Young voices on song

How to join SCJC

If your child is aged between 3 and 18 years and likes to sing, parents are invited to get in touch.
Little Choir – 3-6 years old. Singing and rhymes which are excellent for developing early literacy and numeracy skills, as well as promoting social skills and building confidence.
Middle Choir – 6-9 years old. Simple choral repertoire, carefully selected to suit the range and tone of developing voices, building a variety of musical skills through lively singing games and rhymes.
Main Choir – 9-18 years old. The repertoire is carefully selected to best engage young singers, while also allowing them to develop a sound vocal technique. Skills in part-singing are honed, providing a professional finish envied by all who hear the choir sing.

Words by:
Barbara Young
Featured in:
March 2023

The Scunthorpe Co-operative Junior Choir is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, with a commemorative gala concert this month. Barbara Young looks back at its achievements.

Founded 100 years ago, the Scunthorpe Co-operative Junior Choir has long been recognised for growing musical talent over the years, with an impressive list of successful graduates who have been part of the group’s many treasured memories and accolades.

The choir, which aims to provide an outstanding musical education to the young people of North Lincolnshire and surrounding areas, has more than delivered on its ambitions over the years. Today it provides regular and affordable Friday night activity close to Scunthorpe town centre, where choristers can meet and develop both musically and socially.

According to SCJC musical director Daniel Fields, the choir – which is built on the values of social inclusion, education and community – aims to seek out new opportunities, challenges and experiences to raise the skills, confidence and aspirations of all its choristers, both individually and as a choir.

“We pride ourselves on striving to provide a safe, conflict-free environment in which young people can forget their day-to-day anxieties, express their emotions musically and feel good about themselves,” explains Daniel.

“With the help of Lincs Lotto, we have established a Support Fund to assist any families struggling to pay membership costs and to offer sibling discounts to larger families. SCJC works in partnership with the North Lincs Music Education Hub Singing Strategy and provides singing workshops and events with local schools. We also continue to support the Scunthorpe Music Festival with our annual bursary for prizes.

“Chorister welfare is integral to all SCJC operations, and we work hard to support and protect all our choristers throughout their membership years. We also provide volunteer opportunities to our parents and older choristers, many of whom choose to stay on and volunteer with us long after their vocal or parent role has ended. SCJC is proud to be a part of Scunthorpe’s social history and remains a positive arts ambassador for the town when performing locally to residents, or in civic venues across the country, or on musical tours abroad.”

The organisation now boasts around 200 members across two training choirs and one main choir covering ages 3 to 19. As an open access organisation, the only criteria for getting involved with SCJC are a passion for singing and commitment to attending.

The choir’s professional music team, which includes associate musical directors Kathleen Watson and Jenny Trattles, ex-choristers themselves, is dedicated to inspiring the best in young people while also harnessing their potential to create a world class choral sound, as well as providing exciting performance opportunities and enriching life experiences regionally, nationally and abroad.

Daniel says: “Anyone who wants to can come and sing with us. The training choirs perform local concerts throughout the year, preparing them for life in the main choir where they will have the opportunity to sing across the country, with foreign tours every other year taking them all over the world.

“All the conductors at SCJC are firmly of the belief that anyone who wants to should be allowed the opportunity to sing, and we encourage anyone interested to get in touch and come along for a rehearsal.”

History highlights
According to records, the date of the choir’s origin lies between 1923 and 1926. Local studies have confirmed that the ‘Junior Choir’ was formed with supporting interest of The Scunthorpe Co-operative Society Education Committee, and the Lincolnshire Co-op continues to support the choir through its Community Support Fund to this day.

Testimonial evidence suggests the original intention was for choristers to move on to their respective adult choirs after singing with the Junior Choir.

The first conductor was Denman (Danny) Leeman, who had recently formed the Scunthorpe Male Voice Choir and Ladies Choir. Danny and his wife, who was the accompanist, established the choir and choristers had to audition to join.

Records show that, by 1926, 100 children were regularly attending rehearsals and enjoying success in music festivals and competitions in Hull and Bradford. The choir’s rich and impressive heritage was further confirmed with its first radio broadcast in 1934 and it continued to run throughout World War II, albeit with reduced numbers.

In 1951, the choir featured on BBC radio’s Children’s Hour in a concert at the Jubilee Cinema in Scunthorpe and were also Festival of Britain competition winners, while 1961 saw the first trip to Lüneburg in Germany for the town twinning.

The choir’s reputation continued to grow over the next 30 years and in 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000 and 2002, the choir achieved success either as a semi-finalist, or finalist in the Sainsbury’s Choir of The Year Competition broadcast on BBC radio.

