Sunday, 22 April 2018

Sileby, Quorn and a wardrobe malfunction.

Well, you wait for a concert for what seems like an age and then two come along at once. The weekend of Friday 13th and Saturday 14th of April, meant concerts for both Caroline Sharpe Singers and the Loughborough Male Voice Choir.

First things first. Friday 13th (is that really a wise date on which to undertake a concert?) at Sileby Methodist Church, Caroline Sharpe Singers were to give a concert in aid of church funds and a good turn out of choir members assembled in readiness to give our all. Over the years, concert venues become something of a blur to me but even with my sieve-like memory, I recalled having been there before, singing a solo  of On the Street Where You Live, if I recall correctly. Actually, I could check that out by reading back through this blog - if I could be bothered!

On this fair night, our beloved MD did state, that all songs would be sung bereft of copies, with the exception of Greensleeves. The planned 'learning of the words' that I'd promised myself, never quite happened, so The Longest Time was again destined to be err, less than perfect? Perhaps we tenors could at least keep the unwanted key changes down to the minimum this time? I wouldn't bet my mortgage on it, if indeed I had one!

One thing about this concert that does need addressing and has already been highlighted by Caroline herself, is that of 'the art of filing'. Now, we're not talking about putting sheets of paper in tall, grey, three-drawer cabinets here, we are talking about filing on and off stage. Walking on stage and then walking off stage. It's not 'rocket science' is it (to use an over-used cliché)? CSS are not alone here. The LMVC have had their fair share of filing nightmares in the past, but under the determined supervision of Lyndon Gardner these days, such cock-ups seem to be a thing of the past. But the filing of CSS on Friday, I have to say, was utterly shambolic. So shambolic in fact, that during this Saturday's rehearsal, Caroline gave us all her 'Idiot's Guide to Filing' demonstration. Oh how I wish I had been fore-warned of this so that I could have had my I-phone ready to record it for posterity. The demo will live long in the memory of all who witnessed it. Quite hilarious! Equally hilarious were her instant put-downs. "Caroline? Can I make a suggestion?" "No!" says Caroline.  I think we know who's boss eh, ladies and gentlemen?

On the night, I thought we sang pretty well on the whole. Even the dreaded Greensleeves went pretty well. And The Longest Time was going well too until the last verse, when I think all of us tenors had a brain-freeze and the whole thing nearly stalled. But hey, we finished well. And, I messed up the clapping in Jubilee. Again. This time I missed it altogether and rather than look even more of a prat by trying to jump in mid-way, I chose to give it a miss entirely and make it look like it was always meant to be that way. Oh dear!

As well as CSS, the concert also featured solo spots for Katie Muller and also her mother Yvonne Renouf. I wish I could give a glowing report but alas, I was horribly distracted by strange goings-on in the kitchen at the time, (about which I will not elaborate further) and pretty much missed their performances as I teetered on the brink of an emotional melt-down. The gals were I'm told, excellent though!

I did manage to listen to some of the flute group called Mistral Music that included some instruments that I had never seen before. I presume there were bass flutes and tenor flutes? I will shut up now as I know not what I am talking about. They made a very nice sound though. The group included the above mentioned and multi-talented, Yvonne Renouf, who seems to be in just about everything at the moment. Where does she find the time to do it all I wonder?

So the concert went pretty well and feedback from the audience suggests that they enjoyed it too, raising a good sum of money in the process.


I interrupt this blog for . . . . . .


"Have you heard about all the crime that's been going on in the multi-storey car park?

It's just wrong on so many levels!"

Brrrrrrummm, tiiisssccchhh!


Okay, now where was I?

Ah yes, about to write about last weekend's other gig on Saturday April 14th at Quorn Community Hall, that marked my momentous return to the Loughborough Male Voice Choir. Recent events in the Coward/Sharpe/Gray household have meant that I had to miss a significant number of pre-concert rehearsals with the LMVC, meaning I was horribly under-prepared for my 'comeback gig'. This was the last concert to feature pieces from last year's core music, so the choir knew all the songs pretty well. Now if I had had any sense I would've bailed out of this one and delayed my comeback until the first concert of the new core music. Silly me. So I somehow needed to bluff my way through a concert when not knowing some pieces at all well, and in one case, Morte Christe, not at all. More on that later.

Considering the above scenario, I was remarkably relaxed about it all and started to get prepared in good time. A brand new blazer was purchased online for a mere £35 from Pegasus Menswear so all I needed to do was affix my choir badge to said blazer with good ol' Wonderweb' (until I find the time to get it properly sewn on!). Job done. Now to get ready. Blazer - check! White shirt - check! LMVC tie - check! Black socks - check! Shiny black shoes - check! Grey trousers - oh, now where are my grey trousers? Ah, here they are. No they're not, they are Ruth's. So where are mine? Answer, nowhere to be found! Bugger! I must have chucked them at the same time that I chucked my old worn out LMVC jacket when I took my break from the choir!

Now what the hell do I do? Can I get away with black trousers? Not a chance. I know there are some 'Fifty Shades of Grey' amongst the ranks of the LMVC but not even I could convince anyone that mine were just very dark grey!?! Could my grey jeans work? Hell no!

