Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Jeff Buckley - A personal tribute

 Jeff Buckley   1938 - 2016 
Back in 2011, when my journey into the world of singing was in its infancy, Caroline Sharpe had an idea to get a bunch of random friends and relatives together to have 'a bit of a sing' just for the fun of it. Not much more than that really. Nothing formal, no pressure, just come and sing and enjoy it.

Saturday 10th September 2011, was the day of the inaugural rehearsal of The Caroline Sharpe Singers, a landmark event when the group of enthusiastic individuals assembled at Trinity Methodist Church. For the record, the group consisted of me, Ruth, Anna-Ruth, Diane, Jean, Vicky, Chris, Shirley and Jeff Buckley.

In those early days it was pretty much me and Jeff as the 'men' in Caroline Sharpe Singers and thank heavens for Jeff as I think I might well have sunk without trace. At that time I was very much finding my feet singing-wise and Jeff was a great source of support to a nervous little me. Clearly an accomplished singer, Jeff could hit any note with aplomb and always got me back on track when I got hopelessly lost or sang an octave to high. And we had such a laugh too! Jeff helped keep the 'fun' in rehearsals which, as I've always said, is what singing should be all about.

A few years later he joined me in the Loughborough Male Voice choir. I had been twisting his arm for a while, but he had so many other commitments at the time that he couldn't initially, but he did succumb eventually. I knew he would add that extra bit of class to the baritone section of LMVC and he did. Just the same class that he added to Ruth and Caroline's Christmas Panto, 'What Can the Matter Be?' back in 2002, at Trinity Methodist Church, dressed as Little Bo Peep. Alas, that was shortly before I met Ruth so I've only seen the video, but it's definitely worth a re-run, for Jeff's legendary performance alone!

It's not often in life that one gets to meet such a warm, gentle, friendly, funny and easy to get on with bloke as Jeff Buckley. It's desperately hard to grasp that he's not going to be there any more to keep that bass section in check each Saturday morning.

We're all missing you Jeff, but wherever you are mate, keep singing!


Monday, 10 October 2016

Ruth's 50th Birthday Celebration Gig - a night to remember!

Just over 10 years ago, my wife Ruth celebrated her 40th birthday up at our then home in Bolton, with a band called 'Gary and the Goats', a fab little band featuring a certain Caroline Sharpe, who played a selection of covers of  pop songs old and new. And a great night it was too. As the years passed and the 'big 5 - 0' approached we wondered how we might top that.
Top it? I think we blew it completely out of the water. In truth this was not to be just a birthday party, but actually we wanted it to also be a celebration of our survival after three of the most traumatic and stressful years imaginable. After what we have been through as a family over this time and indeed continue to go through, it is nothing short of a miracle that we are still here to tell the tale. The fact that we are is due in no small part to the help and support of the people on our guest list. The night was a massive thank you to all of you!

They say 'you know who your friends are when the chips are down' and how true that is. One of the most telling things said to me a couple of years ago at the height of the crisis, was by the principal of Hardwicke House, a school for autistic children in Loughborough. She said to Ruth and I, "you know, the miracle is, you two are still together, because most marriages don't make it". She meant that the marriages of most parents who take on the battle to get proper treatment and care for their autistic child don't survive the extreme and unrelenting stress that it brings. Looking back, I don't know how we survived it either. It certainly took its toll on the physical and mental health of both of us but our marriage was never at risk at all, such is its strength. The sad thing is that some people never quite understood what we were going through. On a personal level, my priority became Ruth and the girls above all else and for that I make no apology whatsoever.

So, what did we come up with to celebrate and thank in equal measure? Well, Ruth had a few ideas but settled on a gig. After seeing Chris Hill Jazz a year or two ago, Ruth had pencilled them in for a role. But what else? Hmm, well Ruth and I have been fans of American singer/songwriter Dean Friedman for many years. In fact, to take you right back, we first met via the internet dating site 'Natural Friends'. One of the things mentioned in her profile, was a liking for the music of Dean Friedman. Soon after we met, Ruth gave me a tape cassette (remember them?) of a selection of Dean's music. In the years that followed we saw him in concert countless times, including up in Edinburgh doing a concert for kids where a five year old Amy got up on stage with him for a song called 'Smelly Feet'.

