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Sunday, 16 October 2011
LOROS Concert with 'The Fron' at De Montfort Hall, Leicester.
Who would've thought it eh? This 51 year old, who hadn't ever sung a note prior to February 2011 last night found himself on stage with six other midlands choirs and the renowned Froncysyllte Male Voice Choir from Wales. As I sat on stage, looking out into the impressively large audience, I did wonder whether it was all some kind of surreal dream. Nope, it was real alright and I was quite pleasantly surprised to find relatively few nerves despite some reservations regarding my ability to pull off a certain two songs without embarrassment. Anyway, to rewind a little. . .
Car sharing was the order of the day as parking was going to be a bit restricted, so I scrounged a lift with our Chairman. We picked up Ray en route to De Montfort Hall for the evening's concert in aid of LOROS. When we eventually found the Stage Door we signed in and then disappeared to our respective dressing rooms - bass and baritone, stage left and tenors, stage right.
Our rehearsal was scheduled for 2pm and Clive Rogers duly arrived with a big beaming smile and started a run through of all the pieces in the programme. I thought it went quite well, with the exception of a certain few pieces that continue to frustrate. But on the whole it was looking good. Just for the record, the choirs involved in the massed Midlands choir were:
As I looked around the hall, I did wonder just how large our audience was going to be. I rather feared that it would look like the Reebok Stadium for a Carling Cup match against Hartlepool, i.e. half empty, but thankfully my fears were unfounded.
After a few logistical arrangements were ironed out, that was that for a few hours. Some of the chaps decided to go home while others headed for somewhere to eat and/or drink, but I just found a nice quiet park to eat my cobs and pork pies and read a newspaper. By the time I got back to the hall, the Fron's coach had arrived, so I could take a look at how these guys go about rehearsing. My first impressions were of a very slick and polished choir. The quality of tone was really something! However, one thing that became quickly apparent was that any mention of the sport of 'rugby' was perhaps unwise, given the narrow and controversial defeat of Wales in the World Cup earlier in the day.
Strangely, by 7.15pm we midlanders were assembled on stage while the audience gradually swelled to quite respectable numbers (900+ I believe) including Ruth and mother-in-law Diane whom I quickly spotted in the circle. We awaited the arrival onstage of the 'main attraction' The Froncysyllte Male Voice Choir. They duly arrived to warm applause from audience and choirs and they certainly looked the part.
Just before 'kick-off', the night's compere, the Rt Hon. Alan Duncan M.P. delivered his witty (?) intro. The poor fellow clearly hadn't received the warning regarding the foolhardiness of mentioning rugby. Oh dear! I could sense that several of the welshmen were seriously considering thumping the man. Note to Mr Duncan for future reference:- Never joke about rugby to a welshman after a World Cup semi-final defeat. Not ever!
So with bloodshed narrowly avoided it was on with the show. And I still didn't feel particularly nervous, which was rather weird. Maybe it was the 'safety in numbers' thing, but unlike previously, I didn't feel that I was about to disgrace myself. Anyway, our first three songs, 'Do You Hear the People Sing?; 'Some Enchanted Evening' and 'Stout Hearted Men' went really well I thought. I just hope it sounded as good to the audience as it seemed to me on stage. Then, down we sat on the nicely padded but worryingly backrest-less benches. Not the greatest seating it must be said and I did wonder how many of us Midlanders would be requiring the assistance of an osteopath next week.
Next up was soloist Ann Atkinson - a mezzo soprano from Wales and a former musical director of The Fron. Unfortunately I couldn't hear what she was saying very well, but I know she didn't start with 'Habenara' as per the programme. She seemed to go down well with the audience and even made reference to the rugby. You see Alan, it's okay for the Welsh to make comment themselves, just not you okay? Ann did do 'Habanera' later on in her programme and raised the pulses of several Fron members with her rather saucy rendition.
Then 'The Fron' delivered their first set and boy, did they deliver! 'Fantastic' is the only word to use I think. I was listening to the second tenors closely and was very impressed. These guys are certainly something to aspire to. The control and pureness of the sound was quite magical to be amongst at times. The Welsh traditional piece 'Si Hei Lwli' was just stunning.
I could waffle on for hours about the rest of the concert, but I'll try to sum it up succinctly. I would say the midland choir's first half performance was much better than the second with 'Nobody Knows' and 'Red, Red Rose' as bad as I feared they would be! The Fron were excellent throughout and while we can certainly learn a lot from them, I really do think that we could match them with our rendition of 'With a Voice of Singing'. That said, it was an honour and a privilege to share a stage with such a classy and accomplished choir as them and I will cherish the experience for the rest of my life. One of them said to me in the interval, "It's great to be here with you boys tonight. We're bloody lovin' it", which was great to hear.
How do we follow this? Well, next up is our autumn concert at a venue and time in November to be confirmed, and rehearsing starts on Thursday.
Cheers for now,