Singing and ringing and feeling like christmas


So: Saturday was a singing day, 3 hours or so, rehearsing, performing, singing with the audience, interspersed with beer at the lovely Ivy House.

We like to have a theme or a project for Vocal Chords, in the summer it was love songs for the planet, this autumn  it has been folk carols, learnt from Lester Simpson and dragged out of our collective record collections and memories, and performed with gusto!

The arrangements sound quite complex and the parts can get a little  competitive as to who can sing loudest, but they are actually quite simple so long as you can keep in time.

Here is a sample, my absolute favourite of the songs we sang, although it is a hard, hard choice, as I loved all of them!

This is the definition of Joyous, for me, cynical old atheist though I am.

And then Sunday we were selling Arachne Press books at a christmas market at the delightful Alexandra Nurseries (still singing under our breaths, both ‘Curly Hark’ and snatches of Britten’s St Nicholas, mostly ‘landlord take this piece of gold, bring us meat before the cold’although we weren’t cold, thanks to our lined walking trousers, winter coats, hats mittens, long-johns…) It was a very jolly day, good weather and plenty of punters.

SO apart from all the events we are going to and taking part in over the next week – Liars’ League Snow & Stars tomorrow, Story Sessions Wednesday, (where I am reading as well as compereing)The ‘work’ xmas party with my fellow WooA writers,  and christmas shopping at Brockley Xmas market & the £3 christmas bazaar and enjoying V G Lee and Rose Collis’ drollery at Bah Humbuggers (Dyke the Halls) on Saturday – all spare time is going on rehearsing for St Nicholas, which we are singing at Blackheath Halls in the Christmas Concert on Friday 20th

St Nicolas posterand for our Carol Singing in aid of Shelter with Summer All Year Long around Brockley, Honor Oak and Forest Hill on Saturday 21st.

final stop the station

final stop the station

 

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.