Anyway, earlier this year, we had the crazy thought, what if we could get Dean Friedman to come and sing for us? A recent email from him (he operates an email list and regularly sends out all manner of stuff to his fans) mentioning that he occasionally does private concerts if he can fit them in around his tour dates. Still, it was stretching it a bit to think that he would interrupt his  2016 UK tour just for us right? So we dismissed the notion and thought about maybe a barn dance instead. I can't say I was too enthusiastic about that idea so left the Deano option in the back of my mind. The months passed until the subject came up again and I thought, sod it, I'll email the man! If you don't ask, you don't get. He can only say no!

So I did email Dean Friedman, fully expecting the response, if indeed their was one, to be 'Sorry, thanks for the request, but alas I'm way too busy touring'. When Dean did reply the answer was in fact yes! Well, kind of. Dean was definitely willing to sing for us in a private gig. BUT. On Ruth's actual birthday he would be back in the states before returning for the final leg of his UK tour. He did suggest several alternative dates, one of which was October 1st. So we grabbed it!

There then followed a series of emails between Dean and I that will be trawled out to bore people to death with until the day I croak. "Look everybody, this is the email Dean sent me when......" . Zzzzzzzzzzzzz!  Oh, come on, if I can't bore people with my 'tales of Dean Friedman', then it's a poor do!

Oh Lordy, Dean was actually going to sing for us at Ruth's 50th! This obviously meant we would need to get a sound system worthy of the man. Dean sent me a list and diagram of his minimum requirements, and Premier UK Events of Leicester were engaged to do the honours. As for venue, we had been to a concert at the Carillon Banqueting Rooms in Loughborough a while before and were suitably impressed so they were approached and booked.

Cake. Every party needs cake. It is the law after all and we knew exactly who should be approached to supply it - Chris Barnett of Barnett's coffee shop on Leicester Road. If you've never frequented his place, then do! This guy could thrash everybody currently on 'Bake Off' I reckon, though he says he not great at bread. Anyway, as you'll see later his cakes were fabulous!

Okay, let's fast forward to the day in question. Excitement was reaching fever pitch, particularly when we learnt that we were likely to be moving house in three weeks time! The impending chaos that would throw up had to be pushed to the back of our minds for a few days. first step, pick up aforementioned cakes from Barnett's. Wow! Cakes are awesome and duly delivered to Carillon Rooms around midday. Sorted.

Next, get changed and go to venue and await arrival of Premier's sound engineer and his kit at about 4 pm. Well he did arrive shortly after four - a guy called Jono, who set about unloading and putting it all together.

Jono of Premier UK Events,  our sound engineer for the night
 - top man!
Chris Hill and drummer David James gave their ideas on a suitable layout that should be okay with Dean and it all began to take shape.  Dean was due to arrive at about 6 pm for a sound check at 6.30 pm. By 6.20 pm there was still no sign of Dean though I knew he'd left his Derby hotel cos he'd emailed me to say so and he had posted a photo of a rainbow on Facebook from the hard-shoulder of the M1! At half past six, a figure across the road in a cagoule (it was now lashing down) rummaging in his car boot, emerged with a guitar case. Dean had arrived, and after some hasty and slightly star-struck introductions, Dean quickly got on with the soundcheck.

Now this was impressive, not least for the way Dean was insistent on getting everything just right. I've no idea what 'reverb' is, but there had to be exactly the right amount on each monitor. Chris Hill was clearly impressed by his professionalism. Caroline Sharpe, who was to do a duet with Dean, was introduced to him and they discussed a possible run through.
Dean to Caroline: "Would you like to run through 'Lucky Stars  or shall we just wing it?"
Caroline to Dean: "Nah, let's just wing it".
What a pair of professionals eh?

So, with the selection of music playing from Ruth's tablet (much to Ruth's relief) through the splendid sound system, all we now needed was for guests to show up. And they did, thank heavens, as there was a lot of buffet and cake to get through. Dean needed a bite to eat so I asked for some of our sumptuous buffet to be provided for him. While waiting at the bar for that we had a brief chat, with Dean asking me what I did for a living. Little did I know that he was cleverly fishing for a little bit of info for use in the intro to one of his songs later, the cheeky blighter!

