Upbeat: Northern airs

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The Independent Culture
IT CAN be done: a choir just over one year old has already made its national television debut (in last Sunday's BBC 2 Counterpoint), qualified for the youth quarter-finals in the Sainsbury's Choir of the Year competition, and appeared with Prince Andrew to launch his Yellow Brick Road children's charity. Now it has been chosen to sing in the National Choral Festival on the South Bank next Wednesday. All this and being called Pongos, too.

The name emerged when pupils from schools in Ponteland and Gosforth, few with any experience of choral singing, came together under music director Richard Pomfret to form a joint choir numbering around 40. 'We meet to practise just once a week,' says Pomfret, a teacher of general subjects at Gosforth East Middle School who himself has no formal musical training. 'I treat the children like adults - I never let them think anything's difficult and make sure they get plenty of praise.'

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