There were tears of joy and cheers of sheer delight on Sunday when St. Patrick’s Primary School in Pennyburn could finally reveal that it has been named the Songs of Praise BBC School Choir of the Year 2013.
Members of the choir along with choir mistress Ursula Cullen and other members of the teaching staff attended a special viewing of Sunday’s episode of Songs of Praise at the Delacroix.
There was a party atmosphere as the secret the school has been been keeping since the competition was filmed in March was finally revealed to the world.
School principal Eamon Devlin told the ‘Journal’: “We are going to enjoy our success fully now.
“This has been a fantastic achievement for the school, for Ms Cullen and for the children.
“We are all exceptionally proud of the children and how hard they have worked to bring this title home to the school.
“They deserve great recognition for all they have achieved.”
The choir was one of two Derry schools which made it through to the final stages of the competition. Holy Family PS also made it to the semi-finals but was knocked out at that stage despite impressing the judging panel with their rendition of ‘Make Me a Channel of Your Peace’.
St. Patrick’s however secured their place in the final with a breathtaking rendition of ‘On Eagle’s Wings’ which judge David Grant described as “almost perfect”.
In the final round - where the choir was tasked with singing an inspirational piece - the boys and girls of St. Patrick’s performed a dramatic and impressive rendition of the old negro spiritual ‘Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho’ - which was chosen by Ms Cullen.
The choir received unreserved praise from the three judges.
Singer and vocal coach David Grant told the choir it was “as if they had grabbed that song by the throat and never let it go”. He praised their great voices and animated faces and, in a nod to the teaching skills of Ms Cullen added: “It was as though you found the hardest arrangement of that song in the world and you did it brilliantly.”
Singer and television presenter Myleene Klass said she was “blown away” by the Derry school’s performance, adding that the members had acted and felt every line. “You should be very, very proud of yourselves,” she said.
Conductor and vocal coach Suzi Digb described the performance as being loaded with “drama” - adding it was very hard to perform at the dramatic level St. Patrick’s did and keep the vocal integrity of the piece.
However she said she “could find nothing to criticize” about the performance.
After the judges’ delibertions the choir was named the Junior School of the Year by Judge David Grant.
Soloist Kate Higgins, who wowed the judges with her singing of ‘On Eagle’s Wings’ in the semi-final joined Ms Cullen at the front of the stage to take the coveted trophy - telling the assembled audience in Liverpool that it was “good craic” to sing in the local choir and that to celebrate they would be “partying all night”.
This is the second time the local choir has taken part in the prestigious competition. Last year it narrowly missed out on the title having reached the finals.
This year, according to Ms Cullen their “perserverance has paid off”.
People across the North West were glued to their TV screens on Sunday night to witness the Pennyburn school put the UK City of Culture 2013 on the map yet again.
St Patrick’s school choir previously impressed President Michael D. Higgins with their rendition of the winning song when they performed at the Great Hall in Magee last year.
The win has been praised by local MLA Raymond McCartney who said: “It was a great achievement for the St. Patrick’s Primary School to win this competition.
“They did Derry proud and everyone at the school must be congratulated for all the work they put in over the past few months to get so far in the competition. Well done!”