Made for BBC Yorkshire, and featuring 270 musicians of all ages, abilities and backgrounds from across the four counties of Yorkshire. The work won a Prix de Circom and was nominated for 5, and won three Royal Television Society (RTS) awards.
A Yorkshire-wide competition was launched to find a lyricist for the work, which was won by 98-year old Doreen Brigham from Harrogate. Her “Sing a Song of Yorkshire” became the basis for the fourth movement of the work. The symphony was filmed in 42 locations.
A series of auditions were held in York, Hull, Leeds, Sheffield, Bradford and Huddersfield. Musicians chosen came from a wide variety of backgrounds including jazz, folk, classical, rock and world music. Alongside a host of conventional orchestral instruments, the work also features two brass bands, a ukulele orchestra, a group of Columbian drummers, a rock band, a mambo duo, an autoharp, a musical saw, a Wurlitzer, a home-made harp, two rappers, a burlesque performer, a drag queen, a male voice choir, an early music choir, steel drums, 2 African drummers, a wash-board, a human ocarina and the York Minster carillon bells. Benjamin carefully composed a work which allowed all musicians to play in a style that suited them.
Much of the second movement was based on two original folk melodies from the region, which Benjamin discovered in the dusty archives at Cecil Sharp House in Camden. The darker third movement is based on a folk poem from Robin Hood’s Bay.
The piece was recorded, mixed and mastered at Purple Pro Studios in Leeds during the hottest two weeks of 2010 by Hazel Plummer, Simon Wake and Bruce Wood. It was conducted by Daniel Parkinson and musically supervised by Nathan Taylor.
It received its TV premier during the first week of August on Look North and BBC Breakfast. Its radio premier happened on August 1st, Yorkshire Day, in a simultaneous broadcast made by BBC Sheffield, York, Leeds and Hull.
Benjamin has subsequently given the work to the people of Yorkshire. Versions of Sing a Song of Yorkshire have been performed by the Millhouse Green Male Voice Choir and the Dore Male Voice Choir, and Benjamin has written a version for brass band, which he has presented to Stannington Brass band, with his love and admiration.