‘Songs Of Praise’ TV triumph for school choir led by ex-Cantamus singer

CHOIR OF THE YEAR -- Jo Williamson and  TV presenter Aled Jones with the victorious Cantabile Girls' Choir, of Hereford.
CHOIR OF THE YEAR -- Jo Williamson and TV presenter Aled Jones with the victorious Cantabile Girls' Choir, of Hereford.

The winners of this year’s BBC TV ‘Songs Of Praise’ School Choir Of The Year competition owe much to their leader’s roots in Mansfield and Ashfield.

For the musical director of the Cantabile Girls’ Choir, from Herefordshire, is Jo Williamson, a singer who hails from Sutton and was an early member of the world-renowned Cantamus Girls’ Choir, of Mansfield.

Thousands of TV viewers watched as Cantabile fought off opposition from Twyford Church Of England High School in London and Stratheam School Chamber Choir in Belfast in a high-quality final, presented by Aled Jones.

And victory was particularly poignant for Jo because the event was held at Nottingham’s Albert Hall, where she performed her first professional concert back in the 1970s.

“I can think of no better venue,” said Jo (55). “Words cannot express how happy I am for the girls. I am so proud of them. They have worked so hard for this.”

Cantabile is based at Hereford Cathedral School, where Jo teaches singing. She says all her work is inspired by her time with Cantamus and its highly respected tutor Pamela Cook, who died two years ago.

Cantabile’s success followed a runners-up place last year and three previous appearances in the semi-finals.

This time, the odds were against them after many changes in personnel, but they wowed the judges with their rendition of Michael Neaum’s ‘The Skylark’, with lyrics taken from a war poem written by Lieutenant D.B. Haseler, a former pupil of Hereford Cathedral School, where the choir is based.

The judges described Cantabile’s performance as “poised and precise”. Amomng their comments were: “beautiful quality”, “moving and powerful”, “great soloists” and “fantastic resonance”.