Voices unite at national choirs festival

The University of Cumbria’s new inclusive choir, featuring members taken from campuses in Cumbria and Lancashire, has taken part in a major UK choral festival.

Singers from the university’s Institute of Arts in Carlisle and its Lancaster campus made the 720-mile round trip to Canterbury Cathedral, the longest distance of any contingent in attendance, to join 200 singers from 10 universities for the Cathedrals Group Choirs Festival.

The University of Cumbria Choir performed I See the Light by Alan Menken from the musical tangled as their individual piece. All the choirs also united for pieces inspired by the theme of Enlightenment, including the four movements from Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 and Prayer for Ukraine.

The university choir was introduced to a Ukrainian actor and director who is currently staying with a host family in the Scottish Borders. They met the students on campus before the trip, and assisted them with the pronunciation of the piece.

Victoria Barbé is a senior lecturer within the University of Cumbria Institute of Arts and director of the university choir.

She said: “It was a fantastic opportunity to perform at this prestigious festival, and for us to develop our journey as a relatively new, yet perfectly formed and inclusive group.

“The students were magnificent, and a real credit to our university, not just through their polished performance, but also with their open and engaged manner with the other participants and staff. I am immensely proud of them and excited for future projects as we develop our presence in the community.”

The Choirs Festival was the climax of a three-day event that brought together representatives from 15 faith-based higher education institutions that are members of the Cathedrals Group of Universities.

Each institution was founded by the church for teacher training purposes, based upon the principles of widening access and breaking down barriers in education. They are now multi-disciplinary universities and key contributors in ensuring that higher education in England and Wales is diverse and inclusive.

Activities included a conference for vice chancellors, led by Cathedrals Group chair and University of Cumbria Vice Chancellor Professor Julie Mennell, and a gathering for chaplains.

Professor Mennell said: “Not only do we share common roots, values ​​and a focus on vocational practice we share a huge sense of pride in our students and their considerable talents. The Choirs Festival was a perfect example of all we seek to celebrate and represent.

“I could not have been prouder of our students and the staff involved whom supported them to perform so well and in what must have been an incredibly intimidating as well as awe-inspiring environment.”

The 2022 festival has been hosted by Canterbury Christ Church University, which is celebrating its own Diamond Jubilee. The University of Cumbria had been due to host the annual Cathedral Group Festival in Spring 2020 which was canceled at the start of the pandemic.

The University of Cumbria Choir’s most recent performance was at the launch of the Cumbria Singers at Carlisle Cathedral. Attention now turns to rehearsals ahead of the University of Cumbria graduation ceremonies that are due to take place in Carlisle on 19-21 July 2022.

The University of Cumbria Choir, directed by Victoria Barbe and supported by Institute of Arts development manager Karen Jones, is made up of students Aidan Dawson, Rebecca Draper, Emily Easton, Megan Garbett, Abie Mair, Natalie Robinson, Faye Stockley and Mel Warren.

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