Dame Waterman’s pitch for Leeds singing celebration to mark Queen’s jubilee

Dame Fanny Waterman.
Dame Fanny Waterman.
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around 500 youngsters from across Leeds could be performing for a Royal guest, if a request by organisers of a jubilee celebration gets the seal of approval.

Dame Fanny Waterman, founder of the Leeds International Piano Competition, came up with the idea of the City of Song extravaganza to mark the monarch’s 60th year on the throne.

The 91-year-old, who has met the Queen several times, said: “I rang the Lord Lieutenant of West Yorkshire, Dr Ingrid Roscoe, and asked if she would help me to find a royal presence for our competition.

“I understand she is in touch with two royal residences.”

Unsurprisingly the children have got their hopes pinned on Royal of the moment - Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.

Betsey Whiting, co-ordinator for the Diamond Jubilee concert for ArtForms, said: “The children are very excited about the prospect of a royal visitor coming to the concert.

“Many are hoping that it will be the Duchess of Cambridge.”

Whether or not the event gets its VIP visitor at Leeds Town Hall on May 30, it is guaranteed to be a glittering celebration of the best of British.

Taking inspiration from the Last Night of the Proms, the young performers will be waving union flags and dressed in red, white and blue tee-shirts, donated by Waitrose, the Town Hall will be adorned with bunting and the audience will be urged to join the choir in a rendition of Jerusalem and Land of Hope and Glory.

But for most of the performers - aged seven to 11 - from around 15 schools across the city - it will be the first time they have ever sung in public.

Most of the schools are involved in a Government scheme to give every primary pupil the chance to learn an instrument or have vocal tuition, and many are based in deprived neighbourhoods.

ArtForms, part of Leeds City Council children’s services, has been training them since September.

But the first of several key rehearsals is now less than a week away, when individual schools will come together to perform as a unit for the first time.

Betsey said: “It’s very exciting and they really are making a lot of progress.

“It’s a very new experience, not for all of them but for a lot of them.”

She added: “I wanted to involve as many children who would not usually have this opportunity - to open the door for them and their parents.”

On top of the prestige of performing at such a memorable event, two children will collect awards for “friendship, tolerance, social skills and responsibility” presented by the event’s patron, legendary Yorkshire mezzo-soprano Dame Janet Baker.

The Diamond Jubilee Choir will be conducted by Dougie Scarfe, chorus and orchestra director for Opera North, and accompanied on the piano by Dame Fanny’s celebrated pupil Benjamin Frith.

Families and schoolmates of the performers will attend for free, while special guests will be encouraged to make a contribution to YAMSEN - Yorkshire Association for Music and Special Educational Needs.

The schools sending full classes or choirs are:

Rosebank Primary

Burley St Matthias Primary

Bramley St Peter’s Primary

Whinmoor St Paul’s Primary

Hillcrest Primary

Beechwood Primary

Carr Manor Primary

Beeston Hill St Luke’s Primary

Westerton Primary School

Windmill Primary

Low Road Primary

Cookridge Primary

Queenswood School

Five Lanes Primary

Grange Farm Primary

White Laith Primary

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