Two universities, two continents, 150 individual submissions: Video of virtual choir connects continents

Posted on August 09, 2020

The UK’s Barnsley Youth Choir and the University of Pretoria’s Tuks Camerata have proven that distance and even a global pandemic can’t stop them from singing together.

On 9 August 2020, the two choirs released a video of them singing the Carly Simon hit Let the River Run, and features about 150 vocalists and instrumentalists who recorded individual videos in and around their homes. These were carefully mixed to produce the final track.

“There are few friendships as special as the one shared between Tuks Camerata and the entire Barnsley Youth Choir organisation,” said Dr Michael Barrett, Tuks Camerata’s musical director. “When our trip was cancelled this year, we were determined to still ‘meet’, as this has been a tradition since we first met several years ago. This video serves as both a memoir of an incredible bond between two organisations and a reminder of the kind of beauty that can be created even in the most trying times.”

It was at a friendship concert during the European Choir Games in Riga, Latvia in 2017 that the two choirs first sang Let the River Run together. Despite both choirs winning first prize – the coveted international Grand Prix – in their categories, they believe that working with one another was the highlight of the trip.

“This summer, Barnsley was supposed to be welcoming the award-winning Tuks Camerata – one of the finest choirs in the world – for a series of events and concerts,” says Dr Barrett. “This trip was due to take place before the choirs travelled to represent their respective countries in the World Choir Games in Flanders, Belgium. Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that all these plans had to be postponed.”

Mat Wright, artistic director of the Barnsley Youth Choir, said the video has been an amazing project to be a part of, and that the choirs wanted to produce a fun, enjoyable recording that would make people smile. “We were devastated not to be spending this summer working with our special friends from Tuks Camerata and their inspirational conductor, Dr Michael Barrett. All of our young people have loved getting involved in this video. It recognises the friendship and close bond between our two choirs, and reminds us that singing and music are powerful tools to inspire and connect communities, perhaps something that we need now more than ever.”

The Barnsley Youth Choir (left) and the University of Pretoria’s Tuks Camerata (right).

He also expressed his admiration for Tuks Camerata. “Working regularly with Tuks and Michael has had the most profound impact on the Barnsley Youth Choir for the past four yearsthey are the most magical and exceptional choir, and Michael is rightly revered as one of the very finest conductors and musicians in the world. It has been such a privilege to learn from him.”

“Mat Wright has been such an inspiration to me, and the impact that the Barnsley Youth Choir has had on Tuks is immeasurable,” adds Dr Barrett. “This outstanding ensemble moves communities all over the world, both on and off stage. The Barnsley Youth Choir embodies the true meaning of community, and their conductor is a world-class musician, and a true humanitarian.”  

For more information about Tuks Camerata, visit, and for more on the Barnsley Youth Choir, go to

- Author Department of University Relations, University of Pretoria

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