South American choir links up with Tyneside children on debut performance

Children from the Sage’s Quay Choirs joined with a world famous South American choir on their debut North East performance

The Venezuelan choir in a practice session
The Venezuelan choir in a practice session

A world famous Venezuelan choir invited scores of Tyneside youngsters to share the stage with them during their debut performance in the North East yesterday.

Members of the The Simón Bolívar National Youth Choir were joined by 67 children from the Sage’s Quay Choirs young musicians programme for a performance of classical and traditional singing last night.

The choir is part of the esteemed Venezuela El Sistema project, which uses music to keep children and young people in the South American country out of trouble.

Choir members rehearsed all week leading up to the concert, but between busy schedules they found time to put on workshops for children from Heworth Grange Comprehensive in Gateshead and Ellington First School in Northumberland, teaching them Venezuelan folk songs.

Engaging with local communities is one of the fundamental ideas behind the Latin American music programme, which teaches children about the responsibility and discipline which come with learning music.

Eduardo Mendez, executive director of El Sistema, spoke highly of the collaboration.

He said: “Through music the children experience a different culture. It is important for self-esteem to feel part of something and the educational activities inspire the children.”

The choir have never visited the North East and said they had enjoyed their trip. Indra Nielsen, 21, said: “People have been very nice to all of us. They are very curious about why we are here and our culture.”

Raquel Campomás, 34, was involved in one of the workshops with about 100 children from different schools. She said: “The children are very funny and very smart. They ask a lot of questions and were excited to speak to us.”

The National Youth Choir, which will perform in London later this month as part of a UK tour, has been together for seven years and is recognised as the top vocal ensemble of Venezuela’s National System of Youth Choirs.

Many of the singers in the choir come from deprived areas of Venezuela but have now travelled all over the world. Through singing and performing, they hope to give other children the same chance they were so lucky to have.

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