Welcome Yule


The to do list is getting smaller.

Presents bought and wrapped. √
First batch of mince pies cooked and eaten.√
Cards written and posted or delivered.√
Christmas concert sung√
Carols sung and money raised for Crisis√
Someone else’s carol singing event attended.√
Family visits lined up.√
Christmas tree bought.√
Decorate tree√
Gather winter fuel.√

Still to do:

Shop for food, cook, attend poetry reading and possibly read… one more days at work…

So the Blackheath Halls Concert on Friday went better than we expected; we didn’t make too many mistakes in Navidad Nuestra, and The Lamb sounded very good. Despite not being well, Nick Sharratt sang beautifully.
The children’s choir were brilliant.
Raise the Roof were enthusiastically received and had the audience clapping along in no time… and Mel won the raffle!
A woman passing me in the corridor said that Navidad gave her tingles.  Just think what it could have been with another three rehearsals.

SAYL at our first pitch, Crofton Park Library

Saturday Summer all Year Long went carol singing in aid of Crisis, with me muttering as we headed off that I wasn’t in favour of us performing ever again too much hassle, just meant to be a bit of fun, etc. etc. Apart from completely losing the low harmonies in Wassail, we sounded very good; I think our voices blend well and we make a nice warm noise – we even had someone tweet positively about the Crofton Park Library gig. However, a learning process: while the Library has a lovely acoustic, it’s not a great venue. The nice men selling Christmas trees outside gave us a substantial amount of their float, but most people in the library were plugged into computers and waiting for us to go away; everyone contributed something though.

The mulled Wine does its work

A more positive reception at Hills and Parkes, where we were fed mulled wine, and Emma joined in on Wassail.  One customer was thrilled and stayed right to the end of the set. We stopped on the way to sing to a housebound neighbour, much to the amusement of the people up the scaffolding a couple of doors down.

We were early at the Broca so had a cup of tea and waited to see if any audience were going to turn up, and when they didn’t, we went and sang outside the station instead (with their permission), which worked very well, people emptied their pockets and gave us handfuls of money.

final stop the station

I think with H&P’s mulled wine sales we’ll have raised a reasonable amount, but you can make it MORE by donating on our fundraising page. (Thank you).

we are now considering becoming the Overground Choir for a day next year, and travelling up and down the line singing on station forecourts.

What was that about not performing again?  The others talked me round in about a nanosecond, and we’re wondering about a set of shanties and other sea related songs at the National Maritime Museum at some point (if they’ll let us), perhaps in aid of RNLI.  Anyway, the new year will bring new songs with possibly a spring theme, we’ll see.

Voice Lab getting carried away

Sunday to Welcome Yule! Voicelab’s bash at the Southbank.  A most enjoyable collection of drinking songs and warnings (you don’t want to know what happens to people who plough on Christmas day).  These were carols after my own liking, steeped in ancient beliefs and passions, sung with gusto, accompanied by a bit of piano, fiddle and brass, and Morris dancing. The excellent Morris Offspring, a very young side wearing black and denim, with just a token sheaf of ribbons and no bells:  I don’t know whether Morris is getting better, but each time I see it I like it more. It seems to be less and less about men getting into their beer and then thrashing about with a staff or a hankie, and more and more about some magnificently  pagan ritual.  This was some seriously beautiful dancing, a real highlight of the season so far; so good I forgot to take any photos…!

