Thursday 18 December 2014

Last performance of the year – Football Museum with mulled wine and mince pies

What did I say yesterday? We’re more secure now and usually have at least three for each part? Ah. An early start at 5.30, some terrible weather conditions that caused equally terrible traffic and a few sore throats and coughs reduced us to one soprano and two female tenors. At first at least. Then a few more folk arrived and we had a respectable three or four for each part. A certain temporary male tenor who has also been known to sing bass and even soprano was very welcome and kept us in check. Well he has to keep us all in check anyway. That’s his job.  
All in purple and black with added tinsel and hats.

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Ordsall Hall Family and Friends Concert

“Our spiritual home,” Jeff calls it. Quite right too: in fact, the day I joined the choir was the very first time it rehearsed in OrdsallHall. And haven’t we come on since then? In those days you worried that you might be the only one in your section. Now we think we’re hard done by if there are only three.
It’s a lovely place to sing in. It was beautiful before its renovation. Now it is gorgeous. It’s good to see the more natural colours of the wood. The displays are enticing and it’s clear that a lot of interesting activities go on for people of all ages. And there are the ghosts, of course. They didn’t seem perturbed by our performance. The atmosphere was warm and friendly.
This was a private concert. Guests were the friends and family of choir members. There was room for seventy audience members and there are over forty of us in the choir, most of whom were there last night. So, it was by invite only.

Tuesday 16 December 2014

Double- Gig-Sunday

The Trafford Centre

My, we’re busy. Two events on one day and two more to come before we finish out year!
Sunday 14 December found us singing for one hour outside the upper level of Debenham’s in the Trafford Centre. The big worry had been “Will we be able to park?” It wasn’t a problem in the end. A tip off from someone in the know told us where we could get in easily, get out again afterwards and only have a few yards to walk in order to get to our rendezvous. Getting there early helped. In fact, it didn’t get really crowded until we were about to leave and other drivers hovered around our parking spots.
It was festive, what with our Christmas repertoire, our normal repertoire, purple hats and tinsel and enough footfall to create a buzz without it getting manic.

Friday 5 December 2014

Singing amongst the books

A Tuesday evening not long before Christmas. A steady stream of customers pass through Waterstone’sDeansgate, Manchester. They have extended opening hours. It’s good to see people buying books as gifts and for themselves. A group of people gather on the first floor near the escalator. They’re dressed all in black and each wear a smart purple orchid. Some have a purple Christmas hats as well. 

Yes, that’s right. It’s Tuesday, so it’s Ordsall Acappella Singers’ night. Except this week we’re at Waterstone’s instead of our normal rehearsal venue. We perform all of our Christmas songs and some of our normal repertoire. Two songs about bells. Two lullabies. Why can I remember the German words to Still, Still, Still more easily than the English ones?  Did I learn it once before in German?  And two holly jolly ones. Amongst others. And in addition Kiss the Girl, I Got Rhythm, Joshua (including scary eyes) and Deep River. Amongst others.
Waterstone’s is housed in a good old Manchester building with the type of high ceiling we love. We hope we are singing in “merry measure” like the song says. We enjoy ourselves, anyway. It’s always good, singing together.  
We have a small but appreciative audience and some people we’ve not met before take photographs. Others, normal book browsers, don’t seem to object. We’re there from 6.00 until just after 7.30. Then many of us go out for a meal together.  What a lovely evening!   

