The Bedford School community waited with nervous excitement on Sunday 6 December for Fourth Former Alexander Olleson to compete in the grand final of the BBC Young Chorister of the Year.
Having wowed judges in the semi-finals the weekend previously, all were on tenterhooks as they watched Alexander take to the stage once again and give the performance of his life. The standard of the competition was extremely high, and we were therefore thrilled to hear judge and world-renowned composer John Rutter announce Alexander as the winner of this prestigious title.
John Rutter told viewers, “This is more than just a competition, it’s a celebration of all the young choristers of Britain who give their time, their talents, and dedication to make our church and cathedral choirs what they are today.”
Alexander, who joined Bedford School in September on a music scholarship, has been singing for years, joining his local parish church choir at the age of seven and in the Christ Church Cathedral School Choir for five years.
Alexander said his years of singing experience gave him the confidence to put in a good performance.
He said: “It was quite nerve-wracking at the final but I wasn’t as nervous as I might have been. Having been a chorister I am used to performing live in front of lots of people. It is hard to describe how it felt when I was announced as the winner. You get this feeling of being completely relaxed, even if you felt relaxed beforehand you still feel it. It’s a really good feeling.”
Alexander said although he loves soloing in the choir, it is the team spirit and camaraderie of singing together that he really enjoys.
“Singing as a soloist is something I have done for years as a chorister but when you are in a choir you feel as if you are singing as one body,” he said.
“You also have that team spirit, if one of you has a howler and hits a wrong note, the rest of the team can correct it. I think that’s what really makes the music so special, because you are all acting as one.”
Alexander said although he felt blessed to have a good voice to start with, it is the years of practice that really matter to reach the top.
“I have always had a good voice but have tried to develop it over the years I have sung in choirs,” he said.
“My singing voice is something I have always had but have had to work hard to improve.”
You can watch Alexander sing the solo first verse in Harold Darke’s setting of In the Bleak Midwinter in a carefully edited recording which made sure the choristers were kept socially-distanced throughout:
Jonathan Sanders, Bedford School’s Director of Music, who leads the Chapel Choir where Alexander sings as one of 35 boys from eight different year groups, said: “I was delighted to hear that Alexander had won the competition.
Alexander is at a transitional moment in his education, having enjoyed the amazing opportunity of having been a cathedral chorister, and is now embarking on his senior schooling.
Winning the competition will give him some amazing opportunities to work with professional musicians, both singers and instrumentalists, which will provide him good insights into the world of professional music-making, even in these unprecedented COVID times.”