Monday, 30 May 2011

Singing in Queens Park

On the morning of Sunday 29th May, I got up, threw open the curtain to see. . .

Clouds! Oh well, it could be worse. At least it wasn't bucketing down with rain so one should be thankful for that at least. With the driest March and April on record, I suppose it was pushing things somewhat to expect the unfeasibly warm spring to continue to the end of May for my second public performance with the Loughborough Male Voice Choir. Today was the day for an open air concert in Queens Park, Loughborough. Some inspired individuals at Charnwood Borough Council, obviously with our concert in mind, decided in the weeks before the concert to completely renew the bandstand's roof with a nice paint job inside too. Nice job guys!

So, after one final, last minute attempt to get to grips with When the Saints Go Marching In, I donned the uniform and made my way to the park and it's newly revamped bandstand. Just as I arrived I gave Chris Higgins a helping hand withthe equipment including the new technology that was to hopefully solve the problems encountered last year when the choir had to resort to singing unaccompanied. This time a large battery plus an 'inverter' would it was hoped, power Sue's keyboard for the duration of the gig. Fingers crossed!

Loughborough Male Voice Choir under the Bandstand at Queens Park, Loughborough

As 1.45pm approached, choir members arrived one by one. The first major decision to be made was to decide which direction to sing in. With that agreed we were then ready to get cracking and by this time an encouraging number of folks had ignored the dull grey skies and assembled on the benches surrounding the bandstand. Not 'One Man and His Dog' as I feared, but a veritable audience! Chris kicked off proceedings with With a Voice of Singing which is always a good one to give a good rousing start. This was another personal triumph for me as I just about managed to get through it without music. You regular blog readers will recall I timidly sat this one out on my debut at Trinity Church last month! Okay, bereft of music, I was a bit dodgy in the middle, but it is getting there. In fact that probably describes my performance as a whole on reflection. Next up was Myvanwy which is fast becoming a personal favourite of mine - I guess it's my welsh blood.

LMVC with Chris Hill conducting

I won't bore you by listing the entire programme, but I feel highlight must be made of the vast improvement in the 'ra-da-da-da-dahs' in Chanson d'amour, which were almost approaching 'breathy and sexy' as opposed to 'agricultural'! Also, Chris Hill quite wisely I think, chose to ditch Amarillo in favour of Every Time We Say Goodbye. The collective sigh of relief from the choir was huge!  My own personal nightmare continues to be When the Saints Go Marching In. Oh dear, oh dear! Will I ever get this one right? One day my friends, one day. . . .
That's me in the middle with John Holt to my left and Peter Bateman to my right.

The award for the hilarious moment of the day came courtesy of our intrepid accompanist Sue. I forget which song it was, maybe When the Saints, but as she started to play, a bizarre noise emitted from the keyboard, bringing cheers from all!

So all in all, a great afternoon. The weather stayed fine if a little dull with just the occasional gust of wind turning my music over at the most inconvenient moments. Special mention must also be made to the audience who turned up in good numbers with my dear wife contributing numerous  appreciative 'whoops' of delight after each song. Thanks to all my 'fan club' including Ruth, Julia, Diane and Caroline for their support.

I will leave you with some more photographs of the event. Keep your eyes open for a glowing report in the Loughborough Echo, penned by Ruth. They had better print it or else!!!

Cheers for now,

Th Loughborough Male Voice Choir in fine voice

Chris Hill conducting

John Holt and me behind.
Note  that while we're both second tenors, only one appears to be singing at this moment
- not an uncommon occurrence it must be said!

I really am not drunk as this photo might suggest. Honest!
.Here I am enjoying a welcome swig of APPLE JUICE during a break.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Happy Birthday to Me!

There's something slightly unpalatable about having to go to work on one's birthday, but never mind. It will soon be the weekend when we will head to Skeggy for a few days at the seaside to blow away the cobwebs. English brekkie at Beachview Cafe and Fish 'n Chips at 'Linga-Longa'. Cholesterol overdose it may be, but essential nonetheless!

'Singing' seems to have been at the forefront of peoples minds when considering birthday presents for me this year - can't think why! As well as a lovely bottle of single malt whisky and a DVD collection of the hysterical TV series 'Outnumbered', Ruth and the girls bought me a couple of books of sheet music for Nat King Cole and Michael Buble with each including a CD of backing tracks for each song to sing along to. Fantastic!

