Thursday 16 June 2016

Manchester is Here 15 June 2016

The Green Room is actually wood-panelled and sports a three-dimensional frieze. There is old furniture that you’re asked not to sit on. We have a quick walk on and sing a few extracts in the main event room. Most of our rehearsal is in this lovely room, used most of the time as a committee room, I believe. It sounds and feels good; and so it should – this building is after all part of Chetam’s School of Music, and accustomed to music. 

This music school, situated on Long Millgate, one the oldest parts of Manchester and very near to the cathedral, says Manchester loud and clear. So it’s a fitting place for this event, Manchester is Here,  that remembers the bombing of the Arndale Centre exactly twenty years ago. It follows on from a day-long symposium that celebrates Manchester’s survival and regrowth after the bomb and looks towards devolution.     

So, we feel very privileged to be part of this event. We’re just a little nervous. This is so important. We have to keep quiet in the Oak-Panelled Room – noise travels easily. We whisper like mice.

Those nerves are useful. Just enough to keep us on form but not enough to cripple. We open with Wonderful World, then sing a closing set – Can You Feel the Love, Here There Everywhere, Over the Rainbow, Somewhere and of course On a Day like This. It all goes smoothly. Of course it does. This building cherishes music.

The audience is appreciative and one young lady is particularly enthusiastic. “I used to lead a choir,” she says, later as we meet in the hospitality area, “so I know what you’re up to.”

“Aren’t you in a choir now?” we ask.

She isn’t. We recommend that she should change that situation. She agrees to do something about it.

We leave with a delightful souvenir. We’re each given a copy of  ANew Manchester Alphabet, a snapshot of Manchester in 2015. This has been put together by The Manchester Writing School, part of Manchester Metropolitan University, who also arranged the symposium. The volume also includes Roger Oldham’s original A Manchester Alphabet.     

A lovely evening all told.         

Friday 10 June 2016

Victoria Baths 5 June 2016

The summer has come. The sun shines even in Rainy City. Bright light casts teasing patterns on the smooth surfaces. A few open windows and the beautiful old tiles keep us cool. 

We always like signing here. The acoustics are kind. We come twice a year to sing in the bath. Just how much can we make Viva la Musica jump around?
This time there are chairs in the pool area and they are almost all taken both times we perform. People also listen from the balconies, from the edge of the pool and from the back of the basin. Several people approach us between performances and tell us that they’ve  enjoyed listening to us. Well, we aim to please.  It’s nice to know we’re succeeding some of the time at least.
We now have a visitors’ book. We invite our audience to comment and also to sign up for our newsletter. Here are some of the comments we get this time:
“Thank you, great.”
“Thank you – very harmonious.”
“Sent shivers up my arm – in a good way.”  
We’ve now more or less brought I know him so well into our repertoire. Royals is becoming more solid. For the first time we perform a special arrangement of Somewhere over the Rainbow. We include, of course, a lot of our normal repertoire. It’s well received and as ever we have a ball.
We’re never quite sure exactly how many performers we’ll have. We won’t agree to a performance unless we know we have enough in each part but then sometimes life happens – illness, traffic, family problems … and it can become a little skewed. This time we have just one bass, and for once more tenors than altos. We have to work with that and it is up to everyone present to adjust accordingly.   
Of course, we  are also able to enjoy another passion of ours. We eat cake. The cake at the Victoria Baths is lovely. And so is their chocolate shortbread.
We look forward to returning many times in the future.        

Thursday 2 June 2016

Another weekend in May, away, at Rydal Hall, Rydal, Ambleside

Sitting in the sun and blinking in the sun- a few words form one of the songs we’re learning and weren’t we just doing that at Rydal Hall last weekend.
Blinking in the sun 

Some of us managed to get there early enough to enjoy the gardens and the four o’clock tea and tray bake. Others had to contend with usual Friday night traffic, a closed A591 and actually being able to get away from work.

The view form the terrace - some of us also had this view from our rooms

Everyone got there safely eventually. Supper was a flexible feast. And there was singing in the lovely entrance hall, and then later in the bar. 

We were lucky with the weather so as well as singing there was walking and talking and getting to know each other better. At least one of us went down the rabbit hole to Wonderland. Yes, there was a performance of this story in the gardens and anyway there is also a sculpture trail there all about Alice.  

The White Rabbit was very late.  
We were well looked after at Rydal Hall. The food was good and nicely presented. The cake, especially the cheesecake, was divine. Cake, is of course, always important to us. The staff were friendly and helpful.
Straight after breakfast on Saturday we got to it. 

The starter for Sunday lunch 

The 9.45 start turned into a 9.30 one. A day and a half of singing followed. Fifteen songs, no less. My, our sight reading improved. Some pieces were a little familiar, others completely new. There was a lot of Bahs (not just form the sheep, though they made enough noise) Tums, (no problems with the food)  and Yips (no, no-one had brought their dog along – that would be the sopranos!) A lot of lovely pieces.   
Music and more music
Saturday evening there was more singing in the entrance hall. We tried out some of the new material but also went through some of our normal repertoire. We had no audience. We just sang to each other. That was kind of nice.  

We did the same thing again on Sunday morning outside for twenty minutes or so. This was a real highlight. What could be nicer than singing in the summer sunshine in this beautiful spot?  The sheep didn’t seem to mind. Neither did the tourists.

Singing in the sun
These weekends away are always a success. Our confidence grows. Friendships deepen. Ideas emerge. We’ve done a few now but this has to be one of the best venues.    

It was all over too soon.

But guess what – we’re coming again next year!