Well, it's a long time since our last blog - indeed a long time since the choir met together. And we have had some really tough blows since we last sang at St Martin-in-the-Fields on Wednesday 8 December (that was some gig!). First was the cancellation of our Railstaff Carol Service because of restrictions on working in offices which would have made it difficult to get our readers together and probably we would have been singing to a near empty church. Then on 23 December Merel went down with Covid and, like Maddy's experience, it was the long Covid type. We wish her (and Maddy of course) well, in the maybe long march to recovery and return as our MD.
In January we looked around for a temporary but well qualified MD and we were lucky to find David Morris who also conducts the BT choir in London. So far (at the time of writing) we have had two rehearsals with him at Stratford which I was fortunate to be able to attend and then last Saturday there was a Palestra session which was held as Storm Eunice started to abate. I missed that; stranded somewhere on a train. Doh! On 8 February we had a really good warmup (well, some of us hadn't been singing much since early December so we needed it) and learned a new round called something like Semele Dedenda, then The Water is Wide and I can hear a Train a'comin'. And a version of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. Clearly we and David seemed to get on fine together so he came back 15 February as did 4S, 3A, 3T and 3B plus 3-on-line. We looked at the above songs plus Something Inside So Strong and tried The Water is Wide in 4 as well as in 3. We coped and I think sounded rather good.
We have a programme of rehearsals mapped out and on behalf of the choir I have been working with RSSB (my employers) and Birmingham University to agree the details - and suitable fees - for our appearance at the opening ceremony of the World Congress of Rail Research at 16:00 (precisely of course) on Monday 6 June. See www.wcrr2022.co.uk for more details. We've submitted a list of songs that we could work on before and after some speeches. They could include:
Transport of Delight
I can hear a train a’comin
Stand by Me
Don’t stop believin’
If ye love me
So do attend our next rehearsals and we'll see how that project develops. But we're the named choir on their website so it must be true.
Hello, my fellow singers
I do hope you're all well and settling into what appears to be the new normal where we can move freely about for both work and leisure but retaining some of the safeguarding measures we have become used to over the last 18 months. As you know the choir resumed its live rehearsals on Tuesdays, mainly at Endeavour Square, Stratford and on Saturdays mainly at Palestra and these have been fairly well attended but we could do with a few more singers. However, that said, we are currently restricted to 16 people per rehearsal but I am working on this with the building management teams so hopefully we can get an increase in time for Christmas. I hope you were able to see the video for the Bus Awards Event - a great achievement from you the choir where we had just three rehearsal sessions then went straight into the recording at the fourth session, People who were at the event said they were impressed with the choir and the energy in our singing.
Merel has now started rehearsing the Christmas carols, starting with the choir only items plus several of the songs we learnt in lockdown on Zoom. It's really great to hear these in the flesh rather than just our own part as they really come to life, so please do dust down your Zoom music as we are planning a choir concert/ recruitment drive early next year using this music plus a few other pieces.
Just a heads up: for the choir-only pieces we are looking at for St Martin-in-the-Fields “All this time” by William Walton, “Kings of the Orient” arranged by John Rutter, “Infant King” arranged by Pettiman, recordings are available on You Tube plus MP3s will be available soon on the website and for St Mary’s we will drop "All this time" and replace this with "Away in a Manger" using the Tune Normandy, which is on page 3 in your CFC1. And we're about to add "Gabriel's Message" to both events.
As you know over the years we gain and lose members and to this end we must think about recruiting more singers, so please do switch your ears on and encourage any of your friends, colleagues or anyone you hear singing, humming or whistling to come along and try us out. We know we are a friendly choir and we all love to sing and make music to the best of our abilities and we want to share this with others.
So take care, my fellow singers: keep safe and keep singing and I hope to see you at rehearsals as and when you're able.
Well, what a treat seeing so many friends once again and making music together. It was great to be able to do this after so long. What a sound we made, all good, I assure you, and we sang through five songs: Proud Mary, A Transport of Delight, Stand by Me with our soloist Robert, Don't Stop Believing and our old favourite Bus Stop. These we are preparing for the virtual Bus Awards on 23 September - we're being filmed a couple of days before that. I know not all members are available for these rehearsals and that's fine but please do look at the tracks on the webpage.
Many thanks to Michael for loading these on, as we will be using these, probably, in our future concert in early 2022. The next performances for the choir will be for Christmas and I will send the music out after the 21st September so look out for this. Ralph is preparing the MP3s for us and hopefully these will be up on the Web Page soon.
So as I said it was great to see many of you today and I look forward to seeing you all in due course. Take care, stay safe and keep singing.
And our webmaster can't resist posting the picture below - such a seasonal message!
PS - Bob's previous blog has vanished from the website so here it is again:
Well I thought it was about time we had a bit of a blog so here goes. I hope that you’ve been able to get some down time and relax, rest and if possible get away for a change of scenery. I managed a couple of days away in Yorkshire, I think the term 'fairly bracing' sums up the weather for the majority of the time we were away; however, it was dry and the scenery was beautiful.
I hope and pray you are all doing well and staying safe and sane, I do believe there is light at the end of the tunnel so much so we have booked our rehearsal rooms from 11 September where we can get together to join our voices and raise our wonderful sound once again.
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, the last of which we hope will be on 7 September which will allows us the opportunity to go through the plans for this term: please do join us.
I appreciate that we now have a different way of working with our working lives being shared between the office and home and that the days we work will change which is why we have put in more Saturdays to help. We have also extended our Tuesday to a 90 min session to make it worth while travelling in, we will keep this under review and if it's not working we can change it.
So please keep an eye out for the updates on the Web page and by email, hopefully I'll be sending out the list of the music we are singing this term; mostly this will be music you should already have but if not I can, as needed, send out music to you.
We will also be holding our AGM this term possibly in November.
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).'