Anastasia wins a place in top national choir

A RIPON Grammar School student who confesses she feels nervous before every performance has secured a coveted place in a top national choir.

Anastasia Bell, who has been singing in choirs since primary school and began formal training at 12 years old, was delighted to have been picked for the National Youth Choir following a highly competitive audition.

It means she will be tutored by renowned vocal coaches and get the chance to perform in prestigious concert venues.

“This choir is known nationally and composers from around the country write music specifically for the choir to perform,” she says.

RGS director of music Michael Barker said it was a great achievement to win a place: “Tassy is a superb musician and committed leader in our Chamber Choir. We are all very excited for this great and well-deserved opportunity."

The 17-year-old, from Thirsk, did her vocal audition, which involved some musical exercises like improvisation and range testing, over Zoom: “I sang Die Lötosblume for them, a slow but beautiful piece by Schumann to the words of a German poem by Heinrich Heiner,” she said.

Studying for A-levels in German, religious studies, politics, and chemistry, she will now take part in one or two week-long residential courses throughout the year: “They involve singing from dawn until dusk, either in smaller groups as a whole choir.”

At the end of each course, the choir performs a concert in magnificent venues, which in the past have included Ely Cathedral and the Royal Albert Hall.

The teenager, who has sung in the Harrogate conference centre and is very proud to be playing Johanna in Sweeney Todd this year admits lack of confidence is her biggest challenge: “I always get nervous just before a performance.

“But I think music has a fantastic power to unite people. The feeling of taking part in group music, when the harmonies hit just right, is incomparable to any other sensation. It's a cliché but it really is a sort of universal language.”

Anastasia, who has achieved Grade 6 in singing and 5 in piano, sings in RGS’s Chamber Choir in addition to performing with singing teacher June Garbutt's Skelldale Singers.

“I first started singing with my school choir in Year 2 and started reading music around the same time when I joined my primary school's recorder club. Piano lessons started at around the same time, all encouraged by my mother who made sure I always maintained a broad range of skills.”

Alongside juggling her A-level studies with music, Anastasia finds time to practise judo and make her own clothes.