Tag Archives: Basingstoke

Dear Steve

Dear Steve,

Yesterday we headed down to the opening day of your new store in Festival Place, Basingstoke. First off I have to say that after many years having to either head into London or drive a long way to find an Apple Store it is great having two within a short drive, with you having opened a store in the Oracle, Reading just last month. We did avoid the craziness in the morning but we had a great time none the less.

I went along with my two year old daughter, who has been using Apple products for pretty well all of her life. It didn’t take long for her to get the hang of the touchscreen interface on my iPhone, iPod and iPad, indeed now she expects most devices to have such a screen and gets frustrated when they don’t. This brings me to a first suggestion, your children’s area. Whilst it is nice having a low level table, and child sized seating, the devices there are all Mac’s. Although children do quite easily pick up the concept of a mouse and pointer, my daughter is much happier with the direct interaction of a touch screen – as you have said on a number of occasions recently, we’re living in a post PC world now.

Look where we ended up... As a result we went to look at the iPad’s which do have children’s software installed, but are all on tables at a very child unfriendly height. In the end my daughter asked for a chair, and one of your excellent staff kindly obliged with a stool from the Genius Bar.

As you can see from the picture that put her on just the right height to play some games on the iPad.

Games weren’t the only thing we tried. My daughter wanted to talk to Mummy, so we thought we’d try out another of the features of the iPad – Facetime.

We have used your video calling application quite frequently at home – calling between Apple products it seems to pretty consistently produce a better quality video connection than the most obvious competitor Skype, indeed in one situation recently Facetime made a connection easily when Skype couldn’t get through at all. However as I’m sure you’re aware Facetime only works over wi-fi.

No problem of course as your stores have free wi-fi. Looking at the strength display it had a full strength signal, however it fairly obviously was not a good internet connection, the demonstration iPad struggled to produce a reasonable picture with a decidedly low quality result. It would certainly be worthwhile investing in some faster wi-fi connections for the store to enable a good demonstration of this feature.

Anyway, one last idea which comes from my daughter – she would like you to provide beds at the Apple Store so she doesn’t have to go home. The store kept her occupied and entertained for all of a wet afternoon, and she didn’t want to leave! I did eventually manage to get her out and heading home, but I am sure we will be back.

Yours,

An Apple Owning Parent

Beyond the Sea with the Basingstoke Tappers

Last night we had our now traditional late July trip down to Basingstoke to see the annual Basingstoke Tappers show with our friends Catherine on stage, and her husband Phil hard at work keeping the whole show running smoothly as stage manager.

In pre-publicity the show, Beyond the Sea, had been subtitled ‘Cruising with the Tappers’ – but the theme had broadened somewhat giving pretty much of a world cruise, taking in places including London, Paris, Russia and Cuba to name a few.

After a break last year, the Chosen Few Big Band were back, and certainly earned their keep playing for every other number. It certainly seems to be more flexible in terms of routines to have a live band, as they can include short reprises to cover clearing the stage – something that is difficult to do with pre-recorded tracks, quite apart from the experience for the participants of working with live music. There were also a good number of contributions from Tappers regular Steve Pert, who took plenty of advantage of having the big band around to do some of the standards. Alongside Steve there was a new face for the shows in the form of Trisha Bassett an Ascot based singer. One of the dancers, Francesca McMahon also showed how far she has come since she sang for the first time in one of the earlier shows, performing a version of Midnight at the Oasis.

One of Steve’s numbers that caught Beth by surprise was when he performed Jump. Beth has only ever come across the original Van Halen version, whereas with a big band, Steve did the Paul Anka version, which like the whole album – Rock Swings – is quite a surprise when you’ve only ever heard the original.

Being the fifteenth year of the Tappers show, the Friday night performance was graced with the presence of the Mayor of Basingstoke, and there was a chance to reminisce over some of the past shows, and even a return to the amazing basketball routine from last year (and again nobody dropped the ball this time around either). What is a testament to the people in the company was when towards the end the members came forward grouped by how long they had been part of the company – although there was a good crowd of newbies, the majority have been dancing with the company for ten to fifteen years.

