Monday, 14 October 2019

At the Manchester Monastery 13 October 2019

“I’d love to be with you when you walk into the Nave,” says the volunteer who greets me when I arrive. “You’ll find it quite a sight.”   

The café is already buzzing and quite a few people are already making their way towards the main event.  Twelve choirs will sing today. 

Oh yes. The volunteer is right.  The monastery has been beautifully restored. Franciscans first came to Gorton in 1861. They wanted to create a great friary at the heart of the community. Architect Edward Pugin designed the monastery in 1866. He is associated with sacred geometry.  We may not understand what that is, but one thing is sure: the St Francis Monastery at Gorton, Manchester, is a fantastic place to sing in. Today it is lit with soft pink and violet lights. That goes nicely with our uniform, thank you! 

We’re able to listen to other choirs and then it’s our turn. The audience really appreciate Bridge Over Troubled Water. We offer another well-known song: The Water is Wide. Sway manages to go faster and faster just like it should. Then we finish with feel-good Everything I Do. 

Then it’s time for a round of drinks and snacks. Some of us manage to see a few more of the other choirs. It is always great at events like this how the choirs support each other. This was quite an informal gathering. A really lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon. 

Occasionally we hear a song that we know as well, or at least another version of it. Another choir declare that they have cake in the break during rehearsals and that’s what keeps them going. That sounds familiar!  

Finally it is time for all the choirs to sing together.  It’s one we know. What a Wonderful World.  It certainly is on days like this. 

Thank you so much to those who organised this. A fantastic day indeed.              

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Buxton Fringe 20 July 2019

We do cake!
The Fringe is alive and vibrant as ever despite the early morning rain. My sat nav brings me  via a crazy route and gets me there twenty minutes early. In time, in fact, to see the East Kent Morris Dancers cross the road in front of the United Reformed Church. Ooh.  Are they going to dance outside the church? Will it be a problem?  Of course it won’t.  We have rhythm and music as well.   

It’s still raining as folk begin to arrive, some anxious that there may not be any tickets left and others clutching the print outs of their advance booking. Meanwhile inside our gang is busy setting out teacups and the cakes, and, of course, rehearsing. 

“Don’t worry,” I say to those assembled in the lobby. “There’s room for all.”   
Our reviewer attends this first concert. You can read the full review here.  (You’ll need to scroll down).

We sing for an hour, an hour which just flies by. There are some songs they’ve heard before and plenty of new ones as well. Jeff puts us through our paces with The Water is Wide, The Blessing, Cool Moon, Poor Wayfaring Stranger, Over the Rainbow, I Say a Little Prayer, Somewhere Out There, I Got Rhythm, One Day Like This, Fix You, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Everything I Do, I Do it for You, Kiss the Girl and Here Comes the Sun. Amanda and Helen are our soloists.

Then the elves get busy again. There are cakes and tea aplenty. We also treat (well we enjoy it anyway) our audience to Sway as they eat and drink.  

The Fringe moves on. Minutes after we’ve cleared up another group arrives with a harpsichord and I exchange notes with their organiser about the fun that is the Buxton Fringe. As we stroll around in the now reasonably sunny Buxton we come across all kinds of interesting performances. 

Soon it is time to make our way to St Mary’s where we enjoy a very warm welcome. The tables are set up ready for the cake and the water is boiling. It’s a lovely place to sing and we recognise some regulars in the audience. 

Again the hour passes very quickly and soon we’re into cake and tea again. “I must help you to clear up this cake,” says one of our fans, taking another slice.

Our audiences are lovely and it’s always great to chat to them after our performance. We’ve also had, as ever, enthusiastic support from local businesses and organisations  who’ve taken and displayed our leaflets. 

Some of us go on to eat at the Tap House. Well it’s a brewery outlet and so it is noisy but the food is fine and the beer pretty good as is the company, of course. The staff are friendly, and hardworking.  
And outside the East Kent Morris Dancers are performing.      


