Monday 17 December 2018

Carols at Buile Hill Park, Sunday 16 December 2018

Yes, that’s us! 

Greater Manchester has a lot of green spaces and Salford has its fair share. Many are in need of a little TLC and it has largely fallen to local residents to take on this task. The Friends of Buile Hill Park are certainly very active. Just look at their latest news. 

And what a cheery place the croquet pavilion was on a cold dark day before Christmas. Prettily decorated tables, warm drinks, mince pies, Christmas biscuits and Stollen.

Should we sing inside or out? 

“We thought we’d leave that open. It depends on the weather.”

“The rain’s not due until three.”

So, outside it was. 

We attracted a small but lovely audience. It was mixture of those folk had already been getting everything ready in the pavilion and footfall of dog-walkers, pram-pushers and families out for a Sunday afternoon stroll.    

We sang for half an hour, a mixture of well-known carols that everyone could join in with, some other Christmas songs and one or two items from our normal repertoire. 

Then we all went indoors for more tea and treats. We gave out song sheets so that everyone could join in with some old favourites like Frosty the Snow Man and Jingle Bell Rock. We were about to finish but weren’t quite allowed to.  

“We’ve had a request,” said Jeff. Of course. We just had to do it. The Twelve Days of Christmas. Actions and all. 

I noticed one young mum singing with gusto.  We chatted afterwards about the joy of singing. It’s a great pity she’s occupied with a cub pack on a Tuesday. 

“That was a lovely cup of tea,” I said to one of the Friends.  

“Would you like another?”

I declined but was persuaded to take another slice of the delicious Stollen.  

There was talk as we left of doing it again next year or maybe even having a picnic in the summer. Why wouldn’t we?  We love to sing and we love to support other local groups.       

Monday 15 October 2018

Victoria Baths 14 October 2018

Victoria Baths plays with the senses

It said the water was six foot deep near where we stood. Just in line of sight was the sign indicating four foot. Our audience stood at the shallow end or sat on the viewing balcony above. 
When we started there were just three people but by the time we'd finished the first song of our first set there was a substantial crowd. A warm, appreciative crowd. 

It was the food festival.  Lucky for us there was enough time between the first and the second set to sample some of the goodies. What to choose though? Gorgeous, naughty cakes?  Pizza coked in a wood-fired oven?  Mauritian food? Curry?  Flavours of the Deep South? A regular café and bar was in operation as well.  

As I wandered round trying to make my mind up, a man stopped me.  "You're with the choir, aren’t you? When are you singing again?" 

I nodded. I guess the black outfit and the purple flower were the giveaway. "2.30, I believe. Though it may change." It did. We were asked to push our second performance back to 2.45. I gave him an update. I noticed him and his companions later when we sang our second set. 

Victoria Baths plays with the senses. In a nice way. It was grey outside at first which meant that it was chilly in the bath. Then the sun came out and was warm through the glass. The light is always extraordinary in this building, different, though according to the outside weather.  This time we had also the smells and tastes of some lovely food.  I hope we contributed well to the sound. A couple of times I heard that glorious echo.

Our second set was substantially different from the first one though there was some overlap – Bridge Over Troubled Water and Everything I do, for instance. All pieces, both times, with which we are very familiar. 

It was a slick affair. Everyone worked well together. This is of course one of the joys of belonging to a choir. 

And Victoria Baths feels like home.              

Sunday 7 October 2018

Singing at Fountains Abbey 6 October 2018

You can see the breath of the singers, it is so cold in the abbey as it gets dark at the end of this fine autumn day.  But it's not too cold. We're well wrapped up and when you're absorbed in the music you don't notice anymore. 

Goodness, we have an audience even for the warm-up. By the time we get to the performance the place is pretty full.  Then part way through I notice even more chairs to the side, also full. 

There are quite a few of our friends, family and fans in the auditorium but also many National Trust members and visitors. Occasionally, too, a ghostly face appears at one of the glass-less windows. Probably National Trust volunteers just peering in. They might, of course, be other-worldly. Whoever they are, they seem to enjoy our performance.  

And outside in the dark we get glimpses of torches, rainbow wheels and even a dog wearing lights. Later he comes into the hall and joins in the singing – just a little, and it doesn't detract.    
It's good as ever to sing with our friends from Blackburn People'sChoir. Together we are able to offer a mixed repertoire – including amongst others the more serious In Remembrance and The Blessing, popular songs like Bridge Over Troubled Water, Everything I do, I Will,  Say a Little Prayer, and Here Comes the Sun and the fun but challenging Sway. The audience want an encore, so we give them Kiss the Girl. 

The National Trust looks after us well. There are quite a few Ordsall members there when Blackburn People's Choir arrive, glorious in their black and red, and then more of Ordsall come along. Undaunted, our guide for the day leads us down to the abbey. At one point I think I see a monk in front. Has our guide put something over her uniform? Is it a ghost? Do they have monks here? I blink and he has gone. We discuss this later. 

"A volunteer actor, I should think," says an Ordsall member who volunteers at another National Trust property. Most likely. Well, whoever it was was convincing.    

There is just time to grab some tea and a bite to eat before we begin rehearsing.  

The hour goes by quickly and then we must make our way back up the steep path toward the car park. They warned us to bring torches and it is now obvious why. Yet these tiny lights and the ones on the foot path cause little light pollution. You can certainly see the stars here. Anyway, star-gazing is a good excuse to stop and get your breath back.      
A brave soul who walks with a stick has paused for a rest on a bench half way up. "You must be the choir," he says. "That was glorious." 

"He's a singer, himself," says his companion. 

"This is my birthday treat," he says.  "You made my day."

Nice to know, but actually he made our day by saying that. 

