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.

Gearing up for Yule

I don’t care how many shopping days, what matters now is, how many singing days are there til the Solstice?

And how many reading days? My evenings are  split roughly equally between singing and promoting the books between now and Christmas.

Rehearsals every Monday for Vivaldi Gloria at Blackheath Halls Christmas Concert

Tuesdays at the Horniman Museum preparing for the end of term Raise the Roof concert (the last under the organic direction of Melanie Harrold)

Lester Simpson workshop on 1st December (folk carols, my favourite kind.)  All afternoon get tickets to join in here

Squeezing in Summer All Year Long rehearsals for our gig at Hills & Parkes in aid of Shelter on 15th December at 3:30, which might be followed by other places including Brockley Christmas Market.

Reading STATIONS at Canvas & Cream Wednesday 28th November 7pm

and Deptford Lounge Thursday 29th November at 7pm

The Official Launch at Brunel Museum on Sunday 2nd December 12:30-2:30

Hills & Parkes Wednesday 5th December at 6pm

and Brick Lane Bookshop Thursday 6th December at 7pm

So, no I don’t care how many shopping days it is, because I’m not going shopping! Friends and Family: your choice – you can have a copy of Stations or London Lies as your festive gift, or I could sing you a carol…?

The Singing Season

Not that the singing season ever went away, it’s a bit like football, the break gets shorter all the time; but we didn’t do Sing for Water this year because of A’s broken leg, so larynx and lungs feeling a bit under used.

So the good news is that Raise the Roof is back next week, and we’ve already started Summer All Year Long back into a regular schedule (although it may be disrupted by Arachne Press activities – or not, actually as some of the repertoire is London songs with the thought that we might have a musical interlude at some of the readings.) And we’ve signed up to sing the Vivaldi Gloria for the annual Christmas spectacular at Blackheath Halls, where rumour has it Wendy Dawn Thompson will be joining us as one of the soloists.  We love Wendy, she is great fun to sing with. I’ve already bumped into two people we sing with whilst doing the rounds of bookshops and venues for readings of London Lies, and anticipation is running high!

Plans are also afoot for another workshop with Lester Simpson of Coope, Boyes & Simpson for 1st December, and on a consumption front we are booked to go to the ‘Last Night of the Mini Proms’ where the lovely and talented Messrs Grant Doyle and Nick Sharratt with whom we have sung on numerous occassions, are singing (amongst other things) the Pearl Fishers Duet, which will be distinctly lush.

© Cherry Potts 2012

Lester in Brockley (and Croydon)

Light relief from nursing A (she wouldn’t agree I’m nursing, but that’s shorthand for everything I wouldn’t normally do, and am now doing at high speed and with one arm strapped up and the other coming out in sympathy) five happy hours, round the corner at St Hilda’s church hall, learning new songs with Lester Simpson of Coope Boyes & Simpson.  Quite a tonic.

I’m perched on the corner of the sick bed now, having played A my recordings, and promised to teach them to her while she womanfully pretended she wasn’t both disappointed and jealous.  But disaster – the laptop then decided to corrupt the files, and I’ve lost half of it.  I’m not coping with small reversals at the moment, and am in a raging fury now, and I’ve lost the recordings of the harmonies for Sweet Thames from Wednesday as well.  I hate it when technology conspires.

Yesterday was a joyous afternoon with thirty others, sun pouring into the rather lovely hall (great acoustic for which – obviously – I take full credit, as I made the booking). Songs from Chaucer to Cherokee; songs that use the word for freedom in dozens languages; and magnificent harmonies: quite lovely … and I was so pleased with myself for asking Lester …

Those who know me well will be able to tell what kind of temper I am in currently, others can imagine thunderous brow and foul-mouthed spitting.  I’ll get over it.  I  know in the great scheme of things it’s a minor irritant but camels and straws and all that.  Hell, I can’t even be bothered to employ my cliché screen.

Anyway. Thank you Lester for a brilliant afternoon, in which I quite lost myself.

Lester is performing at Croydon Folk Club on Monday evening.

© Cherry Potts 2012

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?
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

Singing for Water

About a quarter of the choir copyright Cherry Potts 2011

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.

another small portion of the choir copyright Cherry Potts 2011

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.

Audience copyright Cherry Potts 2011

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

Sing for Water- rehearsals

For the past few weeks A and I have been rehearsing for Sing for Water, a concert in London to raise money for Wateraid.
The concert takes place on September 11th at 2pm, in the Scoop, next to City Hall on the South bank of the Thames.
Not surprisingly a number of the songs have a watery theme!
We have reached the stage where we think we know what we are doing, and either of us is liable to burst into a chorus of one of the songs without warning, startling cats or passers-by.
So we are singing songs from Nigeria in praise of a river-god(dess?), songs about light reflecting off the Thames at Hammersmith, songs extolling love to rain down… and for no apparent reason, Dancing in the Street!

Saturday afternoons have found us at the local Methodist church with about 30 other members of the Raise the Roof tribe, singing our heads off.  This week we really felt like we’ve cracked most of the songs, although we are struggling with how the Hammersmith Bridge song fits together.