Certainly it was as entertaining as ever, mixing good music, cute moments with the real little ones, and even the odd quirky moments – the two penguins in the decidedly tropical Under the Sea I guess must have been on holiday!

‘The Chosen Few’ jazz orchestra @ the Tappers ’07 show originally uploaded by Tahbepet.

All Sung Out

We’re just back from the performance of A Child of Our Time by Tippett, and Vaughan Williams Serenade to Music. Myself together with several others from St James, and a number of men from the Wokingham Choral Society, were there to bolster the tenor and bass lines of the chorus, which since the chorus was made up of students from Ranelagh and Holt schools, Holt being a girls school, was a little lacking in numbers of boys singing as against the girls. We also had four soloists (although Serenade to Music was apparently written for sixteen) and the Basingstoke Symphony Orchestra. The performance came off pretty well considering the difficulty of the Tippett – as one of the men from the Wokingham Choral Society said “We didn’t quite come off the railsâ€?, and although we came pretty close at times, the choir was able to pull it back on track. Of course, talking to Beth and Becky, who were sat in the audience, they didn’t notice at all the points we went wrong, and thoroughly enjoyed the performance.

On Stage at the Anvil

All in all it was a bit of a busy day. We went straight to Basingstoke from Church, where we had the usual jam packed Mothering Sunday service. At 2pm we started the final rehearsal – the first time the choir had sung with the orchestra – and went through with that until 5pm. Then we had a couple of hours off before we started the performance at 7pm.

The choir were seated in a balcony above the stage, which gave us a good view of proceedings, especially where I was sat in the front row of the tenor and bass section, right in the middle. During the break I snapped off a picture of the view from my spot in the choir. Seating wise the arrangements were as I described in the rehearsal earlier in the week. Richard, the other visiting bass and I managed a lot better to hold our line against the visiting tenors on the other side, and the young Casanova on the other side actually seemed to click into focusing with being sat in the Anvil – as I mentioned before he seems to be pretty talented when he was concentrating! Amusingly, in the break this time he was flirting with a couple of the Holt alto’s – even serenading them singing over a mobile phone, spurning the Ranelagh soprano’s he was flirting with on Tuesday. Actually, I shouldn’t make too many jokes about it, as my first girlfriend was in a choir with me many years ago, and I don’t know what stories may come out if I persist!

It was a little cramped in the choir stalls, but significantly less so than the chairs in the Ranelagh school hall. However, I did come pretty close to knocking my copy down onto the heads of the percussionists below at one or two points standing up and sitting down. It was also a bit of an eye opener seeing backstage at the Anvil too, and certainly gives me a much greater appreciation of the amazing performances that the Basingstoke Tappers put on every year – it was bad enough with all of us, and we didn’t have any costume changes or large bits of scenery. Incidentally, they’ve just released the tickets for the next Basingstoke Tappers production, which after a break last year, again includes the Chosen Few Big Band. I have to say that the previous times they have appeared, Beth and myself have been some of the last sat in the auditorium – whilst various of the audience seem to make a run for the car park once the dancers are off, the band has for their previous appearances played on for a bit, and it is really fantastic with the acoustic in the Anvil to hear a live big band in full swing. (Excuse the pun there…) Anyway, there are more details of the upcoming Basingstoke Tappers show on their website.

Apparently, the reason for the choice of the Tippett was because it was a long standing ambition of Stephen Scotchmer the conductor, and head of music at Ranelagh, to perform it. I have to say that although it was certainly dramatic, it’s not really my cup of tea to listen to if I had a choice. However, it certainly helps though to hear it complete – during rehearsal you don’t really get the whole picture without the parts sung by the soloists. It also helps to read the background notes about the piece to properly understand it. Alongside that, I often find that I really enjoy live performances of a great variety of music, even if it’s not something I’d go out an buy on CD, or listen to on the radio. There is always a definite buzz in hearing live music of any style – and the full orchestral versions of the spirituals are fantastic. The Vaughan Williams which has each vocal line splitting into three parts (so twelve part harmony) is something that needs a big choir to do, and sounds fantastic with the orchestra.

