A ROYAL Albert Hall performance by more than 600 Oxfordshire schoolchildren will forever be remembered by those lucky enough to be there.

More than 200 of the children taking part had special needs and disabilities and were buddied one-on-one with youngsters from mainstream schools through an initiative with the Oxfordshire County Music Service.

The Music Service’s Buddy Choir and Orchestra wowed the distinguished audience at the historic London venue on the last night of the Youth Proms in November.

And by the time they had finished with a performance of This Is Me from The Greatest Showman, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house judging from the feedback given to organisers

After watching the concert High Sheriff for Oxfordshire, Richard Venables, said: "I don’t think I have ever seen anything that was so professional, moving, fun or so big.

"I was so proud and humbled to have been able to watch this."

While local parent and SEND teacher Liz Holmes said: "[The performance was] very, very powerful.

"I teach children with special educational needs and to recognise so many students that I know performing on stage (and singing solo) was very, very special.

"I also know that my son gained a huge amount through being a Buddy.

"The friendships and learning worked in both directions. A staggering achievement."

Following the rousing performance, Cayenna Ponchionne-Bailey of the Royal Albert Hall Production Team told the Music Service team: "I am sure you are hearing this from every corner, but I was absolutely overwhelmed with the project.

"Three cheers for you and all those inspirational and incredible children."

Singers, performers and instrumentalists were involved in weeks of rehearsals leading up to the big event, with the help of Oxfordshire’s own John Lubbock OBE, of the famed Orchestra of St John.

He founded the charity Music for Autism with his wife after discovering the transformational impact that music had on their autistic son.

The performance started with a piece by the English composer Karl Jenkins, followed by a song composed by the children, some of whom are severely autistic.

For youngsters whose disability prevented them from travelling to London, a film was shown of them participating while the musicians played.

As a traded service, Oxfordshire County Music Service is supported by the county council, while much of its funding coming from grants including from Arts Council England.

Speaking after the concert, relationship manager at Arts Council England, Chloe Brookes, praised the Music Service buddying scheme saying: "It was brilliant, beautifully sang and performed, so moving and a really fantastic example of inclusive, high-quality work.

"Well done. I know how much work went into it and I think the people taking part got a huge amount out of it.

"I will be sharing it with colleagues here at ACE as a brilliant initiative."

And, with the strength of the feedback providing a ringing endorsement for the scheme, efforts, spearheaded by the Oxfordshire County Music Service, are under way to ensure a legacy is created from that magical, once-in-a-lifetime experience at the Royal Albert Hall in November.

Oxfordshire County Music Service’s head of service, Angela Turton, said: “There’s been a huge amount of feedback.

"I’ve received hundreds of emails, cards and letters from parents, schools and students.

“There’s a real demand for this collaboration to continue.

"We are working in close partnership with special schools across Oxfordshire to develop an annual festival.

“In addition, we are developing buddy ensembles, both instrumental and vocal, which will meet each half-term to create a sustainable ensemble along similar lines to the one that performed at the Royal Albert Hall.

"We’re determined to build a legacy from the huge success of this performance.”

The Music Service supports more than 8,000 children and young people each week and offers activities across a broad range of music genres – including three county orchestras, choirs, ensembles for specialist instruments, Early and Baroque music, junior and senior rock schools, music technology, songwriting clubs, Stringbabies classes for preschool and Reception children, a Dixieland jazz ensemble and four Big Bands.