Held at MediaCity at Salford Quays, the 40-strong Youth Choir delivered much-loved festive songs including The Christmas Song, The Snowman and Hark the Herald Angels Sing with the full forces of the BBC Philharmonic conducted by Richard Davis. The concert was recorded by BBC Radio Manchester and will be broadcast on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Formed in October last year, the choir celebrates the Manchester United Foundation’s work with young people from across Salford, Trafford and Manchester, giving them a unique opportunity to showcase their talent. Members are pupils from local schools and the Foundation’s partner schools, and they meet to rehearse every Monday night at Old Trafford.
Although the choir has previously performed on match days and sung at MU events, this was their first public concert and the opportunity to sing with the 90-piece BBC Philharmonic Orchestra was a dream come true for many of the students. Eighteen-year-old Leah Ashurst from Eccles sang a solo in Happy Song and commented, ‘Tonight was an amazing experience – one I will never forget.’
Charlotte Stevenson, from Swinton, also sang alone in The Snowman and commented that the BBC Philharmonic are her ‘heroes’ as she has grown up listening to classical music: ‘It’s something that is very close to my heart’.
Andy Fowler from Stockport who performed both a solo in Happy Song and a beat box in the Jessie J hit single Price Tag added, ‘Tonight was incredible, seeing all of our hard work realised in one evening, whilst partnered with the BBC Philharmonic is something that will stay with me, and something I can honestly say I was proud to be a part of.’
Seventeen-year-old Lauren Aitken from Didsbury also sang unaccompanied in Coming Home, a song which MU Foundation Chief Executive John Sheils wrote as a tribute to Sir Bobby Charlton who has mentored him throughout his career at United. The song includes emotive lyrics about the tragic story of the Busby Babes and serves to emerge the choir into the Manchester United Club culture. Lauren commented, ‘I have been brought up supporting Manchester United so to be in the choir and to sing for Sir Bobby Charlton means a lot.’
Sir Bobby himself attended the concert and addressed the choir: ‘That was one of the best things I have ever seen and I can't wait to let my grandchildren hear it on the radio on Christmas Eve. I'm so proud of you all. You work hard because you want to be the best - you've done the Manchester United Foundation proud.’
John Shiels commented, ‘The Foundation motto is ‘Inspiring Potential, Fulfilling Dreams’ and for these children, what they have done tonight is like playing in the Champions League. They will remember this for the rest of their lives and will hopefully be inspired to work hard to achieve further dreams in the future.’
Richard Wigley, General Manager of the BBC Philharmonic, added, ‘We are delighted to have been part of this special event which supports the work of the MU Foundation in encouraging young people who love singing.’
The BBC Philharmonic Celebrate Sport Christmas Concert will be broadcast on BBC Radio Manchester at 1pm on Christmas Eve, and again on Christmas Day at 2pm.