Young Voices and Britannia Row Create Opportunity for Children to be Heard

Young Voices, the largest children’s choir concerts in the world, returned to UK arenas for a 30-date tour with audio design and delivery from Britannia Row Productions.

Developing from what was going to be a one-off adult choir in a Welsh rugby stadium over 30 years ago, the Young Voices brand has today become one of the most significant and important outlets for youth performance.  

A commemorative plaque has even been installed at London’s O2 Arena in recognition that over 500,000 children have performed in the venue since it opened in 2007, officially naming its north side, ‘The Young Voices End’.

Over 2.5 million children have been given the opportunity to perform in arenas worldwide, a statistic that has become poignant partially because they’re singing with touring solutions worthy of any pop or rock star.

“A key element from the very start was to give the same production values to the children that we had for adults,” says Ben Lewis, Young Voices CEO.

“For a child, Young Voices can often be their first large-scale live musical experience so it’s vital we get it right. Britannia Row felt the same - they wanted to bring their expertise in delivering a totally professional experience to the children and artists. You start to think along the lines of ‘if you could design a child’s first concert, how would you make that as impactful as possible?’

“I think being in a big group, surrounded by your friends takes the nerves away, so they feel free to express themselves. It’s important to show off the tech so when they look around the arena they can see the incredible PA system, rigging, lighting set up, mixing desks etc. and they know they are part of something that is beyond anything they’ve been involved in before.”

This year audio comprised L-Acoustics K2 main and side hangs, Kara II for the choir hangs, KS28 subs, Kara II for front fills, LA12X amplification, SSL L550 consoles for both FOH and monitors and RF via ShurePSM1000 IEMs and Axient radio mics.

Ben explains that because the children – 5,000-9,000per concert courtesy of local schools - are singing rock, pop, classical, gospel, jazz, and hip hop in one night, it’s the perfect setting to appreciate how different genres can sound.

He continues: “We want to introduce these children to the widest variety of genres & styles but in the most authentic way possible. Britannia Row helps us do that. I mean, what other concert could segue from Carmina Burana into a Lion King medley!”

He furthers: “My dad, David Lewis (who founded Young Voices & arranged the original adult World Choir) and Britannia Row’s Bryan Grant clicked the first time they met. My dad wanted the same production levels as a stadium concert but didn't have the budget, so it was very much a case of, ‘this is what we've got, and this is what we're trying to achieve.’ From the very start, Bryan understood that desire for excellence and said, ‘as you grow, we can grow. ’He helped us because he believed in the concept and in us as a team. I’ll always be grateful for that.”

Now handled by Account Executive Tom Brown, it's a relationship that has stood the test of time. And while it’s an experiential night out for 7-12 year olds, Young Voices has also become the kind of unique tour many renowned mix engineers love to work on.

“We bring in some interesting talent,” adds Ben. “When you look at the engineers and the different people that have been on our tours; the late, great Barry Bartlett [sound engineer and Britannia Row Productions Training Course Director], and Colin Pink, we’ve had the most amazing people leave their imprint on our legacy.”

Audio Crew Chief, Grace Howat, agrees: “Paul Gardiner, PA Tech, Dee Miller, Monitor Engineer, and I come back year after year because it's very worthwhile for us. We all find it very wholesome and we're proud to be involved. It's such a contribution and the collaboration between all teams within this production make it a special tour to deliver.”

The Britannia Row Productions touring audio crew is completed by Luke Cohen, Stage Tech; Gavin Tempany, FOH Engineer; Fergus Mount, RF Tech and Bart de Wit, System Engineer.

Due to the number of vocalists, the Young Voices audio set-up has also created the largest monitor system in the world. “That’s certainly not easy. There are 200 schools to manage, and the technical elements that go into that is quite something,” says Ben.

And it’s not just the UK which benefits from this concept; Young Voices also visits North America, as Ben elaborates: “Our US producers also work on Trans-Siberian Orchestra and use Clair Global for their audio. It was only a couple of years into us bringing the tour to America and using Clair that Britannia Row became part of the Clair Global family, and I was delighted! They’ve made everything easy.”

Grace concurs: “It's all about working together to give more access and opportunities to kids to think about live music as an industry. When the Clair acquisition happened, we knew that they had a very similar philosophy to the work that Britannia Row does, and that’s important. At the end of the day, Clair is a family-run business with maverick thinking, it’s ground-breaking and it pushes boundaries to be the best it can.”

This year’s performers include Nandi Bushell, the viral drumming sensation who found well-deserved fame as a 10-year-oldprotégé when she challenged Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl to a drum battle. He was so impressed she was consequently flown to LA to play at the Forum with the band.

“I phoned her dad whilst we were on tour last year to pitch Young Voices and to have Nandi on the next tour with us, ”says Ben. “Before I could really say anything, he said ‘We’re in, because Nandi's brother is in your choir next week at the O2 Arena and he’s so excited to sing!’ We’re so glad to have her, she takes centre stage in her own right playing covers of The Who, Metallica, Arctic Monkeys and more - I’m sure a lot of parents have been asked for drum kits after the show this year!”

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