Three concerts in nine days – and all quite different.
On Sunday, 23 March, we were at The Bridgwater Hall again to take part in the Grand Organ Gala. We sang four pieces, three of which we knew fairly well (Zadok, Hallelujah Chorus and Pomp and Circumstance No1) and one that needed some extra rehearsal time (the Lacrimosa from Mozart’s Requiem). Despite most of us having sung Zadok many times before, the semiquaver runs are always very taxing, particularly for the men who have to push a greater volume of air out!
Being directly in front of the 5,500 organ pipes gave us the chance to hear the full range of the Bridgewater organ’s sounds and colours played by Darius Battiwalla. Bach’s Toccata and Fugue was stunning. The ascending and descending scales played on one manual and echoed on another manual really showed off the subtlety and variety of the organ’s stops – one sounded like a real celeste.
All this and the excellent Manchester Concert Orchestra ably conducted by John Pryce–Jones, who had a tendency to forget what piece was next – does he do this on purpose? – and the audience loved it (2,000 or so of them).
The next concert was a more traditional one at Ivy Church in Didsbury for the N-Gage charity. A lot smaller audience than the Bridgewater but very appreciative of our varied programme, with something to suit everyone. Two of this writer’s family were in attendance and both chose their favourite piece as being the first one we walked in singing, which we know as the ‘reindeer song’. It’s called Olele Loila, a song from Finland to call in the reindeer. We learnt this without music and will all put it to good use next time we are in Finland.
When I mentioned other things we’d sung, they both had at least four favourites (!) but liked every single piece we had sung. Anyone reading this who hasn’t been to one of our concerts should keep an eye on our calendar to see when we are singing in your neck of the woods – how often have you been to a concert and liked everything?
There were quite a few songs performed by us for the first time composed by Bob Chilcott (Happy the Man), Eric Whitacre (Seal Lullaby), Jussi Chydenius (Autumn) and some popular classics of the twentieth century (Miss Otis Regrets, Is You Is or Is You Ain’t, The Way You Look Tonight). We even sang three gospel songs. But the song we spent the most time rehearsing was Gavelin/Nilson’s Hold Me Fast. This is a great song with beautiful melody lines supported by other voices in other rhythms – tricky. This was one of the above’s favourites.
Lastly, Spread a Little Happiness – aaah. Then off to the pub (to interrogate the family).
Monday morning at 8:00am (!) and we’re at Emmanuel Church, just up the road from Ivy Church, for the BBC Daily Service. It was a cut-down Chorale of 24 for this because some people have got proper jobs to go to. We’re used to the format for this, where we practice a hymn, then the anthem, then another hymn, do a timed rehearsal, cut a verse or two out of a hymn, and then do the live transmission without rustling our music. We sang God So Loved the World from Stainer’s Crucifixion unaccompanied and very nicely. The vicar conducting the service must have had the director in his headphones urging him to read faster because the second he finished speaking, the Radio 4 10:00 beeps went – and he gasped for air. The director immediately came in and gave us her approval. We’ll try and get authorisation to put the anthem on the website.
A busy few day, especially for Jill our MD (who even conducts the spoken ‘Amens’), but very enjoyable. Any potential singers with The Chorale will get a good idea of the variety of music we sing and events we perform at.