Sunday, 12 May 2013

Coalville Festival of Music 2013 - what a day!

There's something about music festivals that set them apart from concerts or singing exams. In essence they each involve an individual, a choir or a duet, standing up in front of a group of people and singing. Each one involves a degree of nervous anticipation that can inspire or otherwise those involved.

My own experience of a festival last November in Leicester saw both sides of the coin (read about it here if you wish). I made a mistake or two in my solo class and felt an 'eejit' at the time but on reflection it wasn't that bad at all really. With the male voice choir it was rather different. There we collectively rose to the occasion and won our class. That experience was fantastic and I wondered what Coalville Festival was going to be like when  Caroline entered Caroline Sharpe Singers for the 2013 festival. 

As you regular readers of this humble blog will already know, we won the darn thing. That said, half of you were singing in the choir so you obviously know!  Okay, in typical 'Nightingale Sang' fashion, let's rewind to the break of dawn. . . .

Awoke to the sound of my darling wife Ruth singing Schumman's Mailied, or at least one half of it. She was to be competing in the duet class with Michelle Oldale. The practising of this has been relentless for some weeks to a point where I could easily step in to deputise should the need arise! Still, I admire her guts. After my unfortunate experience at Leicester, I was in no hurry to enter any solo classes at Coalville and Caroline didn't press me on the issue.

10am was to be a final rehearsal at Trinity, in our 'blacks' for photographic purposes. The runs through of Locus Iste and One went very well and the results of these are doing the rounds on Facebook right now! The Locus Iste run-through saw something of a breakthrough too as we finally cracked the dreaded 'note'. Chris Hill, the LMVC MD and CSS (bloody acronyms!?!) accompanist pointed out that our first note of 'irreprehen. . .' was just a note above the soprano's preceding note. All we need do is listen out for their last note and start above that - if that makes any sense at all? Well it does to me and did to all us tenors thankfully. Thanks Mr Hill, nice one. The man's a genius, I've always said so! The duettists, Ruth/Michelle and Vic/Liz ran through their songs too with Gail Morgan accompanying and then after a brew, we were ready for the off.

We left Trinity suddenly confident that we were actually going to do all right. Off we went, a convoy of two little yellow Fiat Pandas and found our way remarkably easily to Newbridge High School, the venue for the festival. We were immediately alerted to the fact that things were running a bit late, but what the heck - there was a canteen full of CAKE! Yum, yum, in my tum!

Right, things were a tad late, but it was game on! We were to be first on in the Choir class. Or maybe not? For some reason that was not really explained, Jak's Academy went on first and sang two suitably contrasting pieces. I seem to have managed to lose my copy of thne programme so for now, can't tell you what the pieces were. But, they featured some cute soloists! Terry Jones sitting to my left commented "that's what we need - some cute kids"!

Next, it was our turn. Despite a slightly untidy entrance to the 'stage' we performed firstly Locus Iste and then One. Both I thought went really well, though as ever, it is difficult to assess how good things sound to the audience, or indeed to an adjudicator, but I think we all returned to our seats happy with our efforts.
Then came Concordia a mixed choir of rather more mature age. They were fine but indulged in the sort of stuff that makes me cringe - lots of jigging about and clapping. Sorry, not for me, but each to their own I guess.

Time then for the words from the adjudicator, Peter Wells, a man I was familiar with from Leicester last November. If ever this man gets bored with music festivals he could take up stand-up comedy I reckon. He is hilarious, but at the same time also very helpful and constructive in his comments about individual performances. Some entrants in other classes are clearly of quite limited ability but he recognises that however good you are, it takes courage to stand up and sing and that there are a multitude of reasons why people do it at all. Everyone needs encouragement and Peter hands it out in spades and that is to his enormous  credit. In assessing the three choirs, he highlighted the importance of getting the choreography of any movement absolutely right. He did emphasise that with the choir class it was invariably one particular song that wins it for a choir and so it was here. It was our rendition of One that won us the trophy. Damn good it was too, but to be honest we were a class above the other two choirs by some distance. He could've gone with the cute kids, rather like he did at Leicester last year, but frankly, that would've been a travesty. So Caroline now proudly holds onto the slightly bizarre trophy, a figure of a shepherd with a dog holding a lamb shown in yesterday's brief celebratory blog. Okay, so it's a slightly weird trophy, but hey, we're an award winning choir now! 

After all that excitement, it was the turn of the soloists and duettists to do their stuff. However, the delay had worsened to over an hour by the time Caroline Jones' solo class came around. Things weren't helped by the official accompanist being otherwise engaged in another class. Caroline eventually got up to sing The Enchantress, which was an extraordinary piece requiring something like a two octave range to sing. Caz did a fine job but what a shame it was that her singing class didn't have any more entrants! Maybe some other altos from CSS can join in next year to give her some competition?

One soloist who did have some competition was Liz Jenkinson who entered the folk song class and accompanied herself on guitar. Liz performed a quite fantastic rendition of Barbara Allen. This was a folk sang I sang for my Grade 4 exam so I was aware of the literally hundreds of versions of the song. Liz's performance was quite breathtaking -  confident and very moving, capturing the drama of the story quite superbly and she comfortably won the class.

Later on in the day - much, much later, the final class was for duets where Ruth and Michelle and also Vic and Liz were competing. After some variable rehearsals, Ruth and 'chelle performed brilliantly. It really did surprise me, though it shouldn't have given Ruth's performing background, just how well they performed it. Well done girls! I was so proud of Ruth, particularly after all she's had to struggle with lately. Bravo ladies!

Vic and Liz then had a very complex piece to sing - that if not nailed, could've gone horribly wrong. In the event they sang it superbly and won the class as a result. Both of the duets were accompanied by Gail Morgan who did an excellent job and got particular praise from the hilarious Mr Wells. 

So that was about it. On returning home and heading for Facebook, it seemed most of us had cracked open a bottle of vino to relax, unwind and celebrate a bit. Well deserved too I think. On a personal note, I was over the moon at the quality of our performance in winning our class, but I did have a few feelings of regret at not entering a solo class or two myself. Coalville Festival is clearly a smaller festival than Leicester and is perhaps struggling to attract a sufficient number of entrants in many categories. I think it would be an ideal venue for me to dip my toe back in the competitive waters of festival singing next year and gain some much needed confidence before maybe trying Leicester again. Over to you Caroline!

Next on the agenda? A small matter of Loughborough Male Voice Choir's Spring concert 'Sounds of Spring' with The Enderby Brass Band, next Saturday 18th May, at Trinity MC at 7.30pm. Miss it at your peril!

Until next time, 

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