Okay, on with the show. First up was Chris Hill Jazz, featuring not surprisingly, Chris Hill on piano, David James on drums, Fyrish Newton on double bass and Caroline Sharpe on vocals.

Chris Hill Jazz kick things off in style!

Caroline Sharpe

Chris Hill Jazz - 'just background music?
I really don't think so!

I had been talking to Chris earlier in the evening and asked him what we could expect from CHJ and he described them as 'just background music'.
"What?" I said, " if there's one thing Chris Hill Jazz will never be it is 'just background music'". And I think I was right. Far from just chatting and eating their buffet, the audience listened and applauded. Chris Hill Jazz were fabulous and our only regret of the whole night was that we didn't film any of their pieces which is a great shame.

Caroline Sharpe the stand-up comedian was very much in evidence again, telling us that she really needed the words to the next song, which it turned out, consisted of a series of 'do-do-do's! Very amusing Caroline!

After they finished their set, Ruth said a few words, emphasising that as well as it being her birthday party, this was their party too as a big 'thank you !

Thank you Chris Hill Jazz. Fabulous!
While CHJ did their stuff, Dean sneaked a quick look at them, I think to possibly check out Caroline with a view to their duet later. I think he was suitably impressed. By this time it had come to light that some of the older members of the audience might have to leave early for various reasons. Dean was told this and he suggested maybe cutting his set to just 45 minutes instead of the full hour. Well, the look of horror on both mine and Ruth's faces were a picture. Suffice to say, we preferred Dean to do his hour and as it happened everyone stayed to the end. Quite right too!

Then Dean said he was ready to go, so it was my turn to step up and utter a few words. It was all a bit of a blur, but I think I got over how crazy the initial idea of getting Dean Friedman to come and sing for us seemed to be and how utterly surreal it now seemed to be that I was actually standing in front of a microphone, about to introduce him at Ruth's birthday party. It was, and will remain forever I think, the most surreal moment of my life.

And suddenly there he was, standing there, thanking me for my kind words and starting his set with his usual concert opener, 'Company'. 

Dean Friedman.
No, not a tribute act but THE Dean Friedman performing for us at Ruth's party!

Several weeks previously, I had emailed Dean with our favourite Dean songs in the hope that he might include them in his set. He did just that of course, with Ruth's fave song 'Woman of Mine' featuring early on.

The 'one and only' Dean Friedman
I liked Dean's introduction of Anna's favourite song 'Well, well said the Rocking Chair' saying that it was written 'in a herbal state of consciousness'. Can't think what he meant!!!
My fave is 'Shopping Bag Ladies'. If any song serves to emphasise how Dean can move you to tears with his song writing it is this one.  It gets me every time.

The shopping bag ladies, they live in the terminal waiting room,
Patiently whiling their hours away,
Desperately keeping their demons at bay,
Making up lies about times that were good.
Extolling the virtues of motherhood,
Staunchly defending their sanity
Clutching one last shred of vanity
Fixing a kerchief she wears on her head
Covered in posies and lilacs in blues and in reds.

Don't pity me, don't pity me,
You beautiful bastard boy.
I'll be just who I am.

See what I mean? It ends with: 

Shopping bag ladies, it's hard to believe,
But once they were...... children.

Brilliant! The guy is a genius.

One of the highlights of the night was Dean's rendition of Amy's favourite song 'Jennifer's Baby'. Now this is a song that Amy has had on her i-phone and has played constantly for weeks to the point that she knew every nuance of the song and on the night Dean sang it directly to her and she sang every word with him. Around those songs Dean included some of his funny songs like  I Miss Monica, I Never Really Liked You and the very naughty S&M. And of course, following our little chat earlier, he started to introduce one particular song by referring to my job in garden maintenance and my previous occupation in highway design. But Dean knew 'what Alyn's REAL job is! Cue the song I Love My Job, a song about what to say to your wife when she hasn't got a clue what you do for a living!

But it's my job to love you honey,
And I LOVE my job!

AS I said, the man's a genius! He relayed the story of the Half Man Half Biscuit song The Bastard Son of Dean Friedman as an introduction to his hilarious 'revenge' song A Baker's Tale : The hitherto untold story of Nigel Blackwell's dubious origins. This had our dear chum Michelle Oldale in hysterics to a point where it seemed paramedics  might be required. By the end of the song Dean himself pretty much gave up.