Wednesday, 9 January 2019

News January 2019

Happy New year to all of our members, fans and followers.
2018 was quite a year:
Take a look at our blog and Facebook page to get a flavour of it all.  
We had a very full house at our first rehearsal of the year yesterday and wasn’t it good to get back together and sing after a two week break.    
Before the rehearsal our committee met and 2019 is already filling up. Here are some firm dates:
3 March the MACC  The Manchester Amateur Choral Competition. Read more about it here.   The general  public can purchase tickets and if you enjoy listening to choirs this is a real treat. A whole day of it for a very reasonable price.  And we’d love to see your friendly face in the audience.  

29-31 March  Rome Yes, some of us are off to Rome. One of our members has contact with a choir there and so we’re delighted to be working with the Coro della Colina. Extra rehearsals for some of us now!

15 June Chorlton Choirs festival We’ll again be taking part in this festival. It is a relaxed, quite informal occasion and was really good fun last year. It is open to a public audience. Details to follow.

6 July  We’re off to the Llangollen Eisteddfod for the whole day. We’re not competing but we’re performing. This is a public-facing event. If you happen to be there that day, look out for us.

13 July Swinton Grove Family Fun Day. We’ll be there right at the beginning, helping to open the event.  We’ve attended this event many times before and it’s lovely.  Good food including excellent ice cream on offer.  If you come along, you may be able to combine it with a visit to the Gaskell House.     

20 July Buxton Fringe Festival  Again we offer two concerts: 11.00 a.m. at the United Reformed Church and 3.00 p.m. at St Mary’s. Tickets are already on sale. More details here.  This is one of our A Cappella and cake events so you’ll also be able to enjoy some delicious snacks. The Buxton Fringe anyway is full of delightful entertainment.  Take a look at their brochure.  Items are being added constantly.   

Some of our events are still under discussion and awaiting confirmation.  These include charity concerts, community events, workshops and no doubt plenty of Christmas activity in December and late November.  Watch this space. 


Monday, 17 December 2018

Carols at Buile Hill Park, Sunday 16 December 2018

Yes, that’s us! 

Greater Manchester has a lot of green spaces and Salford has its fair share. Many are in need of a little TLC and it has largely fallen to local residents to take on this task. The Friends of Buile Hill Park are certainly very active. Just look at their latest news. 

And what a cheery place the croquet pavilion was on a cold dark day before Christmas. Prettily decorated tables, warm drinks, mince pies, Christmas biscuits and Stollen.

Should we sing inside or out? 

“We thought we’d leave that open. It depends on the weather.”

“The rain’s not due until three.”

So, outside it was. 

We attracted a small but lovely audience. It was mixture of those folk had already been getting everything ready in the pavilion and footfall of dog-walkers, pram-pushers and families out for a Sunday afternoon stroll.    

We sang for half an hour, a mixture of well-known carols that everyone could join in with, some other Christmas songs and one or two items from our normal repertoire. 

Then we all went indoors for more tea and treats. We gave out song sheets so that everyone could join in with some old favourites like Frosty the Snow Man and Jingle Bell Rock. We were about to finish but weren’t quite allowed to.  

“We’ve had a request,” said Jeff. Of course. We just had to do it. The Twelve Days of Christmas. Actions and all. 

I noticed one young mum singing with gusto.  We chatted afterwards about the joy of singing. It’s a great pity she’s occupied with a cub pack on a Tuesday. 

“That was a lovely cup of tea,” I said to one of the Friends.  

“Would you like another?”

I declined but was persuaded to take another slice of the delicious Stollen.  

There was talk as we left of doing it again next year or maybe even having a picnic in the summer. Why wouldn’t we?  We love to sing and we love to support other local groups.       

Monday, 15 October 2018

Victoria Baths 14 October 2018

Victoria Baths plays with the senses

It said the water was six foot deep near where we stood. Just in line of sight was the sign indicating four foot. Our audience stood at the shallow end or sat on the viewing balcony above. 
When we started there were just three people but by the time we'd finished the first song of our first set there was a substantial crowd. A warm, appreciative crowd. 

