Festive Spirits


Christmas is all about singing for me, either performing, or in the audience.  This year was no exception, starting with a superb workshop of traditional folk carols with Lester Simpson on the 1st December. We learnt Adam Lay ybounden (15th Century),  Dunstan Lullaby (very simple, very effective) and a couple of variants of While Shepherds watched, one of which, Shepherds Rejoice was absolutely glorious. Lester is a fearless teacher – here is this group of thirty people most of whom have not sung together before, and he has us in four parts (despite only having 2 basses), with echoes and offset rhythms, and we just rose to the challenge. We hope to make these workshops an annual event (Christmas wise) and perhaps fit in one or two more during the year. If you are interested in attending contact me and I will make sure you are told when the next one is.

Shepherds Rejoice sung at Lester Simpson’s Workshop

The following day we were in the audience for the Trade Winds concert at St Johns in Catford, which we made by the skin of teeth, going straight there from the launch of Stations at the Brunel Museum. We knew many of the songs and joined in happily.

Then there was the Raise the Roof Christmas Concert at the Horniman. The final one under the direction of Melanie Harrold, which made it rather emotional.  We sang a lot of the same songs as Trade Winds, but RtR has always made a raucous, joyous, racket, so the style was a little different even though the same arrangements.

During the rehearsal I started feeling really tired and had to sit on the floor; and by Monday (rehearsal for Vivaldi Gloria at Blackheath Halls) was feeling decidedly below par.

Wednesday rehearsing for carol singing with Summer All Year Long, couldn’t hold a tune or remember a part.

Thursday, dress rehearsal for Gloria, too ill to go.

Friday, performance, got through the Gloria (and it was rather fine) and went home in the interval to nurse my temperature. Not a happy bunny, week-long singing all thrown into a mess by a cold.

Saturday, Carol singing with SAYL at Hills & Parkes – Me A, M and P all with colds or worse, T with a broken rib, not our finest hour, minute audience. Further carol singing at Brockley Christmas Market (in the rain), ditto, though joined by L, and S turned up to help shake the collecting tin.  I don’t think Shelter did very well out of our efforts this year.

So, I had really got to the point where I didn’t think festive spirit was going to stir at all, and we had tickets for Michael Morpurgo’s On Angel’s Wings, in Salisbury Cathedral for the Saturday that all the trains were up the creek due to flooding.  The reason for this overland trek was that the story was being interpreted by Michael himself, with Juliet Stevenson, and Coope Boyes & Simpson (joined by Fi Fraser, Jo Freya and Georgina Boyes) singing carols including the ones we had learnt with Lester, and we really wanted to hear him sing them as they should be sung..

If we get to Waterloo and its even a bit dodgy we are coming straight home we promised each other, coughing fitfully.

And the train was half empty and left on time.

And the Cathedral had an actual donkey and sheep tucked away in the cloisters, to keep the queue amused.

And we got reasonable seats.

And  (once they got all the microphones working) it was lovely – a charming story beautifully told, first class music and one of the best buildings in the country. Festive spirit woke up with a bang.

Quentin Blake’s beautiful illustrations were projected onto a huge screen, there were (rather sinister) angels suspended from the columns, and CB&S and friends sang magnificently.  In particular Shepherds Rejoice, the song Lester had taught us, there was a moment (goodwill to men, and peace and endless love… it didn’t happen like that when we sang it – one day we will be able to match the accoustic glory) when so much was going on it didn’t seem possible it was only six voices, it was worth the journey just for that fleeting, golden moment.

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Author: Cherry Potts

Cherry Potts is a published fiction writer, publisher, event organiser, photographer, cardmaker, NLP master practitioner, life coach and trainer. She is an enthusiastic singer. Through Arachne Press she publishes fiction and non fiction and runs spoken word events and cross-arts workshops for writers at interesting venues. Always interested in new opportunites to perform, write or explore writing.

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