Latest News and Updates

13 April 2016

On Sunday the boys from the National Youth Choir of Great Britain performed the new set of songs for the Friday Afternoons project.

“The Friday Afternoons project continues to go from strength-to-strength and we are really pleased to be able to support it. Each year the team produce fresh and exciting new songs for children and young people to enjoy. But more than that, they also provide the resources teachers need to make that process fun and interactive.”

Hedley Swain, Area Direcor, South East, Arts Council England

The set of songs called 'Seasons and Charms' was created by Jonathan Dove with specially written texts by Alasdair Middleton. The songs include Mad Moon, Fire! and The Little Girl of Rain. The performance was signed by Dr Paul Whittaker OBE, conducted by Greg Hallam and accompanied by Ruairi Edwards.

Ann Barkway, Project Manager, Friday Afternoons, said: “Now in its fourth year, Friday Afternoons has become a regular fixture in the choral calendar, and we are delighted this year to have commissioned Jonathan Dove to write a new set of songs. The premiere performance, given by the National Youth Boys' Choir and conducted by Greg Hallam, was a wonderful opportunity to hear the new songs, and to witness the enthusiasm of the boys in performing them. We hope that, through free downloads of the songs and supporting resources available from, teachers and choir leaders around the UK will explore this new repertoire, and find an opportunity to get involved through performing, creating and listening. Everybody is welcome to take part!”

The new songs will be available from our website soon, but in the mean time you are able to download materials for more than forty songs from our website.


13 April 2016

Nick Tapper from ACE South East came to the Friday Afternoons premiere and wrote a piece for the Arts Council England website.

Click here to read it!

7 April 2016

We are featuring Cantate Youth Choir in our Close-Up series.

Name of Project: Stortford Sings for Friday Afternoons

Name of Group: Cantate Youth Choir

Date: 21st March 2016

Venue: Rhodes Arts Complex


Cantate Youth Choir were one of the Friday Afternoons Project Fund groups for 2015-16. As part of their project they invited local primary schools, Manuden and Northgate, to join their Training Choir (and newly formed Trainers Choir) to have a day of singing with a culmination event for their parents to come along to in the evening. The students sang some of Nico Muhly's songs as well as some of Benjamin Britten's original music. Students also played specially written percussion pieces that were inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson's poetry. The concert was completely full, and a great success. Well done to everyone involved!

15 February 2016

We are thrilled to announce that Jonathan Dove will be writing a new set of songs for this year’s Friday Afternoons project, set to specially commissioned texts by Alasdair Middleton. These songs will be released in April, so keep an eye out on our website! Scores, backing tracks and resources will be available on the website free of charge, to support learning of the songs.

‘Not since Benjamin Britten has a British composer succeeded in writing operas which communicate with such clarity and coherence to their audience as those by Jonathan Dove’

The Gramophone


Born in 1959, Jonathan Dove's early musical experience came from playing the piano, organ and viola. Later he studied composition with Robin Holloway at Cambridge and, after graduation, worked as a freelance accompanist, repetiteur, animateur and arranger. His early professional experience gave him a deep understanding of singers and the complex mechanics of the opera house. Opera and the voice have been the central priorities in Dove’s output throughout his subsequent career.

Starting with his breakthrough opera Flight, commissioned by Glyndebourne in 1998, Dove has gone on to write over twenty operatic works. In 2010 A Song of Joys for chorus and orchestra opened the festivities at the Last Night of the Proms.  Throughout his career Dove has made a serious commitment to community development through innovative musical projects. His 2012 opera Life is a Dream, was performed by professionals and community choruses in a disused Birmingham warehouse, and a church opera involving community singers The Walk from the Garden was premiered at Salisbury Cathedral. 

2015 brought the World Premieres of The Day After, commissioned and produced by Holland Opera with a libretto by April de Angelis, a post-Apocalyptic setting of the myth of Phaeton written specifically to be performed outside; and The Monster in the Maze, a new opera for children, young people and adults, with a libretto by Alasdair Middleton, commissioned by the Berliner Philharmoniker, London Symphony Orchestra, and Festival d’Art Lyrique d’Aix-en-Provence, and led by Sir Simon Rattle and Simon Halsey.

Alasdair Middleton was born in Yorkshire and trained at the Drama Centre, London. His work as a librettist includes: with Jonathan Dove – The Monster in the Maze(Berliner Philharmoniker, London Symphony Orchestra, Aix-en-Provence Festival), Diana and Actaeon(Royal Ballet), The Walk From The Garden(Aegeas Salisbury International Arts Festival), Life Is A Dream(Birmingham Opera), Mansfield Park(Heritage Opera), Swanhunter(Opera North), The Enchanted Pig(The Young Vic, ROH2), The Adventures of Pinocchio(Opera North), and the cantata On Spital Fields(Spitalfields Festival, winner of a Royal Philharmonic Society Award); With Paul Englishby – Pleasure’s Progress(ROH2), Who Is This That Comes(Opera North) and The Crane Maiden(KAAT Yokohama). Other libretti include The World Was All Before Them, On London Fields, winner of an Royal Philharmonic Society Award, A Bird In Your Ear(New York City Opera), The North Wind Was A Woman(A Song Cycle for Dawn Upshaw), Everything Money Can Buy(Selfridges) The Feathered Friend. He has written four plays; Aeschylean Nasty, Shame On You Charlotte, Casta Diva and Einmal.