It was the food festival.  Lucky for us there was enough time between the first and the second set to sample some of the goodies. What to choose though? Gorgeous, naughty cakes?  Pizza coked in a wood-fired oven?  Mauritian food? Curry?  Flavours of the Deep South? A regular café and bar was in operation as well.  

As I wandered round trying to make my mind up, a man stopped me.  "You're with the choir, aren’t you? When are you singing again?" 

I nodded. I guess the black outfit and the purple flower were the giveaway. "2.30, I believe. Though it may change." It did. We were asked to push our second performance back to 2.45. I gave him an update. I noticed him and his companions later when we sang our second set. 

Victoria Baths plays with the senses. In a nice way. It was grey outside at first which meant that it was chilly in the bath. Then the sun came out and was warm through the glass. The light is always extraordinary in this building, different, though according to the outside weather.  This time we had also the smells and tastes of some lovely food.  I hope we contributed well to the sound. A couple of times I heard that glorious echo.

Our second set was substantially different from the first one though there was some overlap – Bridge Over Troubled Water and Everything I do, for instance. All pieces, both times, with which we are very familiar. 

It was a slick affair. Everyone worked well together. This is of course one of the joys of belonging to a choir. 

And Victoria Baths feels like home.              

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Singing at Fountains Abbey 6 October 2018

You can see the breath of the singers, it is so cold in the abbey as it gets dark at the end of this fine autumn day.  But it's not too cold. We're well wrapped up and when you're absorbed in the music you don't notice anymore. 

Goodness, we have an audience even for the warm-up. By the time we get to the performance the place is pretty full.  Then part way through I notice even more chairs to the side, also full. 

There are quite a few of our friends, family and fans in the auditorium but also many National Trust members and visitors. Occasionally, too, a ghostly face appears at one of the glass-less windows. Probably National Trust volunteers just peering in. They might, of course, be other-worldly. Whoever they are, they seem to enjoy our performance.  

And outside in the dark we get glimpses of torches, rainbow wheels and even a dog wearing lights. Later he comes into the hall and joins in the singing – just a little, and it doesn't detract.    
It's good as ever to sing with our friends from Blackburn People'sChoir. Together we are able to offer a mixed repertoire – including amongst others the more serious In Remembrance and The Blessing, popular songs like Bridge Over Troubled Water, Everything I do, I Will,  Say a Little Prayer, and Here Comes the Sun and the fun but challenging Sway. The audience want an encore, so we give them Kiss the Girl. 

The National Trust looks after us well. There are quite a few Ordsall members there when Blackburn People's Choir arrive, glorious in their black and red, and then more of Ordsall come along. Undaunted, our guide for the day leads us down to the abbey. At one point I think I see a monk in front. Has our guide put something over her uniform? Is it a ghost? Do they have monks here? I blink and he has gone. We discuss this later. 

"A volunteer actor, I should think," says an Ordsall member who volunteers at another National Trust property. Most likely. Well, whoever it was was convincing.    

There is just time to grab some tea and a bite to eat before we begin rehearsing.  

The hour goes by quickly and then we must make our way back up the steep path toward the car park. They warned us to bring torches and it is now obvious why. Yet these tiny lights and the ones on the foot path cause little light pollution. You can certainly see the stars here. Anyway, star-gazing is a good excuse to stop and get your breath back.      
A brave soul who walks with a stick has paused for a rest on a bench half way up. "You must be the choir," he says. "That was glorious." 

"He's a singer, himself," says his companion. 

"This is my birthday treat," he says.  "You made my day."

Nice to know, but actually he made our day by saying that. 

It's a long round trip and we get frost warnings in our cars as we drive home. But it has certainly been worth it. We hope we can come again – either to sing or to be an audience for another choir.