Tag Archives: Concert

A Really Big Choir

Spotlight

On Saturday I, together with ten other people from St James sang in what was quite possibly the biggest choir I’d ever been a part of. I’m not quite sure of the exact numbers, but the choir took up all of the space on the stage at the Albert Hall, and a good deal of both the stalls and circle, and was large enough that the orchestra and conductor had to be on the arena floor.

The event was organised by The Really Big Chorus who describe themselves as Britain’s largest choral society – their mailing list includes over 8500 contacts representing an estimated 35,000 singers. They do three major concerts a year in the Royal Albert Hall where essentially anyone can turn up and sing. By virtue of the old adage of safety in numbers there will be enough people around who will know the particular pieces of music, and will be able to carry you along if you are a weaker singer, as such it’s a great way to get an experience of singing in a major venue. This time it was Mozart’s Requiem, something I’ve done before, but not in quite such an illustrious venue.

This time we were going along in part to support the father of a friend of ours who at the end of last year bemoaned the fact that when he was younger and had sung in a choir he’d never done a big concert. As a result our friend and her sister arranged a special surprise for his sixty-fifth birthday and arranged for him to come along and sing with us. I dropped around a copy of the Chorusline Bass CD (a special series of CD’s that are useful for learning particular parts), which he sang along with at home, and then on the night he sat between a couple of our choir members who are also in other local choirs who were able to keep him on track. Things were made slightly more difficult by the fact that we were sat in the back row of the bass section, well away from the tenor and alto sections, and with some of the soprano section behind us – on the bass line we are usually used to getting cues from the alto or tenor part, taking them from the soprano isn’t something we’re used to, however after the one hour full choir rehearsal it was straight into the performance.

Not surprisingly there were one or two ropey bits, but in the main we made it through, and certainly it is a fantastic experience singing in the Royal Albert Hall with so many others. The atmosphere is certainly not quite like a professional concert, as the bulk of the audience are supporters, but it is still great fun, and I’m sure something I hope I can do again before too long.

I’ve uploaded some pictures from the event to our photo galleries, and Beth took a short video panning across the whole choir, which should give some idea of quite how big the choir actually is.

“It’s the Sibelius Violin Concerto, and one of the students is playing the solo.”

Maybe I’m just overly critical, and perhaps I’d be different if it were my child playing, but I tend to not overly look forward to the prospect of school students being, how shall we put it, adventurous in their choice of concert repertoire.

This particular opportunity to experience a school musician came up as part of the combined Wellington College/Crowthorne Choral Society concert held last night at the school. This was their biggest concert of the year where they team up with the choir from the school, and bring in a full orchestra – in this case the Chameleon Arts Orchestra. As a side note it also means that they use the large sports hall at the school, were unfortunately the heaters are so noisy they drown out the music – hence we were rather cold by the end of the performance!

Anyway, the reason we were there was because the Choral Society were performing Mozart’s Requiem, the same work that I and various other members of the choir at St James are going to be singing when we join the Really Big Chorus at the Albert Hall on May 10th. However, as it’s a shared concert with the school, other parts of the programme were put in by Wellington College, and it has to be said that when various people mentioned that one of the students was going to be playing the solo in the Sibelius Violin Concerto there were definite hints of apprehension as to what it might be like.

If at this point you’re thinking I’m being overly critical, it is worth highlighting that whilst Wellington College has an excellent and well deserved reputation for it’s music, even with that, the Sibelius Violin Concerto is regarded as being a particularly difficult and challenging piece to play, and not something you’d expect a student to attempt, let alone perform well.

However, I’m glad to say that all the doubts proved to be entirely unfounded.

The solo violin was played by Claire Sledd, a sixth former at the school who comes originally from Seattle in the US – indeed her grandmother flew in from across the pond especially to hear Claire play. She is at the school on a music scholarship, and has been accepted by the Royal Academy starting in September. Certainly if I didn’t know she was a student at the school, I would have said that she was a professional musician, certainly the performance was as good as both the professional orchestra, and the professional soloists who sang on the Mozart Requiem, if not better!

