Universal Voices – Bringing singing to all children

Dr Rebecca Berkley, Lecturer in Music Education at the University of Reading started the Universal Voices children’s choir in March 2017.

Rebecca has run children’s and adults choirs for Berkshire Maestros, the Berkshire Young Musicians’ Trust; for Sing Up, Kennet Opera, and Sing for Pleasure, the National Singing Charity. She started Universal Voices so that students training as primary music teachers on the BA in Primary Education (QTS) programme could learn how to run a choir, develop their conducting skills and learn to teach musicianship.  

“I wanted my students to have a conducting placement with an experienced mentor. We teach conducting on our BA Education programme and Masters Programmes but there’s a big difference between conducting fellow students who can read music, and teaching young children in a primary school setting who have mixed abilities and confidence.”

The choir was launched at the Institute of Education Partnership Concert: Songs and Stories in March 2017. With the support of Music at Reading and the Campaign and Engagement Supporters’ Office, this concert brought together 270 children from the Reading area, who sang alongside music education students who also managed the concert. Universal Voices began rehearsals in April 2017 with around 30 children, and membership has risen to 40 as more children joined. The choir has performed regularly at University events like the University Advent Concert, the Big Band Big Lunch, and Alumni Family Funday. In 2018-19 they will present a join concert with Christ Church Choir, and also complete in the Woodley Festival for the first time.

The second Partnership concert in March 2018 was a performance of Britten’s Noye’s Fludde, with Universal Voices taking the roles of Noye’s children, a chorus of 250 children from partnership schools and BA Ed and PGCE students from the Institute of Education taking solo singing roles and playing in the orchestra. The whole event was project managed by second year students who got to work with Music at Reading to manage the concert and led rehearsals with our partnership schools. This performance was nominated for a Reading Cultural award as best Community Project of 2018, and won an Institute of Education teaching and Learning award.

March 2019 will see the next round of second year students lead a concert called Animal Crackers. The University Big Band will lead an animal themed concert featuring creative composing and performing projects from children from local primary schools, and songs from the Jungle Book. 

This Choir is funded though the Campaign and Engagement Supporters’ Office and is free for children aged 7-13 to attend. Contact Universal Voices on universalvoices@reading.ac.uk, and follow us on Twitter @UniRdg_UVoices

 

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