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Thursday 27 Nov 2014

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BBC's ambitious musical project, A Symphony For Yorkshire, to be broadcast for first time in celebration of Yorkshire Day

A Symphony For Yorkshire

BBC Radio York, Leeds, Sheffield and Humberside will join forces to simultaneously broadcast the full 15-minute A Symphony For Yorkshire, which has taken five months to produce and involved more than 200 musicians from across the county, including a harpist from Howarth, a folk group from Hull, Columbian drummers from Leeds, the York Minster carillon player and a Sheffield brass band.

The Symphony film will be available to watch for the first time on BBC Look North at 6.30pm on BBC One on Monday 2 August and online on the BBC local radio websites.

Composed by Benjamin Till, the project involved open auditions and a competition to write the lyrics to a new Yorkshire anthem plus filming at iconic places all over the county.

Benjamin said: "This has been the most difficult, complicated, ambitious project that I have ever done – incredibly hard work but hugely rewarding. Yorkshire people have to be among the proudest people on the planet.

"It's been an enormous thrill and a great honour to be able to write a piece of music which brings so many Yorkshire-based musicians from so many different musical traditions together and I really hope I have done the county proud."

The winner of the lyrics competition was 98-year-old great grandmother Doreen Brigham, from Harrogate, who is featured reading the last line of the poem in the film.

She said: "I am completely overcome. I love writing poetry and am absolutely thrilled that the words have been put to music."

BBC Head of Yorkshire, Helen Thomas, said: Over the past five months we've met some incredible people from all over Yorkshire all with a story to tell. It has been a huge privilege and I hope everyone will enjoy listening and watching the symphony."

The Symphony can be heard on Sunday and listeners can tune into BBC Radio Leeds on 92.4FM, 95.3FM & DAB; BBC Radio Sheffield on 104.1FM, 88.6FM, 94.7FM and 1035AM & DAB; BBC Radio York on 103.7FM, 104.3FM and 95.5FM; and BBC Radio Humberside on 95.9 FM, 1485 AM and DAB.

Listeners can also follow the progress of the project on Facebook/Twitter and About The BBC blog. A film about the making of the Symphony will be broadcast on BBC Four in the autumn.

* The winning lyrics to go with the Symphony are:

Sing a song of Yorkshire, from the Humber to the Tees
Of horses, wool and terriers, of pudding and of cheese
I know no other county where the land is quite so fine
England's lovely county. And I'm proud to call it mine

Where shining purple heather stretches far across the moor
And the lapwing's cry above me takes the place of traffic roar
And peace comes drifting gently, there's no place I'd rather be
Than this land of hills and valleys, from the Pennines to the sea

So when I've done my roaming, and when my step grows slow
When heart and mind assure me that the time has come to go
Then let me rest in Yorkshire, for its there I want to lie
'Neath sun and wind and heather... and a gleaming Yorkshire sky

Lyricist Doreen Brigham

Mrs Doreen Brigham is the competition winner who penned the lyrics for the new Symphony for Yorkshire.
A 98-year-old great grandmother from Harrogate, she was born in Farnley, Otley in February 1912 – two months before the sinking of the Titanic.

An only child, her parents then moved to Burley in Wharfdale, and it was here that she spent most of her youth and teenage years.

Her son Nick said: "Doreen has always been something of a free spirit, maintaining a fierce sense of independence since the 1920s when she was an unrepentant flapper!"

Doreen was 17 when her father bought their first car. It was 1929 and she was one of the first people in her village to drive. It was in the days before driving tests and, up until a recent illness; Doreen could still be seen driving around town – over 80 years without a driving test.

She also had no qualms about taking to the skies in a bi-plane flown by her cousin, who subsequently held the world air speed record in 1945.

Things settled down for a while when she married her husband Joe at the age of 21 in 1933. A bank clerk from Bradford, he was posted to Hertford not long after they wed and both were ‘heartbroken' to leave their beloved Yorkshire.

Her indomitable spirit was tested again when war came and Joe was posted to India serving in the Royal Army Ordnance corps. With her first baby, two evacuees and rationing, it was hard times for Doreen.

Life got back to normal after the war and, in 1947, her son Nick was born. The family moved to Surrey for Joe's job and then back again to Hertford. But their hearts belonged to Yorkshire and, when Joe retired in 1965, they took the first opportunity to move back. They settled in a bungalow they had build in Clint, where Doreen, who was sadly widowed in 1973, has been for the past 45 years.

Although a recent illness has left her frailer than of late, her son Nick says that it hasn't diminished her spirit and she is as much of a "character" as ever. She loves gardening and, inspired by her surroundings on her return to Yorkshire, took up writing poetry. Indeed poetry must run in the family, as Nick is himself a published poet, with a recent anthology entitled 'Stuff that Rhymes'.

Doreen beat 150 other entries to have her poem turned into the lyrics to accompany the new Symphony for Yorkshire.

The judging panel included poet Ian McMillan, author Gervase Phinn and composer of the symphony, Benjamin Till.

Benjamin said: "The quality of the entrants overall was really high but this poem is actually magical. What I liked about these lyrics in particular was the honesty and emotion, that when I read it out loud I actually felt a lump in my throat. The words are touching and moving without being cloying and over sentimental. It really is lovely and very fitting for the county."

Doreen's son, Nick, is also incredibly proud: "The poem has struck such a chord with everyone. I am so pleased to know that she has produced something that will be remembered and live on after she is no longer with us. That thought has given her so much pleasure."

Composer – Benjamin Till

A Symphony for Yorkshire has been brought to life by 35-year-old composer and director, Benjamin Till
Born in the Midlands, he trained as a composer at York University and feels he has a special affinity with the area.

He said: "Yorkshire is the place where I learnt to compose and every time I have worked in the county, I have been bowled over by the fact there is an openness here and people seem to have an extraordinary sense of belonging. I can only hope that by producing this piece of music in celebration of Yorkshire that I have done the county proud."

Mentored by celebrated playright Sir Arnold Wesker – who is considered one of the key figures in 20th Century drama – and supported by actor Matt Lucas, Benjamin worked in the West End and in Opera for 10 years as a director and composer before entering a competition run by BBC London to create a film about a community in the capital.

Shot in one day, Hampstead Heath The Musical won the competition and was nominated for an RTS award. The project led to Benjamin being commissioned by Channel 4 to write a Busker Symphony and then A1 the Road Musical which was also nominated for a top documentary award.

"Working on the A1 Musical brought me back to Yorkshire and I realised at that point that I wanted to return to do something else up here"

More work came along via the BBC and Ben was asked to compose Watford Gap The Musical and a Coventry Market – a musical celebrating the iconic indoor market's 50th anniversary.

Benjamin has now dedicated his career to working with communities across the country, making musical films with strong documentary aspects, which are filled with joy and celebrate life and togetherness.

Five months ago, the call came to return to one of his favourite parts of the country and A Symphony for Yorkshire was born.

He said: "This has been the most difficult, complicated and ambitious project that I have ever undertaken. It is on a scale that surpasses anything I have ever done. It has been incredibly hard work but ultimately hugely rewarding.

"There have been some moments when I was happier working on this project than I've ever been in my life – filming at Spurn Head, going under the Humber Bridge on motorised dinghies, watching a street procession in Sheffield.

"Overall, I really hope the finished product is worthy of all the hard work by every single person that has been involved. This film is about people doing their absolute best – and we are striving for excellence – This is a postcard from Yorkshire in July 2010 to the rest of the world."


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