Needless to say when we talked to various of our friends in the Crowthorne Choral Society during the interval (the Mozart Requiem made up the second half of the concert) they were all wondering how they were going to follow the virtuoso performance we’d just seen.

It has to be said that the Crowthorne Choral Society stepped up to the challenge and delivered a great performance too, but certainly Claire was fantastic, and deserves to go far. I wouldn’t be surprised to find her playing solo in somewhat more illustrious halls than a rather draughty sports hall in Crowthorne in a few years!

The Corrs – All The Way Home

So tonight I finally got around to watching at least part of one of my Christmas presents, The Corrs – All The Way Home / The Story Of The Corrs which is a two DVD set pairing a pretty extensive documentary covering the story of the band, along with one of their last concerts in Geneva in 2005 – significant in that it marked the return of Caroline – at least for part of the gig – following time out to have a baby.

Tonight I watched the documentary – the concert will be saved for a time when the neighbours are out as it really needs the surround sound speakers turned on for the full effect.

I would say that The Corrs are probably the band I’ve been a biggest fan of in my fairly eclectic music tastes – certainly I’ve probably got most of the stuff they’ve released in the UK, and a couple of rarities on import to. Having said that, even I stopped buying CD’s when it got to the multiple greatest hits albums with even more obscure remixes as the record company tried to squeeze money out of a band that weren’t recording any more. They’re also the band I’ve seen most live, from the first time as a support act, where all you could see of Caroline was a pony tail bobbing up and down behind the drum kit, through their major UK tours where I managed to see them at Wembley Arena and also in Birmingham. Ironically the point where their activity started to shift away from performing coincided with the point where I started to lose interest with pop music, hence why I only got the DVD this Christmas!

Anyway, the documentary really was extensive, starting right from the beginning with the Corrs as children, covering their involvement with The Commitments, then their early success in Ireland and Australia, and lack of success in the UK. From there we get their big break UK wise with the Royal Albert Hall Concert on St Patrick’s Day 1998, and then their mainstream success worldwide, leading on to the point where Sharon and Caroline get married, and the band starts to take a back seat to their families. The documentary was made a little before the official decision to go on hiatus that came in 2006, but it’s pretty obvious from the interviews in the documentary that this is the way it is going, with comments that the 2005 tour was probably the last. Having said that, we’ve seen Take That and the Spice Girls return, so who knows whether we’ll see the Corrs back again in the future. Whether or not they do, the music still remains eminently listenable – suffice to say that all their albums are on my iPod…

Got Me!

Richard and Sheila Concert night

Drat, my cunning ploy to minimise the number of pictures of me seems to have failed – an e-mail turned up from The MacGregors this morning with some pictures they’d taken after their concert last month. Not only do I turn up in the background of a picture of Ian and Tom Fox, but they managed to get one of me and Sheila MacGregor too! Beth features in the third picture, as she, Sue and Carolyn tidy up in the kitchen.

I’ve uploaded the three pictures to my Flickr account (either that or somebody else was going to…) and you can also find them on the end of our MacGregors Concert Set too.

Typical – Big Concert and Richard Gets a Cough

So with our big Autumn Concert coming up tomorrow, what was a slightly sore throat on Wednesday night has progressed through occasional coughing, to a delightful tickly cough today – problem is that it’s just the kind of cough that can reduce me to a coughing fit if I push my singing voice in the wrong way. Fingers crossed it improves before tomorrow night!

Anyway, whether it gets worse or better, tomorrow night is the St James Church Choir Autumn Concert in the Church. There are fifteen items on the programme – so it shouldn’t be too long before the audience can get across to the finger buffet in the Parish Centre. There is a good mix of choir and solo items, including a big finish with Morte Christe followed by O Thou the Central Orb – which is why I don’t particularly want to have a tickly cough on the night!