Sunday 26 October 2014

The Week of The Events

The email came out of the blue. Would we be willing to sing at one performance of The Events, week including 22-25 October? It would mean learning a few new songs, presenting one of our own and attending two rehearsals – one with all of the choirs taking part and one just before our performance. We decided we couldn’t turn this down but it sounded like a lot of work.
It created a lot of work for us, indeed, but not hard work, just pleasant work.  
We were able to enjoy having a whole day’s workshop to go over the songs. What nicer way of spending a Sunday than singing with friends?  
It was fabulous meeting and working with four other choirs. At the joint rehearsal we were given enough of the plot that we knew how our performance would fit in. At our individual rehearsal we were given a little more. But we were never given enough that we couldn’t be as surprised as the rest of the audience. There was one little bit that we didn’t rehearse at all and had to give a totally improvised performance. I won’t say any more in case the play tours again. But those of you who were there know what I mean.
Using a different community choir for each performance is brave but works. We enjoyed ourselves and we contributed to the total effect of the play. We’re sure the other choirs did too. In fact, we know so. Three of our members have sung with three of the other choirs and we can’t imagine the fourth one would be an exception.  
The Events - all-choirs rehearsal
Generally it is all very relaxed. We don’t have to act; we just have to be natural. Of course, though, we’ve polished the music up – both at the rehearsals with the theatre company and at our own.   
David Greig’s play asks how far forgiveness can go in the face of atrocity within your own community. It’s reasonably abstract with the main character, the priest Claire, being played by Derbhle Crotty. Clifford Samuel plays all other parts including the boy who has shot several members of Claire’s community.
The set is convincing as the type of place where a community choir would rehearse – complete with urn and institutional teacups. Ten lucky choir members do get a cup of tea part of the way through. Yet this is only suggested and so the set is easily able to become other things too: a prison, a maternity home and a psychiatrist’s surgery. The play has toured extensively and had just come back from the States when we started the week’s rehearsals.  
It was voted best play of 2013 by the Guardian’s critics.      
Home, where the performance took place, is eventually going to replace the Cornerhouse and will also be the new venue for the Library Theatre. It will have five screens instead of the present three and will also have more gallery space. But actually, it’s not finished yet and current productions take place in a disused office block. This rather suits this play somehow. What might be described as a foyer is itself like the set for an Agatha Christie play and has a good view of part of the Manchester skyline. It was exciting and relaxing at the same time, sitting there, watching the remnants of last week’s hurricane outside and waiting for the super-rehearsal to begin.              

Sunday 12 October 2014

Singing for DEBRA

Mysterious, elegant, romantic – the Palace Hotel, Oxford Road, built in Manchester red brick, shouting “I am here” with its iconic clock tower, is a place anyone who wants to appreciate Manchester should visit. At just after 6.00 p.m. on Saturday 11 October 2014 men in smart evening suits and ladies in lovely dresses abound and not all of them are associated with the event we’re supporting, though those guests are certainly dressed for a grand occasion. 

Sunday 28 September 2014

Football Fans and Angelic Voices?

Or we might even describe what we did on Saturday 27 September as a super-busk? We sang for just over an hour in both the National Football Museum and the John Rylands Library. In both venues, we were very much the background but people did stop to listen and applaud.
The two buildings contrast starkly yet they are both iconic for Manchester. The National Football Museum is all gleaming glass and football images. It’s hard to get a sense of the sound you’re making there. The John Rylands takes you back to another time with its intricately carved panels, beautiful windows and old books. It’s easier to fill the space with sound there. 
Angelic voices?

Ironically half way through our event there we were treated to a “muted” performance by another choir. We had been intrigued by other people dressed all in black. Now we knew why. The performance was part of the launch for the Harmonious Society exhibition. Samson Yong’s work ‘Chamber Music II: Silent Scores & Non-Events’, part of the exhibition, explores the cultural construction of deaf people as disabled, in both current and historical dimensions and the performance was in keeping with that. Yes, they even found their note at the beginning and followed the sheet music in front of them. Maybe a good sight-reading exercise?    
In both venues we presented a good cross-section of our repertoire, singing many contrasting pieces: Deep River, I Got Rhythm, Kiss the Girl, Joshua, Here There and Everywhere / The Long Winding Road, How much is that Doggy? Kum Ba Yah, Soul Wind, The Way We Were Tears in Heaven, Smile, Can’t Help Falling in Love
For me personally this was a fabulous end to what had been a very stressful week. How do people who don’t sing manage?      

