Behind the Scenes with BBC Choristers 2020

Alice Patten was the youngest competitor to reach the girls’ semi-final of the 2020 BBC Young Chorister of the Year. Sadly she didn’t make it to the final this time but it’s good to hear her account about taking part. Alice, a chorister at Norwich Cathedral, tells us more about her trip up to Manchester and being mentored by Katherine Jenkins.

From left to right: Ruby, Alice, Josie, Leah and Alexandra, the five girl semi-finalists

“I was very surprised when I received a call from the Songs of Praise producer in August 2020 informing me that I had been chosen as one of the 2020 semi-finalists of the BBC Young Chorister of the Year. At first I felt an overwhelming sense of excitement but once reality had set in I was quite nervous. The competition was only a couple of weeks away and due to lockdown I hadn’t done any real singing in months! I grew even more alarmed (and excited) when I discovered that I was to take part in a masterclass before the competition with Katherine Jenkins!

Thankful for Katherine’s advice

After a few weeks of preparing two pieces, my mother and I took a trip to the outskirts of London to the beautiful Botley’s Mansion where I met my fellow girl contestants and had a wonderful masterclass with Katherine. For anyone wondering, she is even more beautiful in real life than on-screen if that is even possible!

I was so thankful to be offered this wonderful opportunity and afterwards to hear Katherine’s advice to me. I felt more ready than ever to sing to the judges for the competition.

Two weeks later (after arranging school days off, child performance licenses, travel and accommodation) my mother and I took the five and a half hour journey to our hotel in Manchester where we spent the night before the big day.

New Friends

On arrival at Gorton Monastery, where the competition was taking place, we did a couple of ‘pieces to camera’ before a run-through of my piece with Neil Taylor. I was lucky enough to spend most of the day with my fellow contestants (socially distanced of course) as we were in a practice room where one by one we would venture downstairs and sing to the judges . None of us had any idea who the judges were until a couple of minutes before we sang.

I’m sure you can imagine that I was utterly terrified when I found out I was singing to John Rutter (and very relieved that I hadn’t picked one of his pieces as that would have been a bit embarrassing). I felt ill with nerves but was pleased with how I sang and as soon as I stepped out of the church I wanted to perform again!

Obviously it would have been nice to take part in the final but I was very pleased that I had got this far and the feeling of sadness wasn’t because I hadn’t won but because the experience was over. For me the best part about being in the programme was making new friends who share the same love of music as I do and I am so thankful to everyone who made the whole competition happen, especially in such a challenging year.”

Alice was the youngest competitor in the semi-final and she sang ‘Ex Ore Innocentium’ by John Ireland