All proceeds to the Conservation Appeal too. Kick off is 7:30pm, and as far as I am aware tickets will be on the door too.

The MacGregors come to Finchampstead

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Back in May, Ian MacDonald posted about a Canadian Band called the MacGregors who were coming to the UK looking for opportunities to play at Churches and Youth Events. They already had bookings around the London area, and were going to be finishing off around Oxford, so trying to arrange something for them in the Wokingham area seemed like a good idea. We thought about maybe doing something at St James at that point, but with a big Youth Group event a couple of weeks before, and multiple conservation fund raising events, not forgetting the Harvest Supper, all falling around the same time, there didn’t really seem to be a slot. I tried to help by putting them in contact with people around the Wokingham area, and again nothing seemed to work.

Since having visitors from Canada seems to be something we do quite regularly (can’t quite think why that is 😀 ), I’d also been offering suggestions about the best touristy things they could do whilst they were in the area, it was a bit disappointing when neither the Wokingham gig, nor something at Finchampstead seemed to come together. However it also posed a problem for the band as they still had a gap in their schedule, so in a nice offer they said that if we in Finchampstead could provide them with some accommodation, giving them a chance to go do the touristy stuff like Windsor and Stonehenge, and by way of a thank you they’d play us a concert for whoever wanted to come along and listen. We’re currently trying to find them all beds for the week that aren’t too scattered around the village (any other offers of beds most welcome too).

So, as a result, we have the MacGregors playing a concert in the Parish Centre at St James on the evening of Friday 12th October, at 7:30pm. We’re totally unsure what support we’ll get from the congregation, as the Harvest Supper is the weekend before, and there is another big conservation event the week after! Tickets will be £7, plus a contribution of pudding or main course for a bring-and-share supper, and any profit that we make will go into the conservation fund (less than £100,000 to go!). So if you’re not doing anything on the night of 12th October it would be great to see you at the Parish Centre, although they have been really nice about the prospect of not having many people, it would be great if we could get a good number along to support them. Also if anyone knows of someone with a a six input powered amp with speakers and two mics with boom stands I need to get hold of those for the night too.

Finally, if you want to hear what they sound like before you decide, you can find their album on iTunes. The following also sums up what they have been up to in Canada:

From playing at huge shows, like the Bell Centre (13,000 people), to playing at coffee houses, The MacGregors are drawing listeners from across Canada and the world. Combining ear-catching harmonies with their mature and creative songwriting and acoustic and electric instrumentation, they create a sensation when they play. Mixed in with their live performances has been radio airplay on local and national stations. Although they are young and entering full swing into the music industry, they already have had tremendous success. They completed their first EP “Rain” when they were 12 and 13. Two songs off of that EP received recognition in the well-respected International Songwriting Competition 2003. Rachel won first place in the teen category and Alisha received an honorable mention. Rachel attended Berklee College of music on a full scholarship to their summer program. They won favorite New Artist in the Okanagan Musician Awards 2004. Alisha 15, and Rachel 17, recently finished their first full length CD, Dark Beauty. Again this year, both Alisha and Rachel are winners in the 2005 International Songwriting Competition. This time Alisha took first place and Rachel took 3rd. Alisha will be travelling to Boston to Berklee’s summer program on a full scholarship. They competed against teens from around the world and the competition had 15,000 entrants in total (www.songwritingcompetition). Rachel’s song Dark Beauty is also a finalist in the John Lennon Songwriting Competition (www.jlsc.com) competing against songwriters of all ages. Most recently, The MacGregors won an all expense paid tour through Music BC called “Get Outta town Tour”.

Update: Okay we’ve got places for them to stay – indeed enough that they could change host part way through the week if they wanted. We’ve also got someone who has volunteered an amp too. Ticket sales are going okay – as expected lower thanks to the Harvest Supper but a real mix of the congregation – quite literally eight to eighty! Still room if anybody else wants to come along though.