Our CEO, Tanya, went to university In Manchester with a Welshman called Ben. Although he may have sung Welsh rugby anthems in the shower, nothing prepared anyone for his success in the music world.
Today, Ben Lewis is CE0 of Young Voices (YV), a remarkable all-inclusive organisation founded by his father which brings together over 2 million children from all over the world.
In early January, Kit & Caboodle were VIP guests at the O2, for the launch of the 2020 YV concerts. Featuring a selection from 170,000 children drawn from 4,000 school choirs across the UK, their massed voices were joined by guest artists including Tony Hadley, The Shires, Ruti (2018 winner of The Voice, and a former YV participant) for a spine-tingling evening of singing starting with a rousing rendition of The Deadwood Stage, from Calamity Jane, that lifted the roof.
A high point for Ben is “seeing the children have the best night of their lives, being filled with joy and amazement from singing in an arena that is usually reserved for musical royalty”.
In fact, YV have done more shows at The O2 than any other artist- more than Adele, Ed Sheehan and Take That combined.
Not only do the children and their teachers receive CDs with vocal tracks, DVDs of choreography, conductor notes etc. at least six months before The Big Show … but the logistics of marshalling so many small people and their enthusiastic teachers is all part of the YV project. “You try matching thousands of over-excited kids to 300 coaches outside the O2,” says Ben, reflectively and grins. “Luckily, that’s my brother’s job – logistics!” As event designers and producers, we all know that an event without music is like eating a boiled egg without salt … but for Ben it is “a massive part of my life. I literally don’t know what I’d do without it. The two best elements of music for me is its ability to connect people and also to express emotions.”
So, we wondered how Ben and YV would survive lockdown … we should’ve known not to worry! “By the time you get to an event, our work is almost done,” says Ben. “ it’s the prep and creativity beforehand that is essential.”
So, flipping their business online was not an issue. “We’ve pivoted into YV ‘at home’ resources – popular with schools because it’s so difficult to do this on Zoom remotely. We’ve found teachers really grateful – singing along with artists, guitar lessons, fun, eclectic different styles of music, singing and dancing – all of it with the positive, fun personality of YV,” says Ben. In fact, people have engaged with online YV so much, that he reckons it’s here to stay. They will be developing even more online resources alongside teaching kits to support kids and parents at home. Ben’s hoping that children and parents will choose to do YV workshops at home over TV.
The next projects will be the celebratory 25 years of YV concerts. YV are preparing for any eventuality in order to continue supporting the kids and schools with the work that they do. In September schools will receive their new music packs and it’s “the journey that the kids go through practising music, this is such an important part. We haven’t hung up our tools during this lockdown and we will continue supporting schools, kids and parents, we’ll keep educating and engaging – music is vitally important,” Says Ben.
“Music unites us, and live performance is what we are all about,” Ben says. But for now, on Tuesday 2nd June, he’s planning to stage the World’s Largest Children’s Choir at Home for a Record Breaking #PowerInMe Singing Challenge for any families that want to participate and those unsung heroes: Teachers.
“Singing together is a way of connecting us as human beings, so we just thought it’d be nice to do something for the kids to keep them connected. They can take part in something that’s international, and shows them that, wherever you are in the world, everybody’s going through the same emotions,” Ben says.
So, let’s connect through music!. Families can register their involvement at youngvoices.co.uk/powerinme to access learning resources for the song and to log their location to create an online map showing where all the singers will be performing on the day of the event.
YV supports teachers and their pupils, using music to develop communication, collaboration, creativity, mindfulness, innovation and confidence – as well as a lifelong love of music.
We’ll be singing along too!