Star helps choir to find its voice

International opera star Graeme Danby in Sunderland Minster rehearsing with Sunderland University students for a Christmas Carol Service.
International opera star Graeme Danby in Sunderland Minster rehearsing with Sunderland University students for a Christmas Carol Service.
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AN international opera star has helped a small city choir become one of the most popular in the region.

Graeme Danby, principal bass with English National Opera, has been working with students at the University of Sunderland for over a year and the choir, which initially struggled to find its voice, is now very much in demand.

Graeme, an Honorary Professor of Music at the university, said: “We started from scratch and expectations were pretty low, but the students have risen to the challenge magnificently. We have 65 members of the choir now, more than double what we had last year.”

The real turning point came in November when the students were invited to sing at Durham Cathedral’s Festival of Remembrance Concert, the first time the university had been invited to sing at this historic venue.

Graeme said: “They were absolutely fantastic. I was so impressed with the students. They were there for three hours, and behaved impeccably. Durham has a huge choral tradition, and this is the first time in its history that the cathedral has welcomed students from the University of Sunderland.”

Now the university choir is looking forward to several concerts in Sunderland, which Graeme believes will become an essential part of the city’s annual music calendar.

This week it joined the University Big Band and the University Music Theatre Group for the November Jazz concert at Sunderland Minster and on Wednesday, December 7, the University Choir will hold a free Christmas carol concert, Carols by Candlelight, in Sunderland Minster starting at 6.30pm.

Graeme and the choir will be joined by mezzo-soprano Valerie Reid and the service, which includes free refreshments, will be led by Reverend Linda Eccles, the university’s Methodist Associate Chaplain, with Deacon Eunice Attwood.

Graeme said: “Two years ago we had 60 people at the carol service and last year we had over 260. The kids have been so enthusiastic and have really driven music in Sunderland and I think this is becoming a really big part of the city’s calendar now.

“I think the university choir feels really valued and so they should, they are quite fantastic.”

Twitter: @SunEchoSchools