It's a long round trip and we get frost warnings in our cars as we drive home. But it has certainly been worth it. We hope we can come again – either to sing or to be an audience for another choir.   

Sunday 8 July 2018

Eighth Year at Buxton Fringe 7 July 2018

9.10. Plenty of time to give out the remaining twenty flyers. As I stroll down the hill another car full of our members passes me. Later I see them and one or two others, including Jeff, sitting outside a café. Sitting outside a café in Buxton at 9.20? That's a new one. It's going to be a lovely day.
"Would you like to come to our concert?" I say to Jeff.
"Oh, yes please."
He immediately hands the flyer on to a passer-by. I give him a small fistful to pass on to others.
The last half dozen go into a vintage furniture and coffee shop. "Just the sort of thing our customers like," says the assistant.
Outside one hotel is a sculpture entitled "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". A lady is staring at it. "We sing that one too," I say as I hand her a flyer. I spot her in our audience in our second concert.  So, these flyers work.
It's is quite touching that in several venues where I've dropped off leaflets on my two previous visits to Buxton they've clearly photocopied a few more. Everyone in this delightful town is so supportive of the Fringe Festival.  
We worry a little about the football. I even spot one St Mary's regular at the United Reformed Church. Oh dear. We needn't have worried. At both concerts there were just a few people fifteen minutes before the start. When we appeared at 11.00 at the United Reformed Church and 3.00 at St Mary's the audatoria were both two thirds full – slightly over, perhaps, with just a few more at St Mary's.  Ah! Football – you won't stop us.
Our reviewer picked out that we enjoy singing. Yes, we most certainly do. And it was fun. Read the full review here. It was good to sing some old favourites with which we are confident and we also enjoyed airing Sway and The Blessing.
Of course, there is the usual group photo, this time accompanied by a cat. Do you spot him?  
We are awash with tea and cake. Gallons of tea. There must be, because we use almost a gallon of milk. Such a variety of cake. Some good baking and excellent choices in shopping. This allows us plenty of time to chat to our audiences.
As I go back to my car, I spot the group that followed us at the United Reformed Church.
"How did it go?" I ask. They had performed a short murder mystery play.
"Quite well," they say.  "We had a decent audience in the end."  
I suppose we did cater for people who don't like football.
Yes, another superb day at Buxton. Thank you to Mary at the United Reformed Church and Eric and Eric at St Mary's who made us so welcome and helped our events to run smoothly.   

Sunday 17 June 2018

Chorlton Choir Festival 16 June 2018

It was one of those proper English summer days – mild but not hot and pleasant enough to sit out in the pretty garden at the front of Chorlton Methodist Church. The church has leased part of its building to The Edge Theatre Company.  There is a nice café, The Dressing Room, which also provides a rather lovely surprise. We had the opportunity to explore all of this as the group who were to perform before us warmed up.     
We were catered for, anyway, by the Festival that provided drinks and cake all day and very reasonably priced sandwiches. 

 We joined six other choirs in a day of singing. Each choir sang for about twenty minutes, and we were timetabled half an hour apart, allowing plenty of time for change over and for the hosts to introduce each group.

Other performers were The Leve Chorus, Accord Gospel Choir and Pennine Trust Choir, Open Voice Community Choir, ZunZun, Urmston Choral Society and Irlam Male Voice Choir. 

I arrived early as I know a member of one of the other choirs. I managed to hear four out of the six. There was certainly a variety of styles and of music, all enjoyable. 

As I sat down in the audience after we'd finished and waited for the next choir to perform the lady sitting next me whispered. "That was lovely. You have some strong basses, don't you?" Well, I guess we do, then.  And very well they do for us too. As of course do the sopranos, altos and tenors.

"It's not always easy to get basses," I replied. 

"And tenors?"

"A handful of males - three today - and the rest of us are female -  four of us today." 

"Ah … I did wonder …"

The audience was again warm and friendly. Naturally at an event like this it was largely made up of people from the other choirs but there was also some members of the public who had paid their £5.00  to listen; maybe they were friends and family of the singers, but whoever they were, they clearly enjoyed music. 

It was a relaxed day and as ever we had fun singing. Thank you Jeff and all choir members. 

Thank you to the organisers for giving us this opportunity.

Singing at the Stockport Masonic Guildhall 15 June 2018 with Maelstrom and SK4

Some of us meet an hour early two Tuesdays a month to sing in smaller groups. We always knew that one day we would perform and in fact the small groups have entered a couple of competitions.
This opportunity came suddenly. We first knew about it last Tuesday. We performed on Friday. 

Another group had had to drop out because of unforeseen family circumstances. We were able to rehearse on Tuesday evening and establish what we felt most comfortable doing. We performed just five songs – three before the interval and two after with our hosts SK4  and one of Jeff's other choirs, Maelstrom offering a few more each. 

For many of us it was the first opportunity to hear Maelstrom. We weren't disappointed. They provided that rich sound that we've all come to associate with male voice choirs yet they're a relatively small group: just thirteen members.  

"We need a few more," said Jeff.  "They insist on sixteen for the competition we want to enter."
Follow the link above and have a listen to them. 

SK4 were absolutely amazing. Everything that these four talented, hard-working women did was excellent but their rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody was better, in my opinion, than Queen's original. A fantastic song to end on. 

Except not quite. We all joined together in a final song. We had been taught it in about five minutes just before the concert started. 

"What were those words again?" asked my neighbour.  

I could only shrug.

No matter. As soon as we started they came back. 

It was a lovely evening. The staff at the Masonic Guildhall and our hosts looked after us well. There was the usual raffle with some excellent prizes. Many other singers formed part of our good-sized audience, so they were warm and appreciative.