Monday 2 February 2015

A Day at The Manchester Amateur Choral Competition

The Royal Northern College of Music is quiet at 8.40 on the first Sunday of February. A few dedicated students make their way to practice rooms. The folk who are arranging this great event quietly set up. The café looks as if it might open any minute. 

Early Sunday morning at the RNCM

It’s not quiet for long, though. Coaches start pulling up outside. The choirs start arriving. The café opens. There’s a buzz as the chatter gets louder and louder and we start to swap notes with other choirs.
The choirs line up to take their turn in practising walking on and off the stage. It takes quite some organisation to put all of the morning choirs through their paces. At last, though, we’re all done and the day begins in earnest.     
It’s always a fun day. There’s the excitement of waiting for your slot and then giving your performance. It’s interesting to see what other groups get up to. And yes, we get to hear some great singing.
We can probably safely say that we found some common ground with every single choir we watched and we probably learnt something from them too. 

Clearly, they all enjoy themselves just as we do. In fact, one choir came on to stage just like we did in the The Events: like a choir tuning up at a choir practice.
We weren’t the only ones to provide a bit of Liverpool sound. We had our Here, There and Everywhere / Long Winding Road mix.  There was also a version of Can’t Buy Me Love, Blackbird Singing in the Dead of Night and Lady Madonna.
A couple of other songs were very familiar to us… we sing versions of them too: And So it Goes and a Crazy Little Thing Called Love. Then of course, there are the ones that everyone knows though sometimes the arrangements are a little different.  Nevertheless it was hard not to sing along to: Bye, Bye, Blackbird, The Lord is my Shepherd and Summertime.
What a mixture of songs, anyway. Gregorian Chant, an arrangement of “something by Take That”, old war songs, African songs and many examples similar to the sort of material we perform.     
Choir uniforms are always interesting and we spotted several who do something similar to us: a plain colour – usually black – and everyone wearing a matching a corsage. Ours is a purple orchid. We spotted another paler purple, two different shades of pink and a single white rose. All very smart.  
There were all male choirs, all female choirs, accompanied choirs and those singing a cappella, ones who moved a lot, danced with their hands and those who stood very still. All valid somehow.  
We didn’t get to see Voices Aloud, Do Your Thing and Di Voci Ladies Choir as they performed as we moved out of the auditorium, rehearsed and waited to go back in after our performance. If you’re reading this guys, we’re sure you were great.
So, then it came. The performance. Nerves made us chatter as we got ready to rehearse.
“Look they’ve come all the way from Edinburgh.”
“Yes, we’ve seen them before. They’re good.”
“I wonder if anybody says that about us?”
“Do you think I’ll be able to see the basses well enough to be able to flirt with them? It’s important.”
Phew. We rehearse. We go on stage. This stage seems to work better than it used to.
I’ve Got Rhythm goes smoothly. Here There Everywhere / Long Winding Road is absolute magic. Kiss the Girl is pure fun. The audience seems to agree and even the judge gives us some instant feedback that suggests he is thinking along similar lines.
Now, it doesn’t matter what happens. We know two things:
·         We’ve given a better performance than we’ve ever given in this competition before, not that the other two were bad at all  
·         We’ve done the very best we can with where we are now
We can relax and enjoy the rest of the day.
Well we didn’t win. First were The Noteables, a very talented group of young people who gave a very entertaining performance.  The Pink Singers who were very professional in every way and the Edinburgh Police Choir who we like anyway were also placed. We are glad for them.   
Only one group is every going to win a competition. The rest of us actually help them to do that.
We also need to remember the wise words of The Accidentals: “We all go home feeling very uplifted after a rehearsal, even if we’ve had a bad day at work.  Such is the power of music.” Yep. Music’s important. Singing’s good for you. We’ll be doing more of it tomorrow.     

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