Katie Allen – BBC Young Chorister of the Year Finalist 2013

Posted on February 1, 2014

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Katie reached the final of the 2013 BBC Radio 2 Young Chorister of the Year Competition

Katie reached the final of the 2013 BBC Radio 2 Young Chorister of the Year Competition

Congratulations to Katie Allen who reached the finals of the BBC Radio 2 Young Chorister of the Year – for the second time! Katie was one of eight finalists (four girls and four boys) who performed at St Martin in the Fields on Monday 28th October in front of a packed house and a line-up of star judges, including Diane Louise Jordan from BBC Radio 2 and the composer Bob Chilcott.

The competition, which opened in July, is now in its 28th year and aims to find the best young singing talent in the UK and is open to young people aged between 11 and 17 years old.  We are very proud of Katie for her fantastic achievement; she was one of only two finalists representing parish churches – the others hailing from cathedrals or college chapel choirs. Katie has once again helped to put Christ Church on the map, flying the flag of our strong music tradition. Bob Shennan, Controller of BBC Radio 2 said “Choral singing remains an important part of our national life….It is great to see parish churches featuring alongside cathedral choirs.

We caught up with Katie in the New Year and asked her about her experience;

To reach the final twice is a massive achievement, well done! When did you first enter the competition?
It was a massive achievement for me. I first entered the competition when I was 13 and I’m 15 now. The process each time was pretty similar – you had to send a recording of a hymn and an anthem to the BBC. I sang Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken and How Beautiful are The Feet, from Handel’s Messiah.  David Hinitt helped me to record them here in church after a service in the summer and I sent the recording off on a CD. Then I received a telephone call saying I had made it to the final. I don’t think anyone has reached the final twice before, so I was really proud.

How did you choose which pieces to enter?
I love the hymn and chose both pieces because I felt they suited my voice.

Did you have to go through a ‘Choral X Factor’ type set up. Were you called to audition in front of a panel?
No, that would have been really nerve-wrecking! Luckily all the initial judging was done by listening to the CD’s and the finalists were all telephoned to say they had been selected.

How many other choristers were you up against in the final?
There were four boys and four girls, with a separate competition for each. All of the boys were trebles and most of the girls were sopranos. There was quite a wide age range – the boys were 11-13 and the girls were 11-15. I was the oldest chorister.

Katie singing in St Paul's Cathedral

Katie singing in St Paul’s Cathedral

Was it a cut-throat competition? Did you get on together?
No it definitely wasn’t competitive at all. They were all really nice and I made some good friends. We spent the day with each other, having lunch and talking. It was really informal and a good way to relax before the competition.

Where was the final held?
It was held in St Martin in the Fields in Trafalgar Square, which is a massive church and a great performance space and acoustic. There was a little step I had to stand on, with microphones everywhere. There was a massive audience of about 500 people I think.

Who were the judges and did you get to meet them beforehand?
Suzi Digby OBE was the main judge. She is a conductor, musician and teacher. Bob Chilcott was the other judge. He is a composer and we sing some of his pieces at Christ Church – we performed his “Little Jazz Mass” for Mothering Sunday last year. We didn’t get to meet the judges before the competition – but we did meet the presenter, Diane Louise Jordan, who was really lovely.

What sort of preparation do you do to get your voice ready?
I get really nervous – and obviously it was a really nerve-wrecking thing. I just take lots of deep breaths and drink lots of water!

Take us through the competition – what happened on the night?
The boys went first, all four of them – then I was the first girl to sing. I thought I would be really really nervous, but actually I was just loving it! I was really excited.

How did you find out about the scoring – was it like Strictly? Did the judges hold up a score on a card?
No, it wasn’t like that! At the end of the competition they judges went off to have a discussion and came back to reveal the winners of the competition – one boy and one girl. They brought out a big envelope onto the stage and Diane Louise Jordan announced who had one.

How long have you been singing?
I’ve been singing since I was 7 – about seven or eight years. I love singing. I am so happy when I sing and I love the feeling of sharing that joy with everyone.

What does Christ Church mean to you?
I really love singing here. I’ve been singing here for seven years. My voice has developed so much singing at Christ Church. The repertoire of music is fantastic and really helped – the different types and the amount of music we sing each week is amazing. It is a different experience singing in a choir – you have to use your voice in a different way when you are singing as a soloist compared to an ensemble or choir.

Do the words you sing matter to you?
Yes, definitely. You have to breathe in the right places and put an emphasis on different notes and different words in order to communicate each piece.

Do you hope to pursue a musical career?
I would love to pursue a musical career, but I know it is really hard and takes a lot of commitment. I think I could do it. I am studying hard for my GCSE’s at the moment, including Music. I also have singing lessons once every two weeks and I enjoy them. They are a good way to explore your own individual voice and style.

Katie, thank you for talking to us and thank you for your wonderful singing each Sunday at Christ Church!

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