Pupils from United Learning schools across the country took to the boards for a performance of Zimbe! at London’s Lyceum Theatre last week.
Conducted by the composer Alexander L’Estrange, more than 1,000 students and their teachers from the trust performed songs from the fusion of traditional African song and jazz.
The students had all been rehearsing their parts within their schools for months and only had a handful of opportunities to come together as one choir before the final performance.
There were special performances from Kettering Buccleuch Academy’s African djembe drummers as well as dancers from Lambeth Academy and the Glenmoor and Winton Academies in Bournemouth.
Satra-Sia Sumana Kisson, a Paddington Academy pupil who was one of the event’s presenters, said it was a great experience.
“Although I was nervous at first, the high energy of the performers and the crowd made it feel a lot more natural,” she added.
Another memorable moment from the night was a solo from Olivia Hewitt-Jones, a pupil at Hull Collegiate School, who sang a traditional South African funeral song, Aleluya/Thuma mina.
She was accompanied by Caterham School Chamber Choir, who performed from the private boxes at the theatre.
Olivia said: “It was amazing to be able to perform on the stage of the Lyceum. I was definitely apprehensive to sing such a moving song in front of so many people. But working with performers from all the schools meant we were all in it together and created a great atmosphere.”
Catherine Barker, head of music and performing arts at United Learning, said she was “immensely proud” of all involved who had put on “such a spectacular event”.
“I am particularly pleased with the feedback from students and staff who have said how much they enjoyed the opportunity to get together with other schools to perform Zimbe! Events like this one show off the uniqueness of a group like United Learning as a true partnership between state and independent schools,” she added.
Jon Coles, chief executive of United Learning, said: “One of the advantages of being a national group of schools is that we can bring our most talented pupils together from all over the country to participate in events like this.
“An opportunity to sing in a magnificent theatre like the Lyceum is an ambition that many have but few have the chance to realise. So it’s been wonderful to see our singers enjoy the experience and come together to perform.”
Main pic: Dancers from United Learning schools performing songs from Zimbe! At the Lyceum Theatre