New national youth chorus to honour First World War soldiers at Edinburgh International Festival

Telegrams sent by young soldiers in the final year of the First World War have inspired this year's Edinburgh International Festival curtainraiser.
Telegrams sent by young soldiers in the final year of the First World War have inspired this year's Edinburgh International Festival curtainraiser.
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A new national youth chorus is to be formed to help stage a spectacular curtainraiser for the Edinburgh International Festival which will honour the lives of young soldiers killed in the First World War.

Organisers have launched a recruitment drive for 250 young people who will work on a huge free event for around 20,000 festival-goers on Festival Square.

Acclaimed Edinburgh composer and musician Anna Meredith, a former Scottish Album of the Year winner, is joining forces with cutting-edge animation and video design company 59 Productions on the event.

Read more: First World War centenary event to open Edinburgh International Festival


Meredith is creating an orchestral soundtrack to accompany striking projections which will be beamed onto the facade of the Usher Hall from 10.30pm.

The mass choir will stage a special live performance element during the event, which follows The Harmonium Project curtainraiser in 2015, which also used the Usher Hall, and other recent opening events which have transformed Edinburgh Castle rock and St Andrew Square.

Read more: Edinburgh International Festival: The Scotsman critics on the 2018 programme


No previous singing experience is necessary to participate in the event. Its creation has been inspired by real-life telegrams sent by young soldiers held in the Imperial War Museum in London.

More than 40 other young people are being recruited for other roles in planning and staging Five Telegrams, including wardrobe assistants, costume designers, camera operators, filming coordinators and event assistants.

Themes of machines and codes, censorship, propaganda and reconciliation will be tackled in the event, part of the UK’s cultural programme staged over the last four years to mark the centenary.

Richard Slaney, managing director of 59 Productions, said: “The whole event will last around 25 moments and the choir will be involved in one of the five movements.

“There will be moments for the choir that will be very individual and moments that will be set together. The idea is that their voices will become part of the whole square. The piece Anna has written is really beautiful and I think it’ll be a very emotional event.

An EIF spokeswoman said: “This incredible opportunity is open to young people aged 16-26 who would enjoy singing with their peers and like to take part in the festival in front of an audience of thousands as part of this unique event.

"No previous singing experience is required as participants will be guided through the rehearsal and performance process.

“The involvement of young people has been specifically designed to offer empowering, educational and professional development opportunities alongside access to training and skills based work experience.

"It will connect the vibrant voices and talent of today’s young people with stories of those who gave or lost their youth to the war.”