Sunday 4 June 2017

On Tour in Cyprus with Blackburn People’s Choir 27 May to 3 June 2017

Manchester Airport, early – very early – 27 May 2017. You can spot fellow joint choir members a mile away. It’s all that red and black. It looks so smart. It’s all so exciting.  

“What’s with all this red and black? Are you a hen party?” What? Gill, Gill, Pat, Shelagh, Sheila, Barbara, Anne, David, David, Michael, Chris, Joe, Jeff et al?

“No. we’re a choir?”

And didn’t they find out? The singing began as we waited at the gate to board the plane for Istanbul. This set the tone for the rest of the trip. There was a lot of singing. As well as the rehearsals and concerts we sang after meals in restaurants, as we walked through the streets of Famagosta and at other airport gates.                    

But oh, the joy of international travel.
“Do not worry, Madam,” they cried.
“We’ll upgrade you to business class.”
But then they stuck me back in economy.
Complimentary upgrade, my arse!

At Istanbul there was further woe,
No seat for me on the plane.
So we refused to board
And sang in protest, again and again and again.”

Well, the power of music, you see. We all got there, worked and played hard, and got back safely home again.           

Other “found” words:


Gwe –en! Are we nearly there yet?

Gwe-en! This holiday’s all right. Beat. What’s going on?

To plan this itinerary was the one and only Gwen.  And Oh! What a job she’s done.

With apologies to Neil Diamond: Song, Sun, Blue.

Friends abound par excellence.  

Mountain View, you will last for the rest of our lives.       

The renegade group from the choir
Tried to sing higher and higher

OAS doo, doo, doo, doo
Like 2 B (PC) BESIDE THE C side

And what did this joint choir do?

In Salamis they sang from their Schlik,
In Kyrenia – raised cash for the sick
In old Famagosta
A great belly buster
Brought comfort to the wise and the thick.

Much of the above comes from a competition Gwen organised. Folk were invited to write a catch-phrase to encapsulate what this venture was all about. There was a very loose interpretation of “catch-phrase” and some very clever pieces emerged. Other words were simply overheard on the coach.  
I asked a few people what the highlights of the trip had been.

Answers included:

Singing at the restaurant with the sunset
The pirate boat trip
The big concert in the amphitheatre (where we raised over 5000 Turkish lira for the North Cyprus Cancer Charity Trust – about £1000)     
Singing in the Abbey  (Bellapais Monastery)


In fact, every single event was named by someone.

For me personally a great moment came as we walked off the stage at Famagosta and were warmly congratulated by the university choir who were about to come on. They know what we’re about so well. (I Know Him So Well) Language barriers or divided countries didn’t seem to be an issue in that moment.  

We sang One Day Like This and listened to the heart-felt applause after Jeff explained the connection with Manchester and why this song was important right now. That certainly brought a lump to the throat. A children’s choir also performed and were in the audience. Always, they started clapping as we were finishing the last bar of the piece.

A warm, warm audience, in any case, and another performance at the concert was by a trio: an Armenian, a Greek Cypriot and a Turkish Cypriot. No doubt everyone in that theatre wishes upon the same bright star and sleeps under the same big sky. (Somewhere Out There)        

There was that moment too as we sang after lunch when in the middle of Somewhere Out There, a bird flew out. Several people were in tears.    

Perhaps though the “friends abound par excellence” was the most important point. Ordsall A Cappella Singers and Blackburn People’s Choir have known each other for quite a while and even share a few members. Now we’re getting to know each other a lot better. And our voices are beginning to blend more closely as well.                      

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