GDST students – including BBC Young Chorister of the Year winner – sing at the Royal Academy of Music

Yesterday, the Girls’ Day School Trust hosted its annual GDST Sing! concert at the Royal Academy of Music in London. The event, which took place in the Academy’s flagship concert space, the Duke’s Hall, marked the first time that over 100 students from the Trust’s 25 schools across the UK have collaborated on a musical performance.

Talented young choristers, including Natalie Fooks, winner of the BBC 2023 Young Chorister of the Year competition and Sheffield Girls’ High School student, enjoyed a fun day of rehearsals with girls from their GDST sister schools. They then took to the stage to sing The Girl from Aleppo, a five-movement cantata by multi-award winning composer Cecilia McDowall. The Girl from Aleppo is based on the international best-selling book of the same name, which tells the story of Nujeen, a teenager with cerebral palsy who was forced by war to flee her home and travel 3,500 miles from Syria to Germany in a wheelchair pushed by her sister. The students’ moving performance helped to convey the message of hope behind Nujeen’s extraordinary story.

Young Chorister of the Year, Natalie, performed an ethereal solo rendition of For the beauty of the earth by John Rutter. It was a nod to her participation in the prestigious BBC competition as the Year 10 student sung another classic work by Rutter, All Things Bright and Beautiful, during the semi-final.

All of the GDST singers were conducted by Tori Longdon, Principal Conductor of the Covent Garden Chorus and Assistant Conductor of the National Youth Training Choir. Ms Longdon has been described as a ‘musical force of nature’ and has travelled the world leading workshops, adjudicating competitions and working with young conductors.

This year’s Sing! concert was co-ordinated by Richard McElwaine, Director of Music at Northwood College for Girls, who worked alongside the external experts to encourage every student to step out of their comfort zone and collaborate with their peers.

GDST Chief Executive, Cheryl Giovannoni, said: “All of our young musicians have shown enthusiastic commitment to their rehearsals and incredible courage in singing at this historic venue. Their breathtaking performance of The Girl from Aleppo is powerful evidence that music can be used as an educational tool to break down barriers, and help our girls to better understand the experiences of young people from different parts of the world.”

GDST Sing Juniors! will return in 2025 to provide the youngest musicians from the GDST family with their own opportunity to come together, learn through music and build their confidence.

About the GDST

The Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST) is the UK’s leading family of 25 girls’ schools including 23 independent schools and two academies. The GDS reinvests all its income in its schools. Founded in 1872, the GDST has a long history of pioneering innovation in the education of girls. For a list of GDST schools go to