© Cherry Potts 2011

music is taking over my life


Raise the Roof at the Horniman

Haven’t written anything here (or anywhere else much) for a while, and I blame that pesky singing lark. It has taken over.
We are rehearsing Ramirez’s Navidad Nuestra, carols and RTR stuff for Blackheath Halls on the 16th December, end of term concert for Raise the Roof at the Horniman Museum TODAY!!!! 2.30pm,
and a selection of more unusual carols with Summer All Year Long in aid of Crisis for 17th December,
3pm at Crofton Park Library, 4pm at Hills & Parkes Deli 49 Honor Oak Park and 5pm at The Broca Cafe Coulgate Street Brockley, right by the station.
It’s all huge fun, but time consuming, and there’s always room to be made for just one more extra rehearsal, or (Latin American) Spanish to be written out phonetically and big enough to be read (Score is unreadable), or posters to be designed, printed, distributed.
Would I have it any other way?
No.
But the garden is neglected, I was writing Christmas cards at 5am this morning, and Christmas shopping started yesterday – normally I’d have it all tied up by September!
That said I highly recommend Cockpit Arts in Deptford (and Holborn) for Christmas presents of a very classy kind. I won’t go into detail or everyone will get previews of what will be in their stockings on the 25th… but check out their website.
And when not rehearsing or performing I’m attending musical events.
Highlights recently Coope Boyes and Simpson at the Goose is out, Goose is out singaround at the Mag, two versions of Figaro… and yet to come Lewisham Choral Society at St Mary’s Ladywell on the 10th, and Nunhead Community Choir on the 11th
I had high hopes of getting to lots of the Spitalfields Winter Festival, which has some really exciting things on, but there’s so much on locally that I think I’ll be lucky to make it to even one, and then of course there’s the Welcome Yule at Southbank on the 18th, might try to squeeze that in.
And there’s been less successful outings, a disappointing Eugene Onegin at ENO, which was too static, under characterised, and had a very odd libretto although the sets were wonderful (I worry when the sets are what I’m praising – I also worry when people laugh at Onegin’s anguish when he realises what a disastrous mistake he’s made), I really think rough edges not withstanding our Blackheath production was vastly superior… followed by an APPALLING Castor and Pollux also at ENO, which by comparison made Onegin look like a shining light of dramatic excellence. I know I shouldn’t judge an opera by it’s dramatic punch, but I do, if I just wanted the music I could listen to a disc. Rameau’s music is exquisite and I can’t fault the orchestra nor the singers, particularly Allan Clayton as Castor, but the director showed very little respect for his singers, who were required to (I was going to say act, but really; no) behave like disturbed and sexualised toddlers. I winced for them I really did.

The storyline was rather throw away too, I didn’t much care which of the brothers died and I wasn’t moved by their dilemma, mainly because the production (and lack of it) detracted from the music in a depressingly consistent way. I can only assume the budget for scenery and costume had been blown on the other productions, This was naff, and I was not surprised that Roderick Williams (Pollux) was taken ill, the amount of compost and glitter they were probably breathing in, I hope no one sustained permanent damage… My dad was groaning in anguish and muttering imprecations through out. This would have been better as a concert performance, then we could have allowed Rameau to light our imaginations and conjured up Hell and Jupiter for ourselves, rather than having it channelled for us by Little Britain doing zombiesRus.

I found myself wisting after the productions of Handel (Xerxes, Ariodante) that ENO did many years ago, which were directed with wit and aplomb, and with a knowing nod to the audience; and still manage to move me; I still quote a tiny bit of recitative from Xerxes where Arsemenes is asked to woo his own beloved on behalf of his brother, the timing and phrasing of his ‘I’d rather die’ summed up his entire character.  That was great singing, great acting and great direction.  Handel had a hand in  it too, but Rameau is good enough to deserve that kind of attention.

Enough grumbling, got to go and SING!!

copyright Cherry Potts 2011

market research, test trading and marketing


It was in my mind to post this on my other blog, but in the true spirit of being aware of my market, I’m putting it where it will be seen by the people I want to see it!  If you are thinking, what, no Opera? be patient, I’ll get there.

I’ve been supporting my local traders today, by being a model for advertising, and by eating ice-cream (it’s a hard life!), and it got me thinking about market research.

Hills & Parkes opening 18th August

Hills & Parkes, who have had a Saturday only Deli on a stall outside Honor Oak Park station since just before Christmas, are opening a shop just over the road, in mid August. It was tipping down this morning and I think they will be very happy to have a roof over their heads!  The stall has very limited stock, and it will be a very different operation being there all week. In preparation, they have asked regular customers to be photographed with their favourite product, thus combining marketing with market research, though of a not very scientific kind, but they have of course been trading long enough to know what sells and what products people come back to buy.  I have got very lazy about  making my own bread since they arrived in the neighbourhood; their bread is excellent, and I was happy to be photographed with my favourite sourdough loaf, and playing tug of war with A over a baguette.  I am wondering what research they have done about what else to stock, however, and what people’s buying patterns through the week are.  I’ve always had the impression our shops are a bit quiet during the week.