As well as requesting a few of our favourites, we had also asked Dean if he would like to do a duet of possibly his most well known hit song, Lucky Stars, with Caroline. Yes indeed he was and he saved this for last. Click on the link below for something of a treat!

Particularly telling is the expression on Dean's face just as Caroline starts singing, a momentary acknowledgement that this girl can really sing! I somehow doubt that Mr Friedman has sung that song with many better singers than Ms Sharpe (he said, without a hint of bias).
And that was it. An hour of Dean Friedman over in a flash, but Dean stayed for a while afterwards to chat, sign CDs and pose for umpteen selfies.

What else can I say about Dean Friedman? His talent as a singer and song writer is unquestionable, but what a thoroughly nice guy he is. Not a hint of ego, just a wonderful human being who went out of his way to make it a night to remember for everyone. What other artist of his standing would do what Dean did for us on October 1st?

Who knows, but all I can add is that together, Dean Friedman and Chris Hill Jazz, made it a night to remember for everyone present. I will leave you with a few more photos from the remainder of the night. And the cakes. Oh yes, THE CAKES!!!


Dean Friedman meeting Ruth's siblings post gig.

Dean, signing a CD

Dean Friedman signing a CD after the gig.
Anna-Ruth and Michelle

Ruth and Anna-Ruth 

Julia Sharpe with Hamish McQuinn !?!

Julia again dancing with sister Ruth while 'Ginger' Mc Quinn looks on...

Morag McSporran - never seen her before in my life!
Shaun and Michelle Oldale (left) and Ruth Friday (centre)

Loads of folks doin' the 'hokey-cokey'!

Put yer right arm in, right arm out.
In out, in out, shake it all about!
There now follows some photos of cakes!
Victoria sponge!

Rhubarb and custard

Lime and coconut cake

Orange Valencia

Rainbow cake - about seven different flavours!

Champagne and strawberry cake - I think!?!

The cakes, courtesy of Barnett's of Leicester Road, Loughborough.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Sheep, frogs and a bunch of tenors.

Hallelujah! with my dear laptop now successfully upgraded from the nightmarish Windows 8 to Windows 10, I can now set about writing another blog. Finding time to do this has become increasingly important as 'my public', (well, Norman H actually), have become increasingly demanding.
Any road, as we say in Bolton, I have been reflecting lately about why I persist with this singing lark and what I actually gain from it. Regular readers will be aware of the pain and torture I endured just to get to the point of being able to stand in front of the audience and produce a vaguely acceptable noise. Several years on and the torture pre-performance hasn't really got any easier but the standard of performance has improved. At least I think so. But, the increased self-confidence that being able to do this has given me has been immense. I think I've changed as a human being as a consequence - less the shy retiring introvert and more able to speak up and fight for myself and my family.
But overall, I sing for fun. As I've often said, if it stops being fun, what is the point? Caroline has pointed out to all the Caroline Sharpe Singers in an email recently, the importance of just enjoying a concert and how forgetting a few words ain't no disaster! "If you forget the words, just sing la-la-la with conviction". Absolutely.
Before my first ever public performance in November 2011 when I was at the point of bottling out, Chris Hill said to me "what's the worst that can happen - you just feel a little foolish"? It has taken me about five years to see he was absolutely right. Messing up the words has always seemed to me to be the most humiliating catastrophe and if you take that attitude with you onto the 'stage', you are almost guaranteed a nervous, stilted performance.
Last month during my Fat Bottomed Girls performance at the Purple Angels. Dementia UK gig, I got something horribly wrong and starting singing 'Oh....' on my own. As I described in an earlier blog, Ruth laughed, causing me to laugh and that was that. It mattered nowt. Nobody remembers the minor faux pas, just the overall light hearted performance.
As well as the concert performances, rehearsals need to be fun too. The role of the MD is obviously important in this respect and I've sung under two fabulous MDs in Chris Hill (LMVC) and Caroline (CSS).  For CSS, Caroline is happy for pretty much anyone to come along and contribute whatever they can contribute as often as they are able to. And we have some fun. Oh boy, do we have some fun! We tenors have had, let me say, one or two difficulties recently, of which everyone in CSS will be aware. Ave Verum Corpus was for us, err, challenging? Let All the World in Every Corner Sing is bordering on tenor abuse in my book, but we are getting there. Slowly?
But, we have one hell of a laugh in doing so. Norman Hockley, Mark Astil, Shaun Oldale, Sid and myself have a cracking rapport and we kind of bounce off each other, helping each other through the tricky bits.
Norman however, seems to have sussed out my sense of humour and maybe this isn't a good thing. During last Saturday's rehearsal, he and Mark made me crack up to the point where I could barely sing! Mark, who hasn't been able to come in recent weeks due I think to it being the lambing season (he be a farmer you see!) heard his phone go off soon after the start, and Norman said something like "I think it was one of his sheep, I could hear it going 'baaaah'"!
When he came back, Norman asked " who was that Mark"?
"Baaaaaaaaa-bra" replied Mark, quick as a flash!
Well, it cracked me up, but I guess I'm easily amused. Mad as a bucket of frogs, but we ain't alone in CSS. The ladies have their share of crazy frogs, mentioning no names of course! ;-)
So yes, 'fun' is the key behind my singing and which if I'm honest, I wasn't getting in the Loughborough Male Voice Choir anymore, so was the natural choice to finish when I realised I had to give up something in my life to reduce my load. The Belvoir Wassailers are a choir that clearly have  fun when they sing. While being nowhere near to the standard of the LMVC, they clearly enjoy their singing as it comes across in their performance. The LMVC perform very professionally and sing beautifully, but the fun and enjoyment of singing doesn't often come across in their performances. I would love them to do more 'Amarillo' type pieces and really let themselves go, but that's just my personal wish for them as a choir.
For me, I will continue as long as it is F. U. N !
Cheers for now,

