Tuesday 17 December 2019

Singing for and with the Friends of Buile Hill Park 15 December

Buile Hill Park has a certain drama but it and looks inviting even on a gloomy, slightly moist and misty Sunday afternoon in December.  Mature trees frame the sweeping lawns and older houses with windows ablaze look on from the street.  

The Pavilion is now even more comfortable and cosy that it was a year ago. Some beautifully crafted hand-made table decorations help to define a very Christmassy atmosphere. 

We are again made welcome with delicious biscuits, mince pies and warm drinks.

Christmas jumpers, fairy lights and warm clothing are de rigour.  

At 2 .00 p.m. exactly we venture out and sing a collection of traditional carols and other songs we have learnt. The promised rain arrives but it is quite gentle. The Friends of Buile Hill Park gather round and we also welcome families and dog-walkers. 

As the rain gets a little harsher audience and choir alike make their way back into the Pavilion where there are more refreshments and songs. We mingle with our audience and encourage everyone to join in. There are sheets with the words available. However, you just cannot do the actions to The Twelve Days of Christmas with a song sheet in your hand. Just watch that soprano over there.  She’s got it!  
There is wonderful rich bass voice behind me. Someone is clearly enjoying the songs.  He knows them very well indeed, even though he’s not a choir member. Alas, I can’t quite see who it is.
This is a delightful occasion as it was last year. We hope we’ll be invited again.

Next up: Christmas markets at 5.30 p.m. today.         

Thursday 12 December 2019

Two Special Memorial Services 10 & 11 December 2019

Perhaps there is some symbolism here. Two evenings running the rain thundered down and the days are shorter and darker at this time of year anyway, but then we arrived into the warmth and light of two lovely churches in order to take part in two very touching events.

Albion United Reformed Church 10 December

This is a huge church yet it was beautifully warm when we arrived, and all lit it by the Christmas Tree Festival exhibits. The memorial service here was arranged by Co-op Funeralcare Tameside Region.

St Wilfrid’s Church  11 December

This is a more intimate but equally charming church. And equally warm. We’ve been here before and were indeed welcomed like old friends. The service this time was organised by Northenden Funeralcare, also part of the Co-op group. 

These were memorial services, not funerals and though there is some sadness as loved ones who have passed recently are remembered, there was more joy and reverence than darkness. This was apparent in the very appropriate and moving readings at each event.   

On both occasions candles were lit to shine in the dark as a list of loved ones was read out. 

We sang a few well-known carols – Away in a Manger (both), Hark the Herald Angels Sing (Albion), O Come All Ye Faithfull (St Wilfrid’s) , Once in Royal David’s City (Albion) and  Silent Night (both). And at both venues we also sang The Blessing and Bridge over Troubled Waters, both of which fitted the theme of the events very well. In addition we sang The Water is Wide at St Wilfrid’s.  
It was good, too, to be able to chat to attendees and organisers over refreshments at the end of each service.

We must thank Funeral Celebrant Martin McNally for putting us in touch with the organisers. He happens to be one of our basses! 

What a privilege to be able to take part in these very special occasions.      

Monday 9 December 2019

Victoria Baths Pop-up Cinema 6-8 December

It’s almost as cold inside the building as it is outside.  But who cares? What do they say? No such thing as bad weather only bad clothing? Everyone, - choir, cinema-goers and staff - are wrapped up in winter coats, Christmassy hats and jumpers and colourful warm scarves. We also wear fairy lights. Anyway, you can hire hot water bottles and blankets. Then there are the treats in the food hall – pies, cakes, mulled wine and hot chocolate, and much more besides.  

We sing first of all near the entrance hall as folk arrive. Here we present some of the old favourites, those carols that everyone knows: Away in a Manger, Coventry Carol, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, Once in Royal David’s City, and Silent Night.  We add in some other songs we like – Going to Bethlehem Holly Jolly, Hush be Still and Past Three A Clock. This is such a lovely building to sing in. It always enriches the sound. 

After a short break we move up to the balcony overlooking the Sports Hall, where they are serving the food. So many people have arrived now that the place buzzes. 

Now we offer a few more well-known songs – including Frosty the Snowman, Jingle Bells Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and The Twelve Days of Christmas.  (Watch out for the actions in this one. Can you keep up? )  

Another short break and we’re down in front of the screen.  People are now beginning to take their seats. The film will start shortly. We repeat our first set and add in Carol of the Bells.  My, don’t those “bells” ring out well in this space.

Soon the bath is full. People have settled into their deckchairs and have their blankets and hot water bottles ready. There is some excitement now. 

The films shown are ones that we’ve all seen before, probably many times.  But of course they are always better on the big screen and the festive atmosphere here adds an extra layer of anticipation.
Well worth a visit, then. It’s too late for this year but watch out for it again. Recommended.                    

Saturday 30 November 2019

Christmas Markets 29 November 2019

It’s a squash and a squeeze in the centre of Manchester on a Friday evening at just after five o’clock. Commuters going home mingle with families and groups of friends coming into town for a bit of festive fun. It’s proper winter cold, too, though there isn’t a wind so it’s bearable. Anyway, singing keeps you warm or at least takes your mind off the weather. We’re lucky – it’s been a week of mainly rain.  

There we all are, wrapped up warm, some with trademark purple hats, purple tinsel and fairy lights.
People stop to listen.  The old familiar carols are popular: Away in a Manger, Hark the Herald, Angels Sing, O Come All Ye Faithful, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Once in Royal David’s City and Silent Night. We enjoy as well White Christmas, Hail Smiling Morn and Holly Jolly. We finish with Carol of the Bells.  

Then there are pancakes, strudel, mulled wine and hot chocolate laced with brandy.  Well, why not; it’s less than month to Christmas after all. 

And there will be a repeat performance on 17 December, same time same place - 5.30 p.m. to 7.00 p.m. St Anne’s Square, Manchester.       

Monday 14 October 2019

At the Manchester Monastery 13 October 2019

“I’d love to be with you when you walk into the Nave,” says the volunteer who greets me when I arrive. “You’ll find it quite a sight.”   

The cafĂ© is already buzzing and quite a few people are already making their way towards the main event.  Twelve choirs will sing today. 

Oh yes. The volunteer is right.  The monastery has been beautifully restored. Franciscans first came to Gorton in 1861. They wanted to create a great friary at the heart of the community. Architect Edward Pugin designed the monastery in 1866. He is associated with sacred geometry.  We may not understand what that is, but one thing is sure: the St Francis Monastery at Gorton, Manchester, is a fantastic place to sing in. Today it is lit with soft pink and violet lights. That goes nicely with our uniform, thank you! 

We’re able to listen to other choirs and then it’s our turn. The audience really appreciate Bridge Over Troubled Water. We offer another well-known song: The Water is Wide. Sway manages to go faster and faster just like it should. Then we finish with feel-good Everything I Do. 

Then it’s time for a round of drinks and snacks. Some of us manage to see a few more of the other choirs. It is always great at events like this how the choirs support each other. This was quite an informal gathering. A really lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon. 

Occasionally we hear a song that we know as well, or at least another version of it. Another choir declare that they have cake in the break during rehearsals and that’s what keeps them going. That sounds familiar!  

Finally it is time for all the choirs to sing together.  It’s one we know. What a Wonderful World.  It certainly is on days like this. 

Thank you so much to those who organised this. A fantastic day indeed.