Sunday, 28 May 2017

The Caroline Sharpe Pupil Concert 2017

Well here we are again eh? It’s Pupil Concert time again. I’ll spare you the quips about it ‘not feeling like a year since the last Pupil Concert, cos it isn’t’, Caroline’s already done ‘em! But yes, a switch to a May date is a good move given the number of times pupils have to sing through colds/flu/chest infections and all manner of ills as the November winter kicks in.
What a shame then that Anna, Ruth and then me should be struck down with various random viruses in the weeks approaching this concert, in my case just two days before. It just goes to show you that in Britain, it doesn’t matter when you schedule something the British climate will conspire to mess you up.
But no matter, whatever happens, it’ll never surpass the now legendary (in my brain at least) phlegm laden rendition of Ich Grolle Nicht a few years ago! Ooh, that was schhhhh-peshhh-ull!
Okay, I’ll start this review with ME. What better thing to concentrate a blog about than me, me, me? Excuse the smug, arrogance, but it’s perfectly in order. You see, on this occasion, I was to sing a duet with my fellow Caroline Sharpe Singers’ tenor and partner in crime (?) Norman Hockley, where this particular trait would prove vital!
Me and Norm have built up a tremendous rapport in CSS over the last year or two. We’ve just kinda clicked I guess. We share the same daft sense of humour (to Caroline’s annoyance at times I’m sure) and help each other out when either of us are struggling. In fact, that goes for all the tenors, including Shaun, Sid, Norman 2 and Baaaaa-bra, sorry, Mark. We have our difficulties that all other choir members will recognise, but we get there – eventually.
Anyway, a while ago Caroline proposed a fabulous duet for me and the Normster called You’re Nothing Without Me, taken from the (to me at least) little known musical City of Angels. In this piece, Norman was to play a writer (Stine) while ‘yours truly’ would play the character (Stone) that he created. The scary thing about doing this piece was that it would require a bit of acting to make it mean anything and make it work at all.  Oh Lord. Act? You’re kidding me right?
No, she wasn’t. Okay, so given my much-documented performance terror, how the hell was I going to carry this off with any conviction? The answer was clear to me after the relative triumph of ‘Freddie at WRAD’ earlier this year. The key is just to know the damn song inside out until it is automatic. Repetition ad nauseum to the point where one is sick to death of the bloody song. Then, and only then will there be any chance at all of me being comfortable enough on stage to try and ‘act’ around it.
Another slight worry, was that Norman has a long history of ‘am-dram’ including the Quorndon Shakespeare Company, so lil’ ol’ me was going to have to shape up. Rehearsals went well, ish until I tried to act a bit. Then the words went completely out of my head. Multi-tasking you see! Can’t do it. When I sing, I sing and that’s it. No need to think what my body is doing or even looking like. Now however, I needed to look smug and arrogant and dismissive of my ‘creator’ side-kick, while also attempting to sing.
Anyway, I’ll cut to the chase. On the night, Norman did indeed supply the threatened Fedora, which miraculously fitted me perfectly. A quick lesson in how to put the hat on properly followed and we were sorted and ready to go. When the time came, Caroline thankfully introduced the song to give it its proper context and up we strolled, me as nonchalant as I could manage, given the butterflies doing cartwheels in my guts and leaned casually against the table and put on the Fedora as instructed.
As ever, the actual performance is a bit of a blur, but I did my best to look dismissive of my writer, to mock his jealousy of my character and by all accounts, pretty much pulled it off. There were a few minor mistakes from both of us I think – but it worked. And, whisper this very quietly, I really enjoyed it!
There. I’ve said it. I never thought it would happen to be honest. There were a few nerves there beforehand, but nothing like previous traumas, simply because I was confident I knew the song well enough to relax a bit and actually perform it rather than merely sing it. For once I’m really looking forward to seeing David Concannon’s recording of it. Shaun Oldale said to me after that he really felt my disdain for my creator, so that’s job done I guess? All that’s left to say on the matter is a ‘thank you’ to Caroline and Ruth for the belief, Chris Hill for his accompaniment and of course Norman, without whom I’m nothing and that’s the last time I will make that gag – ever!
Now I believe there were other singers involved last night!  Oh yes, as ever there was no shortage of intrepid individuals prepared to bare their souls and battle their nerves in front of a supportive Trinity audience. Everyone and I mean everyone did absolutely brilliantly last night. I could go through everyone but will pick out just a few for special mention. Firstly, little Charlotte Vaughan. Bless her, it all proved a little overwhelming initially, but with a little help from Maddie Dunstan, she got back up there and sang Castle on a Cloud from Les Mis. Bravo Charlotte! Well done, that’s the first one done and as I am only beginning to realise, it really does get a bit easier as the years go by!
And then there was Geoff Hickling. You’ll all know by now how Geoff was motivated to try singing after reading this humble blog. Well, just a couple of years later, his progression has been amazing. Your performance of Linden Lea last night Geoff, was note perfect. I meant what I said to you afterwards last night and you can be very proud of yourself!
Quite early on in the programme there was a new singing group called Per Sempre. Formed shortly before Christmas 2016, this little bunch of choristers comprising me, Ruth, Yvonne Renouf, Katie Muller, Wendy Burns, Sam Wood and Gerard Stevens are aiming to master some tricky and unaccompanied sacred music. Last night sadly we were going to have to get by without a genuine tenor as Sam couldn’t make it. Into the breech stepped that well known tenor of this parish, Caroline Sharpe? Having had the pleasure of listening to Caroline sing on many an occasion, having her at my side last night and hearing this oddly deep voice was just the most bizarre thing! I’m not sure she’ll let the recording of April is in my mistress’ face anywhere near Youtube, though it did seem to go surprisingly well by all accounts.
Now, as well as a duet last night we were treated to a mysterious trio just before the interval. Billed as an ‘Operatic Trio’ to be performed by Beverly Price, Liz Jenkinson and a certain Ruth Coward. I obviously knew that it was to be the well-known Three Little Maids from School from G&S’s Mikado. Well this was hilarious and despite a very minor hiccup, went down great with the audience. I think the gals had three rehearsals of that piece in total, so it was pretty impressive! Well done y’all!
Then there was Liz Jenkinson. Crikey! The only word I can use to adequately describe her rendition of Handel’s Iris Hence Away from Semele is Class. Everything about her performance from the verbal introduction through to the final note just oozed class. It was simply breathtaking and something that the rest of us can only use as inspiration.
I suppose I had better mention the Caroline Sharpe Singers’ contribution to proceedings too, where we kicked the night off with Tell Me it’s Not True from Blood Brothers and finished the evening off with Ashokan Farewell. The former went pretty well I think, the latter less so. Caroline’s morning after Facebook post summed it up perfectly. “Early audience feedback suggests that Ashokan Farewell sounds very effective. I think we’ll learn that one and sing it again sometime”. Ha-ha! Guilty as charged ma’am! I confess to being nowhere close with that one, but promise to address the matter in due course, honest Miss!
The second half commenced with CSS performing as the backing singers for Gail Morgan singing the old time classic, Don’t Dilly-dally. The great thing about these concerts is seeing the obvious improvement in singers each year and Gail is a very good example!
So a final name check to last night’s performers not mentioned thus far:
Hearty congrats to:
Jill Perry
Teresa Courtenay
Gillian Smith
Marian Carey
Paula Vaughan
Barry Johnson
Jane Giddings
Yvonne Renouf
Wendy Burns
Stuart Kirkland
Maddie Dunstan
Beverly Price
& Katie Muller
Bravo everyone and hope to see you next year, May probably!
Cheers, Alyn.