebration.


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