Following the announcement of the death of HRH Prince Philip I was reminded that as a choir we had the privilege to sing for both Her Majesty and HRH Prince Philip on 20 March 2013 at Baker Street for the 150th Anniversary of the Underground. I recall having to be there two or maybe three hours prior to the event so we could be within the security cordon. This did allow us time to rehearse though, and it was a special day and a lovely time and in the way only the Prince could, he stood and conducted us for a short while before moving on.
I thought it was about time we had a bit of a blog so here goes. Isn’t it lovely to see spring finally making an entrance, leaves are beginning to unfurl and the early spring blossom is with us, making even a dull day look more appealing with the dots of colour here and there. I hope and pray you are all doing well and staying safe and sane during this third and hopefully last lockdown, I do believe there is light at the end of the tunnel with the new vaccines being rolled out quicker than anticipated, I know that some of you have had one if not both jabs and that’s great; luckily I am having mine this Wednesday, so that another step to freedom.
A massive thanks to Merel and Michael for continuing to facilitate our on line rehearsals which have been enjoyable and fun to meet up and chat and sing etc together, although I did notice that when I returned to some very restricted live singing last week it was a strange sensation to hear other voices. As you all know when on Zoom I am note and word perfect and in strict time always, so imagine my surprise when my fellow singers were not! This took some adjusting to get my timings to theirs, or was it the other way round? I would also like to thank Robert for his idea of the Music Room where we have learnt a fair bit about our fellow singers and what makes them tick singing-wise, so do please keep it going. I would like to welcome Sebastian to our ranks: great to have you with us and looking forward to singing with you live as soon as we are allowed.
Looking forward there is a possibility of joining in with the Make Music Day on 21 June. We just need a volunteer to co-ordinate the choir and the MMD team: I don’t believe this is an over onerous task so if you feel this is for you - please let me know. We have Catherine and Adrian's nuptials to look forward to in July and hopefully we will be allowed to sing live, but to be on the safe side I am arranging for three tracks to be recorded in advance as our gift to the happy couple. So look out for the recording request and instructions, which are coming soon. After that who knows what events will be coming our way but if you hear of any please let us know and we will see if we can get involved to sing for them. Then we will be into the autumn term and hopefully we will be restriction-free and allowed to sing together so maybe a concert can be arranged just for the fun of it.
So in the meantime take care, stay safe, keep singing and enjoy the spring blossom.
Well it's that time of year again so please have a Happy Christmas and to you all I sincerely hope a much better New Year. Who would have thought that this time last year you would all be recording stars and a social media sensation? I certainly didn’t but then you never can tell, that sounds like a song, [it was a play by George Bernard Shaw - Ed] anyway here we are on the run up to Christmas and we’ve seen some changes along the way. As I’ve said several times before when I mooted the idea of recording ourselves singing a few carols I was amazed, and perhaps I really shouldn’t have been, on how keen and willing you were to get involved, bearing in mind at the time we were still not sure what was happening worldwide or even across the UK, so thank you all for your encouragement to do this.
In September Merel really started to get the choir into song and we ramped up the carol singing earlier than normal so we could be ready to record individually and get the tapes mixed, but before that we managed to squeeze in the sound of Bus Stop which we mixed and forwarded to our colleagues in Europe and on that note I would like to do something similar in January, just because we can't be with them in person doesn’t mean we can be with them in song. By the end of November all the tracks had been recorded and sent off to the editors for mixing, wow: that’s a process, never realised how much goes into mixing the tracks and getting the balance right with lifting voices, lowering voices adding reverb and balancing this with the organ part as well etc etc.
We were extremely lucky to get permission to rehearse together albeit in very reduced numbers but rehearse we did and it was a lovely afternoon, and got us ready for the big night on Wednesday 9 December and you did the choir proud, singing beautifully together in St Martin's. For those of you who weren’t selected to sing I thank you for your support and encouragement to the 8 singers who were chosen. It was a strange experience singing with cameras and mics in front of and around us, plus what you probably didn’t hear on the live stream the constant chatter of instructions between the live stream team keeping the show running smoothly, and on that note weren’t the singers professional and kept going when the audio and organ tracks dropped out leaving us singing a capella for the last two verses of O come all ye faithful?
So, look I've bored you enough now so here’s to 2021 when I hope and pray we can all meet together and sing and sing and sing for the sheer pleasure of being with friends making sweet and pleasant music; take care, stay safe and keep singing at home.
Have a HAPPY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY NEW YEAR.