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Rock Against Dementia - A Concert in aid of Dementia UK

Since I started singing back in 2011, I've been lucky enough to have been involved in some memorable concerts, most of which have been documented within this humble blog.  Last Saturday night's concert in aid of Dementia UK will live long in the memory for a multitude of reasons.

Dementia seems to be an issue that has touched many people of late, but it seems doubly cruel that both of Ruth's parents should have been struck with albeit very different forms in recent years. None of us could have forseen how poignant the date of 19th March 2016 was to become when plans for the Purple Angels 'Rock Against Dementia' concert were initiated.

But what a stunning night it turned out to be. The amount of work that Ruth put in to this night was utterly phenomenal. Planning was meticulous. Absolutely nothing was left to chance and it showed on the night. Purple balloons, purple cakes, posters, banners, stickers, even edible 'Purple Angel' logos on rice paper for the purple cupcakes were ordered! A professional photographer, Rebecca Holden, daughter of Helen Bamber was recruited to record anything and everything on the night and she did a fantastic job. There are some quite fabulous shots that captured the essence of the night just perfectly as you will see below.

But at the centre of it all was the 'Guest of Honour' for the night - Ruth's dad Peter Sharpe. Ruth decided to make the event the launch date of Peter's memoir, 'ark at Our Peter', which he had written with Ruth over the last few years. While initially published in the form of a online blog and presented to numerous groups as a talk, Ruth soon realised that it needed to be printed in the form of a book. This was brought to fruition with the help of Dave Dover of Reprint UK Printing Services at a reasonable cost and 50 copies were produced for sale on the night with the first two copies presented to Peter in a special presentation box.

Compere, Wendy Burns

As masterful as the organisation was, that didn't stop Ruth worrying about whether anyone was actually going to turn up. Even the daily replies to her invitations pledging attendance didn't seem to reassure her that we were going to get a substantial audience. But turn up they did giving us a pretty much full house. A full house that included the lovely Tanya Sage, who is as I type this blog, getting bladdered with my dear wife - somewhere in Loughborough - probably.

But what of the concert? Well, this was a fabulous mixture of musical styles that just worked a treat. Our compere for the night was Wendy Burns who kicked off proceedings and introduced the opening segment by the Loughborough Brigades Band, led by Alistair Nicholl. They played a selection of marches that they present in competition and were just great.The guys and gals of varying ages clearly love what they do and so it seemed did the audience.

