Thursday 30 May 2013

Singing Backwards: A Month of Rehearsals, May 2013

Of course, I don’t actually mean singing backwards. I really mean singing facing backwards and actually that’s only those of us who are normally in the front row. Everyone else faces the same way as usual.
Jeff often gets us to do this when we’ve learnt something a little but are still not at all that sure of it. It’s an amazing thing to do, actually, because we’re singing to each other, getting eye contact and actually helping each other through the music. The big disadvantage for those of us in the front row is that we can’t see Jeff. But it turns into an advantage as we have to trust our friends from the back row to keep an eye on our musical director and give us the heads up about what he’s expecting.

Some fabulous music

We’re still working on the excellent arrangements of The Long and Winding Road and Here, There and Everywhere. We’re even blending them together. That’s complicated – fun and effective, but complicated.
A few more people are volunteering to try out the solo part in Longer. I wonder whether Jeff is actually really expecting us all to do it eventually. Gulp!
We’ve also worked quite a bit on And So it Goes. We’re revisiting and polishing Blue Skies, Deep River, Dance in the Street, Memories and Kum Ba Yah.
Older established ones are still practised: Nellie the Elephant, I think It’s Going to Rain Today and Wonderful World.
Pretty new are: Under the Boardwalk and Walk a Mile.

Ear-worms have their place

I often find that if I almost know something it will wake me in the night and I can’t sleep again until I’ve convinced myself I actually know it. Of course, I don’t – there are usually some problematic bars or a few of the words missing. I’ve even had to resort to getting up and going and having a look. Not good. And this was supposed to be a hobby?
There is of course, a better cure – learn it! So the next day I’ll go through it at least twelve times and sleep better the next night.     

Working hard   

We have to. We’ve so many important gigs coming up. We’re at a critical stage now. We go somewhere and folk like us and invite us somewhere else. We’ve got to make sure we’re at least as good the next time – if not better.          
“I’m being picky,” says Jeff as he makes us go through the diction or the phrasing of a particular line again and again. Well, thank goodness he is. We need to get it that right. And actually, if he’s going into that much detail, isn’t this a sign that we’re getting there?          

Wednesday 22 May 2013

Wilbraham St Ninian's Church : Friday May 10th

Finally finished work for today, so now I can sit and plan which cake I'm going to bake for our latest 'Acappella and Cake' event tomorrow!

We do seem to have hit on a winning format here - an hour or so of our now very varied repertoire followed by tea (or coffee) plus cake seems to work very well together.

Here are the details for tomorrow's event.

We're performing at :
Wilbraham St Ninian's Church, Wilbraham Road, Chorlton. M21 0XJ

Starting at 7:15pm.

Tickets are £5 (including tea/coffee and, of course, cake).

For more information: telephone 0161 973 6719

Sunday 19 May 2013

Singing for Alan Clague, Ceremonial Mayor of Salford, at Ordsall Hall

We continue to get to sing in some delightful places. Ordsall Hall was always beautiful but after its massive refurbishment, which was completed in 2011, it is truly splendid. The Victorian veneer has been removed and it now looks as it probably did when it was first built. The garden has been restored too and how fabulous that the purple of the flowers in front of the main entrance to the hall match our outfits.  
The very first time I attended a rehearsal was also the first time the group rehearsed in Ordsall Hall. Ah, those were the days, when I used to be an alto and sometimes worried that I’d be the only one. Those days are long gone: today there were seven tenors and goodness knows how many altos and sopranos – though we could do with a few more bases. I remembered those early days as I drove in today.
We are immensely touched and honoured that Cllr. Alan Clague invited us to sing at his ceremony. He’s been attending some of our rehearsals too and that has felt very supportive. As the new Ceremonial Mayor and his parade arrived in the Great Hall we welcomed them with Deep River and Wonderful World. It was so good to sing in that fine acoustic space again. We didn’t see any of the ghosts, though, but they may have been listening. Who knows?    
Later, we sang outside, including:
Kiss the Girl
Nellie the Elephant
How much is that Doggie
Blue Skies
Imagine  - solo by Louisa Park       
The weather was kind to the new Ceremonial Mayor, to his guests and to us. it was good to be able to sit outside in the lovely garden. And we felt a little as if we had come back home. Ordsall Hall is an old and revered friend.                 