Anyway, despite the complications of the work, singing at the Anvil was certainly a memorable experience, and something I’d want to do again. Hopefully we’ll get an invite to have another go in two years time!

Sweet Singing in the Choir

Last night we had the final rehearsal for the Basingstoke Symphony Orchestra/Ranelagh and Holt School Choir concert which myself and four others from the bass and tenor lines at St James are helping out with.

Last night was the first occasion when everybody was sat in their allocated seats for the concert. The choir in total seems to number about 200 people, the majority being alto or soprano. Bass and tenor, including us and some help from Wokingham Choral Society only comes to about fifty people.

As I’d been allocated the first bass part, I’ve managed to end up sat right on the very front row of the choir – so no chance of me being able to hide up the back. Since the rest of the Ranelagh boys are also allocated to first bass, there is only one other guest singer on first bass with me, with all the other guests split between second and third bass, with a similar situation in the tenor line.

In my seat, on one side I have the other guest first bass, who unfortunately is adjacent on the other side to the guest first tenors – who not surprisingly can be a bit off-putting when trying to follow the bass line. The theory is that the rest of the first basses should be giving enough of a lead to hold us on track, however on the other side of me is one of the Ranelagh boys who based on the rehearsal last night is your archetypal young person with a talent for singing, but who knows it! When he actually was singing he had a good voice, and was pretty well note perfect, however a lot of the time he was either chatting with his friends sat next to him, or flirting with a couple of the girls on the front row of the soprano line. There were actually three or four points in the rehearsal where one of the teachers had to stop the rehearsal to tell him off – something which has happened in the preceding rehearsals too. He also had a tendency to sing the most interesting part in certain places, so at times when I was trying to keep with the other first basses who were all along the front row, as opposed to the second and third basses behind us I realised he was singing second or third bass instead, and on one occasion was even singing the tenor part. So with him on one side, and the tenors on the other, it was amazing that I managed to stick as much as I did to my part. Apparently the vocal parts are all mirrored in the orchestra most of the time, so hopefully it should be fairly straightforward to follow those instead if need be.

The big day is Sunday, when we spend the afternoon at the Anvil rehearsing with the orchestra, and then go on stage in the evening. It should be an exciting evening – and the first time in a long while I’ve sung in such a big choir with a full orchestra. Tickets are still available from the Anvil box office on 01256 844244.

Helping Out a Choir in Need

Last night, myself together with some of the other Tenor and Bass members of St James Choir started out helping out a choir in need.

In 2003 and 2005, the choirs of Ranelagh and The Holt have together put on a choral event at the Anvil in Basingstoke. As you may be aware, whilst Ranelagh is co-educational, The Holt is a girls school. This combined with the general imbalance between boys and girls in choirs anyway means that the Tenor and Bass lines in the choir is in numeric terms weak. This time, Ranelagh have 26 boys singing, but the choir is still looking for support, especially as the chosen piece for the performance, A Child of Our Time is particularly difficult in places. Since several of our choir members have either in the past, or presently have children at Ranelagh St James got a plea for help.

The first rehearsal was last night, and was a relatively high speed run through all the chorus parts, just enough so our conductor, Stephen Scotchmer could see which bits needed work. Alongside us and the Ranelagh boys there was also a significant contingent from Wokingham Choral Society too – and even better, some of them had sung A Child of Our Time too!

As for us from St James, the piece was new to us, so it was a decidedly interesting experience all round. However having the Wokingham Choral Society guys around really helped things along, and certainly Stephen seemed a lot less worried about the whole thing by the end of the two hour rehearsal than at the beginning.

The big night is Sunday 18th March, and we are being accompanied by the Basingstoke Symphony Orchestra – well actually if you look at the listing on the Anvil website, it’s the orchestra that get top billing… It also comments on the youth and vitality of the choir, so I guess we’ll be hiding away in the back row somewhere. Anyhow, tickets are available online, and it should be a spectacular concert. From my point of view it will certainly be great to sing in a large choir with a full orchestra accompanying us – a definite change from singing at Church.