Loughborough Brigades Band
Loughborough Brigades Band
Freddie Mercury (aka Alyn Paul Coward)
Then compere Wendy introduced "for one night only", The Purple Angel Singers! This motley group of individuals, some richly talented, some 'as mad as a bucket of frogs', (eh Norman?), were well known to all as the Caroline Sharpe Singers and would adorn largely purple attire with one notable exception. Oh yes, Freddie was back once more to start our little segment with a reprise of that Queen classic Fat Bottomed Girls. So yours truly again donned the leather trousers (steady ladies!)  and Freddie Mercury tribute T-shirt and I gave it my 'best shot'. Well, I got the words right this time and got most of the audience clapping. It would've been pretty flawless if it wasn't for a bizarre faux-pas when I ended up singing 'Ohhhh' all on my own at one embarrassing moment. I've absolutely no idea why, or even what was meant to have been happening at that point, but I felt a little ridiculous until I looked a my wife who cracked up laughing, causing me to do likewise! Oh, the joy of live performing which just showed I wasn't miming I suppose.

Norman Hockley singing Blue Moon

We followed that with the truly splendid One, which we are pretty darn good at and have even won an award or two for it in the recent past. That was rapidly followed by Sid's favourite (or maybe not) Blue Moon featuring a solo from that 'mad frog' Norman Hockley. Nice one Norman!
Chris Higgins with his hand built guitar

Next up was an acoustic guitar performance from Chris Higgins, who sang some really fine songs including Eric Clapton's Wonderful Tonight and John Denver's Annie's Song. As impressive as Chris's performance was, what he doesn't mention too often is the fact that he actually made the two guitars he used in his performance. This man is just way too talented for his own good!
Then came a 'lump in throat' moment as 'Guest of Honour' Peter Sharpe was presented with copies of his book 'ark at Our Peter. By the end of the night we had sold out of copies of the book, but if anyone would still like a copy and didn't manage put their name down for one, please let me know by emailing me your details and we will get one to you as soon as we can - click here to do just that! It really is a great read, full of humour and nostalgia. Copies are priced at a minimum of £4-00 with anything above that being donated to Dementia UK, so give generously folks!
Peter Sharpe and Ruth
The Brigades Band then did their second set of pieces before us Purple Angel Singers returned, this time with the help of a cellist, Hannah Bristow, in addition of course to the ever reliable Chris Hill on piano. Carl Jenkins' Benedictus was the piece for which the cellist was sought and what a difference it made. Just beautiful!
That was followed by Canon in D, and May it Be before we rounded things off appropriately with Goodnight Sweetheart.
After the music came plenty of time to view display boards regarding the work of Dementua UK and also the Brigades Band as well as slideshows  of Peter's photographs and memorabilia, both in the hall and the kitchen/dining room where a  myriad of cakes, cakes and I think a few cakes were to be had. Nice! It was made known prior to the start of the concert that a whopping donation of £500 had been made by a group if local radio hams who had decided this year to donate to Dementia UK and chose to make the donation through the night's event.
Later that night, the monies received had been counted up and including the big donation and minus a few of Ruth's expenses a total in excess of £1,200 will be forwarded to Dementia UK. A quite staggering total, way beyond anything Ruth could have dreamt of when setting the whole thing up!
Of course, not everyone who wanted to go along were able to and if you would still like to contribute to this extremely worthwhile charity, Michelle Oldale of Caroline Sharpe Singers, has set up as 'Just Giving' page for you to do just that. So if you would like to contribute to the battle against dementia, please go to the page by clicking here. Thanks!
So what a night it turned out to be. Ruth should be immensely proud of what she has achieved. Not just the money raised, but the flawless organisation and the entertaining and complementary fields of music that worked so well together to make a thoroughly enjoyable and memorable night.
Dementia in all its forms is something that seems to have touched the lives of so many in recent times and perhaps because of this, last Saturday's event captured the imagination of so many.
On behalf of Ruth, I would like to finish by thanking the following:-
David Dyson for organising the refreshments.
David Concannon for everything techie including photo slideshows.
Wendy Burns for agreeing to compere the evening and doing a fab job.
Rebecca Holden for her superb photography.
Chris Hill for tinkling the ivories as only Chris can.
Hannah Bristow for her beautiful cello playing.
Dave Dover of Reprint UK Printing Services for printing the book.
And Caroline Sharpe for her helpful hand waving.
Until next time?
Alyn aka 'Freddie'.
P.S. More photos to follow!