We started with hats - which had been trialled the week before. I had found my Fat Controller railway bowler but took it off to take this picture. Silly me! All the others were present and correct.
We started with some chat, which we now had time for and some warm-ups including the 1,2 3,4 5-5-5 etc one and really didn't know what to expect as Merel had purposefully not sent anything out in advance. There was also an invisible and silent stranger called Olle present so I made a note to see if he or she was registered and whether any subs were due. Turned out to be Merel's mum - most welcome but do let is see you next time! We sang a round by Victoria Hopkins and one called I will not plead by some guy called Josef Haydn. Then we sang along to the Gloria first movement of Vivaldi's Gloria, originally composed for an all-female group of singers at the 'Ospitale' (orphanage) in Venice. We were accompanied by the choir of Kings College Cambridge - and they weren't at all bad. Then we started looking at - and singing - Amazing Grace. More of that next week! And wear something red next time!
Well hello all and I trust you're all keeping safe, sane and happy during this continued lockdown period. I for one have finally got round to those jobs that one couldn’t quite muster the energy or enthusiasm for. I know that some of you have been furloughed and maybe feeling a bit cut off or over the moon - either way it's important to stay in touch with each other by phone, email or other social media and also by joining in with our Tuesday evening choir rehearsals excellently led by Merel. It’s a chance to see each other, warm up and sing out loud, safe within the knowledge that she has muted us all and so all our wrong notes and noises are for our own ears only.
Last Tuesday last introduced us to some new warm ups using different sounds and speeds to get the vocal chords and the air moving, These we can use at any time to keep our vocal chords supple. Once we had Oh’d and Ah’d and vocalised other sounds and stretched we moved onto singing a lovely piece by Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli, called Time to say Goodbye, a classical piece in style but with a popular sound and rhythm. We sang it, in Italian, along to a YouTube backing track which kept us in tune if not always in time, though that’s only me, others may well have been both in time and tune. We had a lovely 40 mins in each other’s company and I am looking forward to next weeks rehearsal.
As several of you know we have a What’s App group where various topics are posted and discussed, shared and laughed over etc, if you are not on this and want to join the group then please contact Catherine with your mobile number and she will add you to the group, I believe this is where it normally says terms and conditions apply, but as I don’t know what these are I won’t. So until next Tuesday keep safe, sane and happy but most of all keep singing all around the house. Oh yes, one other thing, at the beginning of lockdown I asked if any of you had a musical instrument that you played, looked at, forgotten about that you may want to get out and play again, How’s that coming on? For my part I can now play most of the notes correctly on the Tenor recorder, though some of the lower ones I do have to think about still but I can get a recognisable tune.
Well, good day to you all and it was lovely to see all your faces again this week, I’m so glad that 27, I think that was the number, of our wonderful choir logged in and took part in Tuesday's rehearsal. It was special treat to have AmyBeth join us for the rehearsal, great to see you again and I would say it was lovely to hear your voice again, but owing to the way ZOOM works we all need to be muted so we don’t get hear each other singing. Merel, who I must say has been a star, getting us together rehearsing and singing, started of by warming us up using stretching exercises ,then some vocal exercises to get our voices working well before singing 'together'. During the rehearsal we spent some time discussing the Real Angels song that we are going to cover; Michael has sent out an email relating to this so please do take a look at this and start to familiarise yourself with the words. Unfortunately I had to drop out at 18:00 as I had to log into another rehearsal so I missed the end of what was a wonderful 30mins with you all. Take care and stay safe and see you all next Tuesday at the same time.
Tuesday's session begin with an open mike session - 15 is about the maximum that can reliably work with - and we all chatted together for a short while. John H had added a 'virtual background' to his Zoom presence - very clever and I've been trying to fix one up myself, so far without success. Sarah has managed to get her microphone sorted; Robert's smiling face was back on line; and chairman Bob has worked out how to participate via his phone. It's a pity that some of our members haven't worked out how to use the Zoom system yet but free tutorials are available from me. Or I could find a proper expert! Note that flowers, trees and cuddly toys were displayed - at least at the beginning. I think we got up to 17 of us by the end of the session.
We did some warm-ups and tongue-twisters including one from Mijn Muziek (is my Dutch improving or not?) and then did some serious work on a a lovely round arrangement of Palestrina's Dona Nobis Pacem. This means 'give us peace' and is a phrase used by plenty of renaissance and modern classical composers. I particularly love the Vaughan Williams version which I rehearsed for a term once but never got to perform. Barts Choir did it at the Festival Hall a couple of years ago - stunning. We'll probably do some more work on this Palestrina so that when we get together again we'll be able to sing it in three parts at once. And we did some work on Why we sing again - there are some technical issues with this which need working on but, yes, we're on the case.