Sectret Sundae- on Saturday 16th July at Broca Foods SE4

From the photoshoot we went straight to Broca Foods, where my friend Joan had a ‘pop up’ ice-cream parlour for her new ice-cream range ‘Secret Sundae’.  The place was heaving despite the rain, and the idea is clearly one that will be welcomed locally. (I mentioned it to H&P and they are interested in stocking local ice-cream, and several other people on the photoshoot looked disappointed when I said the pop-up was a one off. )

Joan was looking slighty wild of eye and several flavours had already sold out, and others were not quite frozen, so the menu was shorter than it might otherwise have been.  I tried the rose-geranium sorbet, which was delicious, but had melted by the time I finished it, which wasn’t long- I was warned this would happen and counselled against having a cornet, wisely.  A had a double cornet with  a scoop of lavender & something and a scoop of chocolate sorbet, which of course I also road-tested.  The chocolate was magnificent and didn’t suffer for the lack of dairy products one iota.  The lavender was too strong for me, it was a bit like getting a mouthful of soap, but A liked it.  This was a trial run for Joan and she will get useful info about the process but I was disappointed she had no questionnaire – what people order is about what appeals to them in the desciptions, whether they actually like the product and would buy it again you can only find out by asking!

So here are my answers to an imaginary questionnaire

What appealed to me at point-of-sale was the novelty of the flavours, and the herby-health foody-fresh-as good for you as icecream can be- impression they give.

Prices barely registered, so they must be fine, though think about your margin- relatively speaking they look expensive to make.

What I would want to know more of at point-of-sale: sugar and fat content and where the ingredients are sourced, explicitly.  For example I know the rose geranium came from your garden but I wouldn’t know that if I bought this from someone other than you, and its a great selling point so tell me the story! If your sorbets really don’t have any dairy in them say so – make the vegans happy!  they will buy with confidence and enthusiasm.

secret sundae @ broca foods copyright Cherry Potts 2011

Back to my own Opera related sales project, The Blackheath Onegin.  Did I say the opera was sold out of friday? and for Sunday!

The Altos 'complaining' copyright Cherry Potts 2011

So: over 300 unique visitors have read one or more of my opera blogs (thank you by the way!) and I haven’t finished yet so there may be some more new folk to come. This is my potential market for the book: them, and the people involved in the project who haven’t read the blog, and the people attending the Opera.

Fliers are pinned up and scattered about in the Dressing room, the Bar and the Ladies, and despite (I thought) plugging it to death at every opportunity, people are still coming up to me and saying ‘what’s this?’  Which is because this is passive marketing, and because when I started this process I was marketing the Opera, not  a book.  Forward planning see, there is no replacement for it. And active marketing. I need a call to action (I hate marketing speak, but there you go).

 Support local community opera! Buy this book and help fund next year’s production.

I should probably write something to the tune of one of the songs in Onegin, and sing it in the foyer in the interval. (Me?!)

The cuts hurt, we can no longer sing since our funds have gone
but if you buy this book we can go on….

But I’m only happy making an idiot of myself in company, so if anyone else in the chorus wants to join in, I’ll consider it.

Now, if every one of the people reading the blog was sufficiently excited to want a copy of the book, that would make @ £1,500 towards next year’s opera.  Assuming I gift aid my donation once I have the money, that improves the value to @ £1,800, but if everyone in the chorus, and the opera, and the parents of the children, and the schools bought one, and anyone in the audience who wasn’t one of those people ordered a copy, we could probably double it.

(See all those links back to the post about the book? That’s passive marketing too!)

25 people have already pre-ordered, and I need another 25 to maximise our discounted price on printing and so maximise the profit for the Halls. I won’t be doing anything about ordering until after 1st August so there is plenty of time to get your pre-order in!

So here is your call to action:

Order a copy for yourself, your family, your friends

Pass on a flier (or a link to the blog) to anyone you can think of, and encourage them to buy a copy too.

Support Your Community Opera! 

Copyright Cherry Potts 2011