Wednesday 10 September 2014

There’s water in the bath!

We enjoyed signing at one of our favourite spots on Sunday: the Victoria Baths in Manchester. Only this time there was an added challenge. The main pool was full of water and dominated by a huge crucifix-shaped stage. We held our breath a little. Only Jeff was allowed on there. Would he remember where he was? Or would he step over the edge and fill in?
Fortunately, he spent most of his time with the basses and only ventured across the water to speak to the audience facing them. 

Friday 25 July 2014

Singing for Joey: The People's Premiere of War Horse, 23 July 2014

Suddenly there is the unmistakable noise of a horse’s hooves behind us. We’re singing in a gallery so this might be surprising. Yet we’re kind of expecting it. A change in the expression on the faces of the sopranos and basses, and the delight in the eyes of the guests arriving confirm that he’s here. The star of the show, Joey, has come out to greet us all.  

Monday 2 June 2014

Spirit of Salford: 1 June 2014

The hottest day of the year so far in Greater Manchester. A real garden party atmosphere. In the Victorian tea tent WI members dressed the part serve tea and traditional cakes in and on china. Inside, the vintage and craft fair tempts us to spend. There are talks about bee-keeping and growing vegetables. Plenty for the children too – including the Teddy Bears’ picnic. 
Naturally we have to sing that one. Just be warned: don’t go into those woods today.

Tuesday 27 May 2014

Singing at Proof: Sunday 25 May 2014

There’s something about a Sunday afternoon in Manchester in the rain. It’s special when you’re holed up in smart cocktail bar and taking part in what is rapidly becoming a quite prestigious arts festival. So yes, there we were, at Proof in Chorlton, taking part in the Chorlton Festival.

Friday 2 May 2014

What a repertoire: a month of rehearsals, April 2014

April has been an odd month. Easter has fallen very late this year so there have been two weeks of school holidays in the middle. Families go away but for different weeks. So, not always the same blend of voices at each rehearsal. Plus we also had a one week break and breaks always make a difference.    
We’re coming to the end of an intense period of rehearsal and heading towards a busy schedule of  performances, with just those two at the end of March to kick-start our year.   
So, it was good to conclude the month by going through virtually everything we know. What a lot there is. But: or rather two buts.
·         Despite whipping through each song very quickly and working from about 7.10 to 8.05 and then 8.25 to 9.15 we didn’t quite cover everything.
·         Some we didn’t know as well as we thought we did.
This really was a good opportunity for us to see where the sticking points are. And there were some surprises:
·         Some pieces we’ve always been very confident about – including one that’s almost become our signature piece – need tidying up.
·         One we’ve not tried for a while and have always found tricky worked rather well.  
It seems that with some pieces we can get overconfident and slightly bored. We lose concentration, start making mistakes and even reinforce those mistakes. Conversely we seem to carry on improving on something we haven’t touched for a while. Is it perhaps just a function of concentration again? We know this is going to be challenging so we really focus.
Yes, yes, we should really focus all of the time but when you’ve had a challenging day and the music feels easy, the mind drifts. Good that at that point we’re pulled up.   
Still, it was very encouraging to realise how diverse and extensive our repertoire is and to be able to pinpoint where we need some more work.   

Saturday 1 February 2014

New Year, new plans: A month of rehearsals, January 2014

It may still be winter but we don’t feel the cold. In fact, we’ve had to open the windows and sometimes the door at every rehearsal this month. There are quite a lot of us still, so that partly explains it. Also, singing makes you feel warm – in both senses of the word. Breathing and standing properly are gentle forms of exercise. Using your voice in this way gives you a feeling of wellbeing. I personally try not to miss a rehearsal. So what if I have a lot of scripts to mark? I’ll manage them better if I’ve spent a couple of hours with this choir.