The 1990s also saw the choir perform at the VE Day 50th anniversary in London’s Hyde Park, as well as at the opening of the Millennium Dome, while large-scale singing events directed by Sue Hollingworth commenced for North Lincolnshire schools.

awarded a British Empire Medal in 2019 for services to music and the community in Scunthorpe. She still has an active role with SCJC as creative director.

In 2000, the choir took part in the torch processions at the Sydney Olympics and were winners of the BBC Look North Community Choir Competition (2001).

Memorial Service at Westminster (2002) and celebrations of the tour to France in Paris (2005) before being crowned overall winner of BBC Radio 3’s Choir of the Year competition in 2008.

Following Covid restrictions and lockdowns, last year the choir featured in Snape Maltings’ Friday Afternoons Project and world premieres, as well as The Singing Isle Project at The Axholme Academy, a Whitby Tour and ‘Childhood’ Concert with Scunthorpe and District Choral Society, Lincoln Choral Society, and Lindsey Chamber Orchestra.

As well as the centenary concert, plans for this year include a joint concert with Doncaster Wheatsheaf Singers on 13th May, a day trip to Bridlington and concert in London (with London Youth Choirs) – 8th July, Centenary Gala Ball at Forest Pines on 4th November and a joint Concert with Scunthorpe Male Voice Choir on 18th November.

Talented team
SCJC is often contracted to work with “big name” companies such as the BBC, Oxford University Press and Snape Maltings in Suffolk. The choir works with internationally renowned composers and has recently given world and UK premieres on behalf of Bob Chilcott, Alan Bullard, and Joanna Lee, to name a few.

Musical director Daniel Fields – who is assistant head teacher at St Bede’s Catholic Voluntary Academy in Scunthorpe – was raised in Epworth, North Lincolnshire, developed a keen interest in music at an early age and graduated from the University of Huddersfield where he read music.

Daniel is also an organist at the Wesley Memorial Methodist Church in Epworth, working with a team of musicians to ensure high quality music for worship and civic occasions, and musical director of the Scunthorpe Male Voice Choir and conductor of the Lyndhurst Singers.

Future projects include a performance with Scunthorpe Co-operative Junior Choir at the Voices of London Festival alongside the Joyful Company of Singers (under founder conductor Peter Broadbent) and a centenary commission from Bob Chilcott.

Membership benefits
SCJC has survived one World War and one global pandemic and proudly boasts 100 years of continuous singing.

“Like many other youth groups, membership ebbs and flows with fluctuations in birth rates and trends,” says Daniel.

“The largest membership was the year we won BBC Radio 3 Choir of the Year 2008 with 130-plus singing Main Choir – this was the period when it took two coaches to get to all our events and concerts out of Scunthorpe.

“Membership was hit hard by lockdown. Some of our young members opted out of Zoom rehearsals and virtual recordings, however for others (staff included) they were a lifeline, and we looked forward to the boxes of smiling faces on Zoom each Friday, incorporating songs, games and quizzes, as well as live interviews with composers and conductors from the choral world, who were also at home not doing much!

“We survived with a strong core and are slowly recovering numbers with lots of recruitment events, school workshops and open rehearsals.”

SCJC committee chair Jacqui Brewster’s role began as a parent, bringing first her youngest daughter to sing in the Main Choir, aged nine, followed by her oldest daughter, who then brought along her two school friends.

“I was happy to get roped in to help on the registration desk, with sorting music, making tea and chaperoning at events and concerts,” says Jacqui. “Both my daughters are now grown up (and still singing) and alongside my role as SCJC chair, I’m still at choir most Friday evenings along with a fantastic team of committed parent volunteers (some once in choir themselves), on whose support the choir both survives and thrives.”

Jacqui points out that singing has social and emotional benefits, releasing hormones that improve feelings of wellbeing.

“It is a mindful activity that you need to concentrate on, and therefore forget any problems. Being part of a choir can reduce feelings of loneliness and gives young people a chance to make new friends who may have similar interests.

“Research shows that singing synchronises heartbeats and can be a calming experience. Singing can build confidence – even the shyest of members have gone on to sing a solo part. Singing is fun, the smallest choristers learn to sing through playing games, and singing has been proven to improve your immune system [Sing Up Foundation].

“We have invited SCJC alumni to sing at our Gala Concert in March and have had over 30 signed up so far – they can’t wait to get up and sing with SCJC again!”

Join a historic and celebratory night with VOCES8 on Saturday 25th March
Tickets £20/ Concession £15 (plus booking fee)
Book tickets via the Baths Hall Box Office,
tel: 01724 296296 /
For more information visit the SCJC website

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