Sunday, 22 November 2015

What a difference a week makes

Well about time, I hear you say!
After recent conversations with Norman Hockley and Geoff Hickling about this humble blog I've been inspired to set fingers to keyboard once more.  And there's so much to tell it's difficult to know where  start. Perhaps with a brief update...
Shockingly, it is a whole year since my last post. That in itself tells its own story. 'Life' has been, let me say, difficult for the Coward/Sharpe/Gray family throughout 2015 and things came to a head over the summer when I realised that of all the things I was trying to cram into my life, I was doing nothing well and not really enjoying stuff. So, a bit of rationalisation was called for and something simply had to give. After much thought, I reluctantly decided to call time on my association with the Loughborough Male Voice Choir.
Any of you guys who have followed this from the beginnings, will know how much the LMVC has meant to me over the last, approaching five years. I was welcomed with open arms as a desperately nervous novice who didn't even know if he could sing at all, never mind what voice I was. After settling in with the second tenors despite, as Caroline Sharpe will no doubt confirm, I am more baritone, my confidence has grown over the years to the point where I've even contributed a solo verse in the folk song Pleasant & Delightful. But somehow, singing with the LMVC had rather lost its spark and I knew during the summer that it was time to 'move on'. I will reflect further on my time with the LMVC in another post soon.
I would now devote my singing energies to Caroline Sharpe Singers for the foreseeable future. Time now then to get up to date with the events of the last week and two dramatically contrasting experiences for the choir. Saturday 14th November saw the choir compete in  an ambitious three classes at the Leicester Festival. The  first class, for 'sacred music' meant kicking off with the piece that continues to give us tenors recurring nightmares, Ave Verum Corpus. Sigh. On the face of it, it is not a difficult piece. We chaps even had a 'men only' rehearsal early in the year to try and crack it and had no real problems. However things seem to go horribly wrong when attempting to sing with the rest of the choir. Anyway, the first choir in this class was Friday Singers who proved to be rather polished and impressive if a little pompous in their delivery. Now, I'm not sure what happened from here on but when we took to the stage there was a tension in the air that was almost palpable. 
We started so badly Caroline called a halt to Ave Verum with the words "Let's start that again shall we"? Oh dear! Well, we re-started and we got through it. Moving swiftly on, our second piece was Make me a Channel of Your Peace and to be honest it was a bit of a blur. We all sat down knowing that it was not our finest hour. Hey-ho, such is live performance I guess.  The third and final choir in this class was a group called Voices Aloud who were the kind of choir that frankly make me cringe. Let's just say if Caroline ever decides to make her choir go all 'happy clappy' and bop about, I will quit! I am though safe in the knowledge that she loathes such stuff as much as I do. Anyway, despite their embarrassing gyrations they made a good sound. Suffice to say we finished third. Let's move on eh?
The second class we had entered featured the same 3 choirs with much the same result, but at least there were no major disasters. Blue Moon went okay-ish, but Dry Your Tears seemed a little ragged to me. As for the other two choirs, we had more pompous delivery and more embarrassing gyrations. Net result, third place. But hey, in our third class we were the only participants and took home the silver disc trophy after acceptable renditions of Do You Hear the People Sing and the delightful May it Be from Lord of the Rings.
So, what to make of Leicester Festival 2015? A  few factors I think contributed to the somewhat less than satisfactory day. Maybe the quality of the opening act proved a bit intimidating, leading to the nervous start to Ave Verum? That mishap seemed to just set the tone for the day. We never really recovered from that bad start.
Never mind, the day wasn't all bad, we did manage to see some other choirs - some good, some okay and one quite hilarious. If our opening cock-up was bad it was nowt compared to the WI choir later on whose opening song restarted three, yes THREE times and degenerated into something resembling a rehearsal with the beleagured MD seemingly telling each singer what opening note to sing. T'was utterly bizarre! And then there was the adjudicator. I haven't got a copy of the programme and don't recall her name, but she was, err interesting!
Straight after the festival, Ruth had to shoot off to Kegworth Methodist Church for a Music in Me concert, in which she was to perform a hastily learnt solo of Oh Foolish Fay from Iolanthe. I was sad to miss this, but I had heard the song several (hundred?) times during the preceding week so felt I knew it myself! By the way, Peter Gallagher, I think you recorded my wife's solo so look forward to a viewing some time soon?
Oh  and one final thing:- Note to Leicester Festival organisers. Please don't close the gates until at least half an hour after the final class at your festival. It made for a very stressful end to the day. Thankyou!
They say a week is a long time in politics, Well I think maybe the phrase could equally be applied to singing. I think we all knew we could do a whole lot better than we produced at Leicester. Thankfully we got the opportunity to do just that seven days later at Trinity Methodist Church, performing as one of  four choirs as part of a celebratory concert marking 50 years since the opening of the church.
The difference on this occasion was that we were to open the concert. And what an opening it was. Anyone watching the two performances would not believe it was the same choir. We kicked things off with Chris Higgins strolling down the aisle as narrator for Be Our Guest. Every time he's performed this he arrives on the stage at exactly the right time. How he does this I don't know but I wouldn't be surprised if he's practised it a thousand times to get it perfect, such is the man's dedication!
What followed was without doubt Caroline Sharpe Singers finest performance yet. Eric Whitacre's Seal Lullaby was beautiful I reckon, and Dry Your Tears was certainly the best we have ever sung it. The last two pieces, May it Be and One were pretty much spot on. Comments were received soon after regarding the excellent choice of pieces that some had never heard before. And, (take note Loughborough Male Voice Choir!) singing without copies made a HUGE difference to our performance and to our engagement with the audience.
The three other choirs that contributed to a fabulous evening were the Loughborough Free Churches Choir (featuring CSS's Jeff Buckley); Viva La Musica and the Loughborough Male Voice Choir (featuring CSS's Jeff Buckley!) I really enjoyed all four choirs performances and the evening was rounded off nicely when we all joined together onstage for a massed choir rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah. I was amazed at how quickly this came together and despite zero rehearsal from yours truly, it all went rather well.
So there you have it - a rather overlong blog, but long overdue. Hopefully, there will be more to come after next weeks Caroline Sharpe Pupil's Concert back at Trinity. See you there!