Hammersmith bridge copyright Cherry Potts 2011

Mel suggests that it’s two songs in conversation: a bright sparkly surface song and a deep flowing underwater song, complete with a Pike(!)… but that doesn’t quite get it going.

I suggest we put down the music and just see how much we really remember without it, so that we can look at each other and fit the parts together. That’s a bit better, but it keeps dropping into dreary.

Then Mel takes it up a tone, and miraculously it works – and takes off into a really lovely piece. The only problem is we can’t sing it in that key on the day as there will be 700+ other people who learnt the right key. However, at least we got the shape of it, and will have to growl along at a lower pitch on the day.

As a group we have a couple more rehearsals before the big rehearsal the day before the concert, with all the choirs together, although A and I will miss one of those.  Notwithstanding missed rehearsals they are neat songs and we are already singing them well, so by the day it will be fabulous.

It’s going to be an exciting event, you can see video of the event a couple of years ago here: and here

And of course you can come along to listen to the concertwhich is free (although I expect there will be buckets being shook).

And you can sponsor me (and other members of Raise the Roof, if I ever get the software to work) here.  Please do donate – while we are having fun, the point is to raise money for Wateraid.

copyright Cherry Potts 2011

NOT Eugene Onegin 5th Rehearsal- RtR go wild

I’m sitting on the sofa with a cup of tea and a very happy cat who is glad I’m home from a weekend away.  We’ve been playing truant from the opera!  Green fields and pastures new, we’ve been on an organic smallholding in …Swindon … for a weekend of singing with a small selection of the wonderful Raise the Roof tribe.

We set off after lunch on Friday with Tessa and Tash in the back of the car, A. driving to allow sufficient foot room for our passengers, and after tedium on the M25 and a brisker trip down the M4 drove through one of those anonymous out-of-town business parks that think they are doing the environment a favour by having ponds with fountains outside; turned into an expanse of what A. calls ‘bungaloid growth’ then, very slowly, down a short drive which was well peppered with chickens.


...peppered with chickens... copyright Cherry Potts 2011

Lower Shaw Farm is an oasis of shabby charm which invites relaxation the second you arrive.  Although you sometimes notice road noise, the impression is of being well into the countryside.  Accommodation is extremely basic, we were sleeping in converted calf sheds, with several assorted beds (and several assorted raise the roofers) to a room,  and loos (including a compost loo) and showers at the end of the row.  This Spartan but adequate sleeping block is supplemented by a few rooms in the farm house, a solid construction with a lovely stone roof; and an old shepherd’s hut.


the alarm clock, with his friends copyright Cherry Potts 2011

None of this was very important because we hadn’t come to sleep (and I for one didn’t do much sleeping at all) but to sing.

The communal eat/laze/meet/singing space is lovely, with a wood stove about three times the size of the one we have at home, just right for sitting round in pyjamas for the first cup of tea in the morning.  There is also the hay loft, generally used for yoga etc., but with a very nice acoustic, and the ‘cat’s room’ which has a good piano in it.

Friday afternoon and evening we got settled in, had an excellent vegetarian meal and pottered through our back catalogue, with people offering the first verse with a question mark built in, and everyone joining in on the one’s they knew/remembered.  Because we usually don’t use music scores, there were a few we looked at the words, and said, “ye-es… I know we’ve sung it, but what does it sound like?” for others we fell into the harmonies like old friends.

There were one or two new songs to teach each other, including me bringing ‘Deep Blue Sea’ which is still my all out favourite from Jon Boden’s A Folk Song a Day project, despite hitting the website back in November , I think. My criteria for a favourite from this project is: a song I don’t already know, with great words and a glorious tune, that Jon puts over particularly well.  What I like about DBS is that it’s a tender little grieving song, but with very silly words, (It was Willy what got drownded in the Deep Blue Sea) and you can sing it simply, or you can ornament it to your heart’s content.  It lends itself to natural harmonies and I find it very moving.  A. taught people a variant on a round we learnt from the National Theatre’s Nativity (part of the Passion Plays) in the 80’s, and which we sometimes use as a warm up for summer singing.  The original is Whose Tups Are These?

kuni kuni pigs at lower shaw farm copyright Cherry Potts 2011

A. learnt new words from her walking buddy, so we are now singing Whose Pigs Are These, and have since invented more versions, including hens, ducks, cows, goats and so on (some of them rude) which we didn’t inflict on the company, but would have been entirely appropriate to the venue, which has 3 pigs and a handful of sheep as well as a few ducks and lots of very free range hens- to be found in the kitchen and in your bedroom if you don’t shut the door.

Katrina taught us a lovely South African song for which the low part sounded like chihuahua, chihuahua; so we got dogs in too!

First thing (relatively speaking) some of us met the pigs and poultry properly while they were being fed.  Breakfast was a help-yourself feast of freshly baked bread, freshly laid eggs and lots of home-made jams (or Marmite- hurrah!).  There were other things too but for me fresh bread ‘n’ eggs is the bee’s knees, cat’s pyjamas and the lobster’s dress shirt.