Should I just not turn up and plead insanity? Well, after Chairman Higgins had made the point during last week's rehearsal that several members who had said they were definitely attending the previous Lambing service performance but didn't, I could hardly now do likewise. So, nothing else for it but to do a last minute panic trip to Tesco in the desperate hope that they had some grey trousers. I had precious little time to look and try on. Anyway, they did have some and in what I thought were my size, so I bought them, rushed into Tesco loos, changed into them and legged it. On my way back to the van I looked down and realised the grey trousers were a bit on the short side. In fact I think I looked rather like Peter Crouch (a 6' 7'' tall footballer for the uninitiated) who had struggled to find any trousers long enough to fit him. Sigh!

On arrival I texted Ruth this embarrassing news and she and her sister Julia asked if I was staying with the 'ankle swinger' look or wearing them on my hips, but thus risking the 'low slung gusset' look? I opted for the latter and think I got away with it. Just!

But what of the concert? Well, many of the songs I knew quite well, like With a Voice of Singing, When the Saints Go Marching in and Gwahoddiad, but others I knew less well, but as copies were allowed for most, they went okay. The problem though was Morte Christe. Most of the choir had been singing this a lot over the last couple of years during my absence, and by long standing members for many a moon. But for me it was completely new and was to be sung without copies. Now how does one sing a song that you don't know at all, without copies and not stick out like a sore thumb to the audience? Well, I knew the first couple of lines and by listening to the rest of the choir, I found I could almost guess the words as they were being sung. So I got through it in reasonably convincing fashion. At least, I think so.

Another notable thing from this concert was the huge difference in those 'Shanty Men'. There were a few new faces included in this group of chaps and gone were the arran sweaters. But this was without doubt the best performance by the Shanty Men that I have seen. Each song was sung without copies as Terry Jones proudly proclaimed. How the guys learnt all the words to one song in particular, I will never know. Very impressive chaps!

Then there was that renowned double act of Gerry Brennan and Michael Dukes performing some classic Flanders and Swann  routines which had the audience in stitches, especially the one about the Horn. Rather worryingly, Gerry seems to enjoy performing that one particularly!

So it was good to be back in the thick of things after my enforced break from the choir. There now follows a good five weeks or so to learn some songs properly and actually be ready for the next set of concerts. Now that would be good eh?

See y'all next time!

Cheers, Alyn.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

WRAD 3 coffee morning dedicated to Peter Sharpe

It hardly seems twelve months since the Caroline Sharpe Singers transformed themselves into The Purple Angel Singers for World Rocks Against Dementia 2017 and set off for the south-west and that magical day in Seale Hayne. But it is and such was the success last year of both the Trinity coffee morning and WRAD event, we were always going to do something similar in 2018.
If there's one thing my wife Ruth is something of an expert at, it is generating an audience. While there was not to be a tour this year, it was decided to do another coffee morning at Trinity Methodist Church Centre, incorporating a concert (or 'open rehearsal' as Caroline was calling it!) by the Purple Angel Singers, second-hand bookstalls, display stands, bric-a-brac, 'Guess the name of the Teddy', etc, etc... Oh, and cake. Lots of cake!
This years WRAD was all the more poignant, as it followed the funeral of Ruth's dad, Peter Sharpe, on Thursday 22nd March who had sadly passed away on March 1st. As most of you will be aware, Peter had Alzheimer's and Ruth had been giving talks on his life story, 'ark at our Peter. With Peter having been such a well known man in Loughborough, coupled with dementia touching the lives of so many these days, this year's event on Saturday 24th March brought another bumper attendance. This whole event was dedicated to Peter Sharpe.
Prior to the start of our performance, I took the opportunity to eat some cake obviously and peruse the book stall, where I spotted a biography of my old Darcy Lever neighbour, Fred Dibner. I had to have that obviously! Ruth had commissioned someone called Alan Price to make some fantastic Purple Angel  stained glass hanging ornaments which were rather impressive (and sold out by the following day!).
We Purple Angels did our stuff, singing such gems as Sing with the spirit, Mack the Knife, Dry your tears Afrika and The Longest Time. Oh dear! We tenors started in the right key (I think) but proceeded to change to a different key for just about every verse, getting lower and lower each time to the point where we were virtually unaccompany-able by the last verse. It was truly hideous, but will be remembered for a long time! May it be, thankfully, was lovely, as was Tell me it's not true and Sing to me. However, Jubilee needs a bit more work, to put it kindly. Especially the clapping where we must have resembled a bunch of seals flapping our flippers. I don't know what the collective noun is for a group of seals, or indeed if it is flippers that they have, but you get my drift!
What the heck, much fun was had by all and huge sum of around eight hundred pounds was raised for a very good cause, to hopefully get an Admiral nurse for Leicestershire.
For anyone who would still like to contribute to this fabulous cause, you may do so by clicking here the 'Just Giving' page. Thanks!

Well, that just about wraps it up for now, but stay tuned for reviews of a weekend double-bill of gigs - a Caroline Sharpe singers concert at Sileby Methodist Church on Friday 13th rapidly followed by my first gig back with the LMVC.

Until next time!