Sunday, 29 January 2012
Loughborough Male Voice Choir and Enchanted in Long Eaton
There is something great about getting up on the day of a concert. No real nerves these days, just a wonderful excitement. Prior to previous concerts I've felt somewhat under prepared, but for this one I felt pretty confident, provided my post cold voice would hold out.
The night would see the debut of the new bow-ties and cummerbunds. Some within the choir have been reluctant to embrace the idea of a change from the traditional blazer and tie, while others are keen to add a little variety to our attire. Well, this evening we would find out what the audience thinks.
Get there 'ready to sing at 6.15pm' was the order and I managed it - just. On arrival, it was like stepping into Ice Station Zebra! T'was rather parky as we say up north. The prospect of singing the second half in shirts and bow ties without jackets seemed optimistic in the extreme, but with over an hour to 'kick-off' it would warm up, wouldn't it?
Prior to our 'warm up' (vocally that is), the logistics of getting on and off stage were worked out. Apart from a touch of vertigo standing at the back, things were fine. That left about forty minutes to kill. Much of this time was spent frantically searching for Derek's orange carrier bag which contained his bow-tie and cummerbund, and these were eventually located in his coat pocket. I could laugh, but I've done the same kind of thing myself, so many times!
After our warm-up it was Enchanted's turn, led as usual by Caroline Sharpe. One initially feared for the girls as their attire was definitely not suited to the sub-zero temperatures of the theatre. Actually, all the girls looked stunning. I did tell Anna-Ruth to cover herself up in disapproving step-father type fashion, but I WAS JOKING okay?
Before I knew it, the theatre had warmed up remarkably and it was time to start. And we did have an audience - not huge but respectable. We started in traditional blazer and ties and sang four pieces without copies. Chris Hill often jokes about the lack of eye contct with us as we all too often remain focussed on the music rather than on him. Well for these four we had no excuse and it felt so much better and I'm sure looks so much better to the watching audience. After With a Voice Of Singing and Stout Hearted Men, George did his usual compere stuff including the mobile phone warning. As I stood on stage, to my horror, I realised I had forgotten to switch mine off and it was in my jacket pocket! So I had to cross my fingers and hope that no-one would phone or text me while I sang Old Time Religion and When the Saints. How embarrassing would that have been?
This was followed by Lyndon Gardner's first set of solo numbers. I'll have to check what these were and add the details later, but the man sounded in fine voice. Us chaps were then back on stage for the two welsh songs, Myfanwy and Llanfair, which seemed great to me. Real 'Male Voice Choir' songs these and I really like them.
Next up were Enchanted and their first set comprising We'll Gather Lilacs; Soldier, Soldier; The Physician and Fever. Soldier, Soldier is incredibly intricate and complex and I marvel at how they manage to sing it so well and The Physician is just hillarious! Back stage I couldn't hear as well as I would have liked, but it all sounded fabulous to me.
To round off the first half we then did the gorgeous Let it Be Me (one of my personal faves) and the now legendary Is This the Way to Amarillo. This last piece was a vast improvement on its first airing but, for me, we simply have to sing this without copies in future! As I have said before, this is a great opportunity to let our hair down and get the audience singing and clapping with us. If we have our hands free we can clap along and really get the audience into it! It's gotta happen!
The interval required a costume change on the part of the choir. Off with the jackets and ties and on with the bow-tie and cummerbund! Despite the protestations of one or two, it was done and we walked back onstage to wolf-whistles, most notably from my wife Ruth, but she was not alone! I will address the subject of attire later but, suffice to say, it was met with universal approval. We continued with Danny Boy and Eriskay Love Lilt which was followed by the Quartet's (for 8?) rendition of Always Look on the Bright Side, which seemed to go well. After that came a new piece, a Chris Hill arrangement of That's what Friends are For. This starred Chris Higgins as soloist and Mike Godwin on Harmonica. This piece was only introduced by Chris Hill quite recently, but the two guys rose to the occasion superbly. "Hasn't Chris Higgins got a lovely voice", to quote Ruth! Mike too, gave his best harmonica solo yet. He had been struggling a bit in rehearsals, but came good on the night. Well done guys!
I then made a bit of a mess of Viva l'amour, mainly because I was trying to look more at our conductor throughout this concert rather than our copies and thought I knew this one well enough. Sadly I forgot a bit and then couldn't find my place and got flustered a bit and 'goldfished' for a line or two!
Lyndon then did his second slot which concluded with a bit of a sing-a-long. I only vaguely knew the piece but almost everybody else backstage was singing along. The choir followed it with two modernish pieces Thankyou for the Music and Chanson d'amour, with the latter 'sexy and breathy' like never before and the former only slightly affected by another attack of the second tenor doo-doos! Messed them up in the first verse but got it about right in the second. Sigh!
That left Enchanted to do their final set which incuded Some Enchanted Evening and the Oklahoma Medley which was utterly brilliant and had half the MVC singing along backstage, again. To wrap up this excellent concert the MVC sang Everytime We Say Goodbye and You'll Never Walk Alone. And that was that. Without doubt the best male voice choir concert that I have been involved in so far.
Why was it so good? I'm finding it difficult to define really. It just felt 'right'. I think the variety of traditional, modern and the humourous was spot on and expertly put together by Mr Hill. One big hit on the night was the new attire. Despite the scepticism of some, it was certainly a big hit with the audience. I have heard no negative comments other than it might look better with black trousers rather than grey. The change in clothing complimented the difference in the material that we presented in each half. One comment made the point that we immediately looked 'so much less like a bunch of old men'.
Secondly, I think the more singing we do without copies the better. I tried to minimise the time I spent looking down and I realised how much more following of Chris we all need to do. An obvious point I suppose, but it makes a huge difference and it looks better to the audience too I think. One day, a whole concert without copies, perhaps a la Fron? It's gotta come!
A negative comment albeit minor - I found the venue a little 'dead' acoustically to sing in. Sis-in-law Julia said she didn't get the usual 'hair on the back of the neck' thing after the big crescendos. That small point aside, it was a great night and well done to all.
Finally, please feel free to post any comments you'd like to make about the gig below as it would be nice to receive some feedback, particularly about the new 'gear'. Just click on where it says 'x' comments below and let me know what you thought, good or bad. That goes for anything I post on here too.
Cheers for now,