Caroline is clearly intent in steering me towards some more classical stuff and has presented me with a set of four pieces of music all neatly bound together and entitled "Alyn's Classical Collection". Nice! The pieces are: Ombra mai fu; Silent Worship and Where E-er You Walk, by Handel , plus Caro Mio Ben by Giuseppe Giordani. So those should present something of a challenge I think. As I mentioned last time, I thought I ought to attempt the original Italian versions where possible, but when searching 'Youtube' for examples of Non lo dirĂ² col labbro, the Italian version,  it seems that the song is sung by a female part in Handel's opera, Tolomeo. So I guess I need to sing the English song and leave the Italian to the ladies for this one. My grasp of Italian will be suitably challenged by Caro Mio Ben though.  Sis-in-law Julia gave me a voucher for an hours singing lesson with Caroline to help me on the way! Exciting stuff. I've already got Where E-er You Walk drummed into my head thanks to Youtube, so can't wait to get cracking on them all.

Meanwhile, it's on with the Queens Park gig preparations for May 29th. Tonight we'll see if I've made any headway with When the Saints Go Marching in, which I found virtually impossible to follow last week. Wish me luck!

Cheers for now,

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

It's a small world!

When I started recording my singing exploits within this little ol' blog, the general idea was just to create a kind of online diary. If a few friends and relatives found it vaguely entertaining all well and good.

It wasn't long before it began to grow a bit. I could soon see the potential of using it to perhaps encourage other like minded individuals in the Loughborough area to take the plunge and give the choir a try. Chris Hill could see that possibility too and a link to the blog has now been added to the LMVC website.

So, imagine my surprise to suddenly find a message in my 'Inbox', all the way from New York, USA! To read the message from a guy called Jesse  together with my reply to him, click here.

How cool is that? Hopefully, the choir Jesse is auditioning for will be as welcoming as the LMVC has been to me and he goes on to fulfill his dreams! Great stuff!

Meanwhile, back in Blighty, it's concert preparation time again! Last Thursday's rehearsal saw us run through the songs to be included in the May 29th concert in Queens Park. And it means seven more songs that need learning in just a few weeks. Some seemed pretty straight forward, while a couple anything but. Serious work needed I think! If only I didn't need to go to work. It really does get in the way of the more pleasurable parts of one's life, don't you find? All this singing malarky has made the daily drudgery of working on the A46 widening scheme seem ever more dull. Anyway, I do have a right good 'sing-song' in the car on the way to work, much to the amusement of other road users when stopped at traffic lights!

My last singing lesson with the 'Caz-meister' was, may I be so bold as to suggest, my best yet? By 'best' I mean in terms of relaxing more and singing better. The quality of the aforementioned singing was certainly questionable! Certainly, the Nat King Cole songs went reasonably well, but I sense Caroline now wants to drag me, kicking and screaming, out of my comfort zone and to challenge me a bit. Next up is a piece of Handel with the option of doing it in either English or Italian. Now this was interesting in itself! When I think Handel, I think 'Messiah' - all very English. A quick bit of Googling finds a load of 'Wikipedia' bumf on Handel's Italian operas and arias!  Now, I do like a bit of opera, particularly Puccini and Verdi, but I am also a bit of a traditionalist - I like Italian operas sung in Italian and Carmen sung in French. Sorry, but English translations don't do it for me, I'm afraid. So, it would be a tad hypocritical of me to not go for Italian, would it not?

Yeah! Bring it on Caroline! A crash course in Italian pronunciation as well as Handel now required. Let me know the name of the piece again and I'll have it sorted in time for my next lesson. Or not!?!

Cheers for now!


Sunday, 8 May 2011

The Loughborough Male Voice Choir Carillon Bell

On Sunday May 1st, Ruth and I went over to the war memorial in Queens Park to listen to Caroline give one of her regular Carillon recitals. For the uninitiated, there's a website all about this rare and extraordinary musical instrument to be found here.

While we watched the master at work, Ruth noticed a photograph within one of the information boards opposite the clavier. It appeared to show a bell with an inscription implying that it was a gift from the Loughborough Male Voice Choir. With my curiosity aroused, I had to go and have a look for it!

