What a great day of singing. My feet are feeling it, but we’ve had a superb day out, doing what we love best, and raised some money for charity in the process. Our sponsorship page will function for another three months, but no need to wait, donate now! Please!!
Around 800 people, representing over 50 choirs from all over the country, looking extremely glamorous in sky blue (sopranos) purple (altos) turquoise (tenors) and midnight (basses), provided a visual spectacle as well as a darn fine noise. We had been asked to bring along silky-shiny-sparkly things to wave at the end, which I had thought a bit naff, but it looked wonderful, because there was so much of it.
The rehearsal went smoothly apart from not having time to go through what Una May might ask us to do in Zema, but I had the impression it would change anyway, and I was right about that. We had a whisper-through in the City Hall cafe while the children’s choir was on, and then it was different when we performed it anyway.
It was a very nasty crush waiting to go on, a hot, airless space and far too many people standing for too long. At least one person keeled over, but fortunately they did so well in advance of the performance and I think made it out to sing.
It’s almost scary how good 800 people can sound belting out Mraval Zhamier, with what Stephen calls ‘pointless grandeur’. We were exhorted to ‘put your butt into it’ (Michael, Zema and My Mouth) ‘Sing from your barrel-likes’ (Stephen, Mraval) and also, to sing in tune (Roxane, most things)!
Equally we sounded great murmuring our way through Water Wrinkles, a song written by one of the choir members, Morag Carmichael.
It’s quite hard to get a feel for what you sound like when performing, but the feedback we got from audience and stall holders was very positive indeed. Two separate stall holders, recognising from our turquoise clothes that we were in the choir, commented that they could hear the rehearsal and it had been exciting enough for them to have been anticipating the afternoon with enthusiasm, and how disappointed they were that they couldn’t hear the performance, as there was too much ambient noise in the afternoon … I think the wind direction may have changed too.
Another advantage (apart from being flattered by stall holders) of being dressed up, was that when we were wandering about between rehearsing and performing, people asked us if we were performing, and we were able to spread the word on WaterAid: we take our responsibilities seriously – it isn’t just about having a good time.
Sing for Water is in its tenth year. Over that time it has raised over half a million pounds tohelp WaterAid provide permanent sources of clean water to communities who need it most.
The audience had a whale of a time, indeed, they may have enjoyed themselves almost as much as we did! Stephen taught them (and us) a new song from scratch, and had us all doing actions to go with, and Una May got them joining in on Zema, again, complete with actions.
My favourite of the songs remains Let Love Rain Down, which gave us tenors a moment to lead and shine, but Ide Were and Zema came in close equal second, possibly because it was African songs that got me back into singing; I love the energy and the vibrancy of the harmonies, and the challenge of the languages – no clicks this time, but I’ve got quite good at those.
Smaller subgroups were singing around the place before we performed, and we caught a group from Bangor (Wales) whose repertoire seemed to be mostly sea shanties, which meant we could join in on the choruses whilst sheltering from the (only) rain shower.
I’ve never made it to the Thames Festival before, I think it may become a permanent fixture in the calendar from now on. There’s a friendly neighbourly atmosphere you don’t expect from central London, and I love the Thames. We were too tired to stay for the fireworks, and with the hurricane and rain approaching it didn’t look a terribly attractive idea… Maybe next year!
Copyright Cherry Potts 2011