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ONYC member celebrates chart hit


A member of the Opera North Youth Chorus is celebrating chart success this week with a track she sang to help promote Christmas shopping in a West Yorkshire town.

Sixteen-year-old Sylvia Cullen recorded a version of 'The Oak & The Ash' as the soundtrack for Otley Town Council's Christmas advert - and, this week, the song entered the charts at number 35 in the iTunes singer/songwriter category. 

Sylvia comments:

It was a lovely surprise to be asked to sing the Otley Christmas song and I didn't imagine that it would have the success that it is doing. A chart placing never even crossed my mind, but it's wonderful that everyone's hard work on this project is being recognised and that as much money, from sales, is being raised for charity as possible. 

Otley's Christmas track is a seasonal arrangement by Sally Egan of an old English folk song which was once a hit for Marianne Faithfull. Sally also provides the backing vocals. All of the profits from its sales will be going to the Otley Town Mayor's Charity Appeal, 14+1, which benefits fourteen local charity and community organisations, as well as helping to raise money for a memorial to the people, places and pilots connected to the Avro aircraft factory in Yeadon.

The haunting song accompanies a short film showing a young man working in London but dreaming of spending Christmas back in Otley. As he spends lonely evenings eating ready meals and watching films, his mother is seen stocking up for the festivities at Otley's friendly independent shops, chatting to local residents and singing with her friends in a traditional Yorkshire pub. Sylvia continues:

Otley is a really lovely market town that has a real sense of community that I have always enjoyed being a part of - first as Otley carnival queen when I was younger and now in promoting its wonderful local business with the 'come to Otley' track. I hope that others are able to see what a beautiful place it is.

In the run-up to Christmas, the hope is that the song will go even higher in the charts, raising valuable funds for charity as well as promoting Sylvia's home town as widely as possible. Anyone wishing to purchase the track can do so as a digital download via iTunes or Spotify. 

Sylvia continues to perfect her singing skills with the Opera North Youth Chorus. The ONYC helps young people aged 14–19 to develop their singing voices, musicianship and stagecraft in weekly sessions run by professional artists. More information can be found at

Photo credits: Visit Otley
Opera North Youth Chorus: Justin Slee

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