We trundled up to the hay loft for a warm up and to learn two new songs from Mel.  The first of these is something Mel has composed herself, and allows us quite a bit of improvisation in terms of which part we sing when and making up words on the spot.  It works really well, and I suggested Mel offer it to Sing for Water as one of their songs for next year, which led to another line being added to the options. (Raise the Roof has participated in the Sing for Water project for the last two years and is taking part again this year.

The other song I should have known, and right now I can’t even remember what it’s called despite singing that very word several hundred times now… what a memory. Kakelombe!! (she adds three days later) We have been learning it on Tuesdays, but I’ve missed so many rehearsals this term I might as well have been learning it for the first time.  Not that the part I was doing was difficult, just had to stay in rhythm.

As soon as we felt we had the basics, we went out into the sunshine and sang in the farmyard.  This worked quite well acoustic wise, as there are buildings all round which held the noise in so we could hear.  We experimented with the open barn but the roof was too high and we wanted the sun.  At this point the final three Roofers arrived by taxi from the station, and were greeted with a spontaneous performance of Mra Val Zhavier.  One startled taxi driver.

Lunch was a substantial lentil and coconut soup, and salad (which included marigolds and other flowers).  Why am I telling you what we ate?  Because it was first-rate.  Whoever of Matt and Andrea is the cook, really knows what s/he is doing.

After lunch those members of the party involved in the forthcoming trip to Moncuq and Tarbes in the South of France (the Trade Winds Pioneers) went off to rehearse their set in the hay loft.

The rest of us separated to walk, read, or in A. and my case, trundle into Wootton Bassett.  We have not completely abandoned the opera, we are in search of costumes in the five charity shops available in Wootton Bassett.  A. tracks down a DJ which fits quite well and dress trousers, which will be ok after I hack 4 inches off the bottoms.

lazing in the sun copyright Cherry Potts 2011

I am still in search of tatty oversized jeans, not proving easy as I’m fairly oversized before we start.

Straight back to sit in the sun and chat aimlessly to friends, and in A.’s case also to the pigs, with whom she is besotted.

As I wander about, there is something  I notice about the vegetables in the kitchen, and the flowers in the recycled tyres, and even the weeds; there is a complete lack of pests.

purple poppies

pest free purple poppies copyright Cherry Potts 2011

The vegetables are planted with companion plants, and I suppose the hens eat the slugs.

As Matt says, Life is hard, living is easy (if you let it, I would add).  I wish my garden looked so healthy.

The pioneers eventually emerge looking a bit tired, and we munch our way through flapjacks left over from the morning, then walk to the local supermarket (having forgotten that this would be possible, while mooching about the farm) to get crisps and things to have with a glass of wine while we entertain each other in more formality than on Friday evening.  Some people even dress up.

Carrie leading up to Tuppence a Bag copyright Cherry Potts 2011

Solos, duets, trios, blues, Marlene Deitrich tributes, tragic songs and silly tunes, sing-a-longs and one or two comic turns, we did ourselves proud.  Our host, Matt, joined in to fly the flag for the men, since we ended up an all female outing from RtR.

Another excellent dinner and we wandered out to the courtyard where Matt had lit a bonfire, and we did what you are meant to do when twenty plus singers are gathered together, and sat round it and sang spirituals, protest songs, and Beatles numbers until midnight.

Matt’s request for ‘that spiritual you sang yesterday afternoon’ was met by puzzled looks, and five false starts later, was identified as ‘I’ll fly away‘, which is indeed a very lovely song.

Sunday morning.  I think everyone was up for breakfast rather later than they had been the day before, not assisted by torrential rain…

We warmed up (physically and singing wise) in the communal space, and sang our two new songs again, a quick break for chocolate muffins and then the Trade Winds Pioneers went through their set for us; an eclectic mixture of English, French, Maori, African and American songs, typical of the Raise the Roof catalogue.  My particular favourite was a  spritely version of Take 5 – I didn’t know it had words! I shall treasure Mood Indigo being pitched so low everyone collapsed, and was reminded once again that Autumn Leaves is better in the original French.

Trade Winds' pioneers: High section going for it. Copyright Cherry Potts 2011

We were asked for feedback, which was extremely positive and sensible, picking up on issues of dynamics, presentation and balance which are hard to gauge whether you are getting it right when you are doing the singing.

We ate our final lunch, with yet more spectacularly good salads, and we packed up to drive home (in unintentional convoy at one point, owing to a blockage round an accident on the M4)

…Something that is rapidly becoming the Raise the Roof anthem for me, even though we only join in on the chorus when Mel occasionally sings it, as she did this weekend, is From the Heart.

Sing, like you don’t need the money
love, like you’ve never been hurt
dance, like nobody’s watching
gotta come from the heart
if you want it to work.

Raise the Roof has heart, in spades… so does Lower Shaw Farm.

copyright Cherry Potts 2011