Monday, 16 April 2012

Signing on!

No, that's not a typo. I really have been signing on!

Crikey, what a couple of weeks! A busy Easter break taking in Drayton Manor and then a trip to Manchester to see Phantom of the Opera at the Palace Theatre. The former was fun and the latter was spectacular! John Owen Jones, who played the Phantom while not quite surpassing Mr Boe, was certainly pretty awesome.

That was then followed by three final days of work on the A46 before I joined the vast ranks of the unemployed. Oh joy! Are we down-hearted? Oh no, not when there's concerts to sing in and solos to be sung! Barely having a millisecond to feel sorry for myself, Saturday was the Loughborough Male Voice Choir's second concert of 2012, entitiled 'All in the April Evening', this time from St Helena's Church, West Leake. Publicity for this concert didn't go entirely to plan as the 'Publicity Secretary', (err, me!) was blissfully unaware of the late programme change that saw the phenomenally talented local soprano, sister-in-law and singing teacher, Caroline Sharpe added to the programme. Doh! Notification came way too late to inform the media, but it mattered not. A packed audience were treated to a slightly longer concert than originally anticipated I think.

And a splendid evening it was too. Perhaps the most varied, relaxed and 'fun' concert yet. Maybe not quite as polished as the Long Eaton concert in January, but pretty darn good.  Us chaps were all warned that it was likely to be a very cold church so some took the precaution of wearing white T-shirts or vests under the shirts as well  as the jackets. In fact, the church had a vast array of very effective heaters which certainly kept one's upper torso warm. To be honest, I felt at one stage like a sausage under a grill, but no matter.

To start proceedings, it was a couple of traditional numbers from the choir with us bereft of music. Despite initial resistance to this move, the chaps are now recognising how much better we look and sound with our heads up and (heaven forbid!) actually looking at Mr Hill! Certainly interval feedback from the audience was strongly in favour of us singing more songs without copies.

Next came something very different - Chris Higgins, playing a guitar he actually made himself, sang the Eric Clapton song Wonderful Tonight, accompanied by Mike Godwin on harmonica. This was truly brilliant and Chris' voice really suited the song. Ruth was very impressed, saying that he has a 'voice like velvet'. Well done indeed chaps!

Two more copy-less  traditional pieces followed from the choir before Caroline Sharpe gave her first selection. Firstly she sang the classic aria O mio Babbino Caro, followed by a song called Little Brown Bird. I don't know anything about this one as I missed Caz's explanation - wasn't paying attention. Sorry! Anyway, she sang beautifully as usual.

I must mention the less than ideal standing arrangements at this point. The frequent movements from seat to the restricted standing area meant I found myself leaning against a pillar on occasions in a desperate attempt to actually see our conductor. But such is live performing I guess. One just has to go with the flow and improvise. The choir then sang Danny Boy and one of my favourites, Eriskay Love Lilt. Strangely, I've always loathed Danny Boy, but I actually like singing it now.

The choir's top tenor Lyndon Gardner then presented a couple of arias with his usual professionalism. These were not songs that I recognised so will need to check with him again to get the titles of them, but again the man sat down to warm applause! Then to finish off the first half, the choir presented the classic welsh choir number Llanfair followed by the evening's title track, All in the April Evening, as requested by St. Helena's Church.

So a really good first half I thought. It seemed to me to be very polished, but it was as is often the case, difficult to gauge how good the overall sound was from within the choir. During the interval nibbles (including wine and PORK PIE!) was provided. Now with my solo spot coming up in part 2, my stomach was starting to do the hokey-cokey, so couldn't face any food. I fancied a glass of wine, but could forsee potential disaster with my brand new white shirt on. This presumably didn't cross the mind of a certain Jim Lacey, who somehow managed to spill what seemed to be the majority of a glass of RED wine down his Persil white shirt. Classic! I wished to catch this on Ruth's i-phone camera to share with you all on this blog, but Jim was having none of it. Spoil-sport!

Part 2 commenced with the choir's very own Michael Dukes and Gerry Brennan reviving the songs of  the legendary artistes Flanders and Swann. Now to be totally honest, this was a little lost on me being so young, it was a tad before my time (LOL) but the more 'mature' members of the audience loved it!

The second half proceeded with some more modern pieces such as the Hollies' He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother, Carole Bayer Sager's That's What Friends Are For and the rapidly improving Is This the Way to Amarillo? It was Amarillo's third concert airing and our best effort yet.

Caroline then treated the audience to a Gilbert and Sullivan piece followed by the beautiful Someone to Watch Over Me. Caroline later confessed to completely forgetting the words at one point of the first piece and proceeded to sing complete goggledy-gook that wasn't from any known language on this planet! Did anyone notice? I sure didn't and I don't think anyone else did either. I reckon it's because Caroline's voice is so beautiful that she could sing complete gibberish and it would still sound great! If the voice is good enough, the words become irrelevant perhaps?

Next was the slot that I was looking forward to and dreading the most with equal measure. The now established songs ThankYou for the Music and Chanson d'amour were followed by a newly introduced and well known folk song Pleasant and Delightful. The song is comprised of four verses sung solo by four choir members with the last line of each verse making up the chorus. The 'Fab Four' were given the moniker 'Euphoria' by George. You-Four-ia? Geddit? Anyway, Chris Higgins sang the first, Dave Weston the second, yours truly the third and David Booth the fourth. Midway through the previous song, the realisation that my bit was coming next hit home and a minor panic ensued, but I quickly got it under control and felt okay as I stepped up with the other three guys. I think it was Caroline that had suggested writing the first word of each line on my hand. The simple knowledge that it was there would be sufficient to ensure I wouldn't need it. Well, it worked a treat. I felt a bit tense when I started my verse but mid way through I realised that I knew it, relaxed and apparently even smiled during the last line! I thought the song was a brilliant addition to the repertoire and like Amarillo, it gets the audience involved which has got to be a good thing.

Following that waas another stint form Lyndon and again, he sang songs that I'm not familiar with. I will add the titles later if possible. But he was in fine voice again and the audience certainly enjoyed his three songs. Then to wrap up another fine evening the choir sang Every Time We Say Goodbye and the traditional concert closer, You'll Never Walk Alone.

So another excellent night. Very varied with something in there for just about everyone and the audience seemed to really enjoy it all. So, do I now get the chance to chill out for a while? No chance! Caroline Sharpe Singers oncert coming up this next Friday in Kegworth. Better wrap up now and get over to Caroline's place for another run though of On the Street Where You Live.

Cheers for now,

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