Monday 6 May 2013

A Month in Rehearsal: April 2013

Now that it’s getting slightly milder the door and the windows are open more often. On a good night, and most of them are, there are about forty of us in the room so it gets a little warm. Outside the birds compete or attempt to join in - I’ not sure which.  I often wonder what the residents of the Ordsall estate who live near to the Everyone Centre  make of this sound they hear every Tuesday evening. We hope they enjoy it and have their windows open too.  
Jeff is pushing us hard. But good. We’re ready for that. We seem to learn new songs more quickly now. We really can’t survive without working at least little between Tuesday night sessions. We’ve mastered The Long and Winding Road quite rapidly and brought it out in the recent performance at the Victoria Baths. Okay, it’s not the hardest song we’ve ever learnt but it isn’t the easiest either.
It isn’t just the singing, though. That’s almost the easy bit - we have some good voices, experienced singers and enthusiastic newcomers. We also work regularly on diction, phrasing, vowel sounds, facial expressions and presence. Every rehearsal starts anyway with the all-important breathing and voice warm up.
It pays off, this attention to detail. Our diction has been praised by judges at the Buxton Fringe and the MACC. I now notice some quite prestigious singers putting the last consonant of one word on the opening vowel of the next and it makes me cringe – then smirk. We know as well that when we brighten our eyes the singing sounds and feels better.
It is quite hard, however, when you try to remember everything at once: the words, where notes go up or down unexpectedly, to watch Jeff, to tell the story and to brighten your eyes. Jeff pulls a face and you think. Oh no, he means me. Thankfully in the break you find out that everyone had had that thought.
Ah, the breaks. News, tea and chat. And of course, Kerry’s cakes which get better and better when they were excellent to start with.
All the fun aside, rehearsals have been serious business with several new songs coming into our repertoire, some older ones being polished up and several recordings being made. Hard work. We wouldn’t be without it, though.                                    

At the Victoria Baths 5 May 2013

Yes, we’ve been doing it again. We’ve been singing in the bath. We’ve now performed at this beautiful old building half a dozen or so times. We always sing in one of the old pools. They are fortunately devoid of water but full of good acoustics. What shall we do if they ever put the water back?
The Victoria Baths is another place worthy of a visit for the Manchester tourist. It was opened in 1906 and is still splendid with its many period decorative features:- stained glass, terracotta tiles and mosaic floors. It is currently undergoing extensive restoration and each time we visit we see small improvements. There was a little sun yesterday and it brought out the best in the leaded windows and skylights.
About two thirds of our members were there yesterday and we had a good balance of the four parts. We aired some current repertoire and again started with Dance in the Street. That worked so well in this space. Nellie the Elephant was trundled out. That’s usually popular with the little ones though the adults seemed to enjoy it this time too. We performed The Long and Winding Road for the first time in public. It’s a lovely song, anyway, and this particular arrangement suits our voices. Gwen Sangster took the solo parts in Longer. We also resurrected an old favourite – Joshua – the one where we do the scary eyes.
We did two slots and it was good in the break to look at some of the exhibits. This included the information about the restoration of the Gaskell House, another brave project and we hope that once it’s finished we may get to sing there also.
We almost lost our musical director, Jeff Borradaile, though. He’d managed to get locked into our practice room where he’d taken a nap. Jeff was completely unfazed, of course. We just thought we might have to sing in the corridor. However, someone came with a key.     
Sampling the cake was also an activity during the break. Cake is always important to the Ordsall Acappella Singers and the Victoria Baths’ ones are to be recommended, as is their tomato and basil soup.
Thanks to the Victoria Baths for having us and to their lovely visitors who were so appreciative.                           

Wednesday 1 May 2013

At the Royal Exchange 26 April 2013

The Royal Exchange must be one of the city’s most atmospheric buildings. If you look up you can still see the evidence of the last days’ trading. The glass dome in the middle makes the most of Manchester’s poor light and sunlight streamed in this evening to illuminate the very decorative Great Hall.
What a fantastic space for a theatre and perhaps more importantly for a choir or two to sing.
It was a nice end to the working week. We’re an amateur choir and most of us have day jobs. We kick-started our weekend by listening to another choir and then taking our turn to sing to an audience also eager for playtime. We rehearse in a low-ceilinged building. Having all that air above us was a real treat.
First number: Dance in the Street. It’s a song that worries some of us sometimes. Which may be why Jeff took us by surprise a little with it. Yet it’s always fine and bound to bring a smile to our eyes and the audience’s faces. A good one to start with. It really set the tone.  
Songs we performed included:  
Deep River
Wonderful World
They really suited the building and the time of day.  
I personally could hear every single voice. Yet some of the altos said they couldn’t hear the other parts. It was probably to do with where I was standing. I’m a tenor. Ah, the mystery of acoustics.
Some people who had never heard us before made a point of saying how much they’d enjoyed the performance. That’s great to know. We all enjoy singing, both rehearsing and performing. If people enjoy listening we have permission to carry on.  
All in all, a very satisfying evening. Thank you for having us, Royal Exchange.