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 â€œWe 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.
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!