So Happy Easter from me - I'll be in and out of the flat and garden - listening to Radio 3 who are promising lots of Bach - both the St John and the St Matthew Passion, though Gramophone magazine are promising a recorded transmission of the 'John' from the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, where Bach was the MD. But I prefer the Easter Oratorio - my absolute favourite (and much shorter).'
What have we been doing as a choir since Christmas? We had a successful recruitment workshop at Palestra on Saturday 15 February, then a few rehearsals to get us ready to sing at the International Womens' Day event at Stratford on Thursday 5 March. We sang two sets and provided a jolly, happy background to the festivities. Our repertoire was: I Have a Dream; Proud Mary; Stand by Me; Fight Song; This is Me then I'll Be There; Don't Stop Believing; I Have a Dream; Stand by Me; Fight Song. I'm told that we sounded - and looked - pretty good.
After that, the world seemed to change and with working at home for non-operational staff and voluntary (or compulsory) quarantine for many it has taken a while for us to work out the best way of keeping in touch with each other, maintaining physical and mental health and wellbeing and - yes - continuing to sing. So Merel proposed that we try Zoom for a get-together and sing together session and we have now done two of these. She has also produced three short videos for us to use to work on breathing and warming up, plus a tongue-twister. Details of these are all on our new ACTIVITIES website page.
Yesterday there were about 15 of us involved, with warm-ups, tongue twisters etc, we worked on a Dutch Grove Musiek video and then sang through ‘Why we sing’ which Merel wants to teach us for a future concert. A good time was had by all - thanks, Merel. We plan another session on Tuesday 7 April - watch this space!
What a great afternoon, wild and windy, but that was outside. A great turnout of singers old and new as almost 30 people attended our workshop on Saturday 15 February at Palestra, including 14 lovely people who had seen the publicity or been talked into it by friends and colleagues. It was great to see so many people come out on a pretty nasty day!
Some of our guests had been boy sopranos and not sung since their voices had broken, a couple see themselves as dancers rather than singers and others sing in the bath or had sung in Robert’s Christmas group. What was astonishing was how well everyone sung together even after 45 minutes, staying in pitch after singing Abba’s ‘I have a dream’ a capella - not once but twice!
Robert, one of the tenors in the choir, started the workshop off with some warm-ups and he got us all to do our best Julie Andrews impressions singing ‘Do re mi’ then got stuck into the Abba.
Merel taught us Schulz Dua which is not (as Gabi thought) in Dutch but a great piece to get us finger snapping, knee slapping or clapping whilst we sang. We got it going as a four part round and you could see everyone enjoying singing together in their groups. Merel also got the choir up and walking around, showed us how to breathe properly and sing on the move.
We finished off with ‘Doing the Lambeth Walk’ in honour of one of our guests who works in Lambeth Walk and who inspired us to do our own version of the Walk whilst we sang. Some lovely walks and lots of fun and laughter. And good singing.
All too soon it was time to say goodbye (apart from those who came to the pub). It was lovely to see our choir friends after almost a two month break and it was great to meet so many new people - we hope they felt welcome and will come again - if not for this term, but maybe when the time is right for them.
There is much scientific evidence that ‘Singing is good for you’ but it didn’t need a scientist to see the fun people were having and how much they enjoyed the afternoon!
Gabi and Bob
This note is to confirm our times and venues for February. Weekday rehearsals at Palestra are a little complicated because of a block booking for the ground floor conference rooms every Tuesday. Please enquire at reception to see which room we are in on the day. We are working on the final details of the International Womens' Day event at Stratford on Thursday 7 March, but our rehearsals before then will be focused on music for that evening which will include Fight Song; This is me; I have a dream; Proud Mary; Don't stop believing; and Stand by me.
WORKSHOP Saturday 15 February 14:45 for 15:00-17:00 Palestra, Conference room 2, ground floor
REHEARSAL Tuesday 18 February 17:45 for 18:00-20:00 Palestra – ENQUIRE AT RECEPTION
REHEARSAL Tuesday 25 February 17:45 for 18:00-20:00 Endeavour Square, Stratford, 10th floor, Small Auditorium 1 5ES
REHEARSAL Saturday 29 February 14:45 for 15:00-17:00Palestra, Conference room 1, ground floor