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Let's rewind a little....

It always surprises me when I find that folk actually read the inane waffle on the pages of this blog, but to find that some actually miss it when I don't write for a while is even more of a surprise. I guess I need to think more about my dear audience and not let them down quite so badly in the future. So thanks to Norman Hockley for the recent prods to get writing again.
My last post, on November 22nd covered the Trinity Choirs Festival and was meant to be followed by a write up on the Caroline Sharpe Pupils Concert the following week, but 'stuff' got in the way. From here on however, Ruth and I pledge to earmark time in our week for writing and other such pastimes (with good company?), so expect some more regular contributions to this humble blog as 2016 progresses. Hopefully!
Time now to press the rewind button and take us back to Saturday 28th November 2015, and remember what a fantastic evening it was. Ruth pointed out that this year I was one of the more experienced singers on the bill, as there were to be quite a lot of new faces. It was fabulous to see them all conquer their fears and to 'just do it'! I know how you all felt before you got up and I also know just how fabulous you all felt afterwards, just knowing that you really did actually get up there and sing. I won't list everyone, but I must say one performer brought a tear to my eye and that was Geoff Hickling.
Geoff you see, was inspired to have a go at singing, purely as a result of reading this very blog! He has read the lot, right from the very beginning and as a consequence plucked up the courage to have lessons with Caroline, join the LMVC and Caroline Sharpe Singers. This was after all the main reason for starting this blog- if one person reads this stuff and is inspired have a go themselves, then it will all have been worthwhile. Well Geoff did just that and when he got up and sang Silent Worship I could barely hold myself together! I was as proud as punch! Just see how much you'll progress this year Geoff! Caroline will have you singing crazy things like 'Fat Bottomed Girls' in no time at all.
The great thing about this annual showcase is the audience. Everyone who comes along knows that they are not going to hear musical perfection, but realise that there are nervous newcomers performing in front of an audience for the very first time and are wonderfully supportive. I remember several years ago, a guy called Neal Chantrill needed three attempts at the song he was singing. After messing up twice he finally got through it to tremendous applause. And that's the point - it doesn't matter if things go awry - it is all valuable experience.
Another amazing thing about these concerts is seeing the improvements in those that have been around for a few years, like dare I suggest, myself for instance. Looking back at my 'rabbit caught in the headlights' performance of Where e're You Walk back in 2011, I like to think I've come on leaps and bounds since then, though I'll let you be the judge of that. Certainly this year it was amazing to see the progress of Liz Jenkinson and Gail Morgan particularly who were outstanding! Liz has even gone on to pass her ABRSM Grade 8 singing with Distinction! And she ain't alone - a certain Ruth Coward passed her Trinity Grade 6 with Distinction too. Congratulations to Yasmin Wilbram, Mirren Mecathum, Shirley Godber, Gillian Smith, Katie Muller, Jill Perry, Maisie Ramsey, Harriet Taylor, Honor Neale and Jane Giddings, who all passed singing exams in 2015. Bravo!
"But what of Alyn Paul Coward" I hear you cry. Well, during an 'eventful' year (for want of a better description) singing lessons had not been in my diary much until the end of the summer. Then Caroline threw the Chicago songbook at me and we opened the page at All I Care About.  A nice little song which rather suited my voice I reckon. There's a video on Youtube of Richard Gere singing the song from the film of the musical which I used to guide me and I think on the night it was probably the nearest I have come to actually enjoying a performance. What's that you say? Tell that to my face? Well, at least there was a bit of expression there. I think!?!
I mustn't forget the Caroline Sharpe Singers' input to the evening. We opened with Dry Your Tears Afrika and the challenging (for us tenors at east!) Ave Verum Corpus, the latter going really quite well on this occasion. And we wrapped up proceedings with Blue Moon, featuring a solo from 'A Nightingale Sang's number one fan, Norman Hockley, and lastly the thoroughly delightful May it Be.
So that was it for another year. Who knows what November 2016 will bring? Watch this space......
Meanwhile, I was handed a mini DVD of that  rendition of All I Care About by Trinity's sound maestro David Concannon, but I've not yet had the guts to watch it. I can just about bare to listen to a sound recording of myself but watching myself is just a step too far. Maybe I'll have a large scotch later and put it on. Or maybe not?
See y'all soon,