A WOKING College student and her brother are in line to appear in the final of Britain’s Got Talent on Saturday as part of the Chineke! Junior Orchestra.

The 65-strong orchestra were voted into the semi-finals earlier this month and are hoping the public vote has secured them a place in the final.

Coronavirus restrictions meant that only 10 of the musicians could be “live” on stage in the semi-final. One of these was Imaan Kashim, 16, who started studying for her A-levels at Woking College last month. The others, including her harpist brother Jamaal, 13, were shown behind them on a grid of screens having pre-recorded their parts.

Imaan told the News & Mail that despite the restrictions, the whole orchestra felt very connected.

“The experience was a wonderful opportunity and I learnt so much preparing for the performances and working in a studio with camera and stage crew.

“It was pretty amazing to have the chance to perform at ITV studios. I loved the special effects with dry ice and fireworks going off around us; we don't get that often when we perform.

“Chineke! is about showcasing the talents of Black, Asian and ethnically diverse people within classical music and BGT has given the Chineke! Junior orchestra a chance to share the message that classical music is open to everyone.

“It's really important that people see others in their own image doing this, and it's equally important that visibility is built to normalise this image to peoples outside of those communities too. There is a lot of work to be done, but BGT feels like a big step because it is a huge platform.”

Jamaal said: “It was so exhilarating to be on Britain's Got Talent. There was all this excitement about being in a studio and having cameras and the judges in front of us in the first round, but when we began playing, the music making took over and it was just about us as an orchestra.”

Imaan and Jamaal’s mother, Sara Rahman, accompanied them to the auditions, which were filmed in February.

“It was a really long day but so exciting,” Sara said. “They got to rehearse on stage before the audition and I could feel the buzz among all the children.”

Sara and 19 other parents were given one of the individual screens shown behind the stage so they could watch the semi-final.

“It was a phenomenal day and surreal watching them on TV,” she said.

“There was a real sense that they were creating something spectacular; they are representing a very under-represented group of children in classical music.”

Imaan and Jamaal were twice named Chamber Musicians of the Year at Woking Music Festival.

Sara said the children’s musical abilities were sparked by Stepping Notes in Englefield Green, where toddlers are introduced to pulse and rhythm, giving them an ear for music before they even pick up an instrument.

They occasionally perform with their seven-year-old sister Anaiyah, who plays the cello.

Sara said Anaiyah was enormously proud of seeing her siblings on TV and added: “She’s talking about auditioning for Britain’s Got Talent next year but can’t decide whether it will be as a comedian, magician or singer.”

For more on this story, see the 8 October edition of the News & Mail