Risking punctured eardrums, I climbed the steps to where the bells are hung and after a few minutes I located the bell in question and took a couple of photos:-


Intriguing! The first recital of the Loughborough Carillon was on 22nd July 1923, but the Loughborough Male Voice Choir didn't come into existence until 1967. So, perhaps new bells were added or maybe some re-cast at some stage after 1967?

Actually, it seems the answer to this apparent puzzle is a little simpler than that. A quick chat with Chris Hill before last Thrusday's rehearsal shed some light on it. It would seem that while the current incarnation of the Loughborough Male Voice Choir didn't come into being until 1967, there was a male voice choir present in Loughborough in the early 1920's and it was this group that funded this particular bell right at the beginning of the life of Loughborough War Memorial tower and its Carillon. The bell seen in the photographs above is the original bell as installed back in the 1920s.

As Chris says, I think our current choir can justifiably lay claim to this bell! After all, we are Loughborough's Official Male Voice Choir and the bell has our name well and truly on it! I now feel the urge to delve a little into the history of Male Voice Choirs in Loughborough. It would be nice to find out something about the funding of this Carillon bell by the 'original' LMVC, when the choir formed and why it disappeared. If anyone has any information or memories of earlier choirs in Loughborough, do drop me a line.
Ooh, I feel a book coming on!!!


Monday, 2 May 2011

Confidence is key!

If there is one thing that is becoming abundantly clear to me as I continue on this extraordinary journey, it is that 'confidence is key' to singing well.

The concert with the Stevenage ladies highlighted this perhaps obvious point perfectly when my nervous first half performance gave me 'throat ache' while a more relaxed second half gave no such problems. Recent rehearsals with the choir have added support to this observation when only two second tenors have been present. To all the choir members who have been present at the last two rehearsals, let me say this right now - I really am a lot better at singing than I have probably displayed on these last two occasions, honest! You see, with just the two of us, the 'lack of self-confidence' thing kicks in. "If I mess up now it's going to be obvious" thinks my little head. Thus, I tense up which makes getting to those higher notes virtually impossible. So basically, my own self-doubt ruins everything. The crazy thing is, when there are four or more second tenors there, I don't feel self-conscious, I relax and as a result sing so much better! Daft innit?

My latest singing lesson confirmed it all too. Once again, I arrived feeling a bit nervous. Perhaps taking the absurd step of recording myself singing and listening to my in-tune but somewhat bland sounding voice last week didn't help matters. But my warm-ups this week were rather rubbish, struggling with the lower and higher notes this time. Caroline reckons the earlier morning start (10 am) might have been part of the problem, but maybe I was 'thinking about things too much'. Hmm, probably true. After a few minutes of singing On the Street Where You Live, I began to relax and everything started to come together. The day before when singing at the wedding, I felt pretty relaxed for the whole thing and had no problems at all. So for heavens sake man, RELAX!!!

So I've taken a step back over the last 48 hours and taken a good look at exactly what I've actually achieved since I stepped into Trinity Methodist Church for that first rehearsal with the Choir.
  • gone to a rehearsal with the LMVC and only missed one since.
  • learnt the second tenor parts for about ten songs pretty well.
  • sung IN PUBLIC in a concert to a packed audience at Trinity Methodist Church
  • sung in a small choir for a wedding
Not too bad in a few short weeks really!

Now, that Caroline King woman is a cunning devil you know! Near the end of my lesson on Saturday, Rose, one of Enchanted's singers, and her mother were waiting outside for me to finish. Caroline, to my horror, invited them into the room. "Come in, Alyn is going to sing for you", she said. OMG!?! Obviously, this was not the time to 'bottle out', so I had to go for it. There followed a rather tentative rendition of Nat King Cole's Unforgettable. Well, I got through it, rather like the first song at the recent concert, in something of a blur, but  did it and it was okay-ish! Caroline reckoned I had risen to the occasion and Rose was equally complementary.

On reflection, it was obviously a deliberate move on Caroline's part to get her students used to singing to an audience, however small. If she had told me she was going to do that the night before, I probably wouldn't have slept and she knows it. But with no warning, I just did it. So that's another notable triumph that I really need to give myself a whole lot of credit for!

The bottom line is that I am finding singing really great fun. It has given my whole life a huge emotional boost that I could never have dreamt possible. If I can just help myself to relax into it a bit I will enjoy it even more and, who knows, people might just enjoy listening to me singing too!

Onwards and upwards!