• Sandra Smith

Royal Albert Hall, St Georges, Bristol

Photos by Judith Burrows, Rex Preston and Pete Andrews January to March were heads down, for the choir, learning new songs for our summer season AND new arrangements, written especially for us, by Chris Hoban, for supporting Show of Hands' 25th anniversary concerts. We were booked for 2 gigs, St Georges, Bristol on April 13th and then Royal Albert Hall on April 16th. These were both the biggest events we had done. At the RAH we were singing to 5000 fans!

We had to plan our rehearsal schedule very carefully! Three weeks after RAH, we had the first gig of our mini Dartmoor tour - with a lot of new songs- so both sets had to be ready at the same time. The choir pulled out every stop they had and worked straight through the Easter holidays. We were ready!

Prior to the Bristol and London gigs, the full band came into our Tuesday rehearsals to run through the new songs and make any adjustments etc. this was like being at our own private gig with SOH - loved it! Songs can change when a band is on tour, so we had to check that the songs still fitted the arrangements that we were working from!

Last rehearsal before Bristol

After all the hard work it was time to see if we could pull it off! Coaches booked, costumes ready, no talking on the coach, for fear of tiring voices - food snacks and plenty of water - off we go!

Picking up singers in Exeter

The amount of admin that goes into organising 30 singers to go up to Bristol and London is massive, on our side, as well as the SOH team! The coach company was brilliant with us - however it became apparent that we need to practice how to pee at the same pit stop, rather than have multiple pauses! We got there in time - just!

It was straight into sound checks - first SOH then us - checking monitors and levels

First Sound check - choir couldn't hear themselves but I could! They were fab!

Rehearsal Bristol  - part of sound check

Penny, Emma, Richard, Brigitte, Annabelle and Steve - pause between sound checks

Below: Amanda and new singer Rosie


We had a good cheer when we came on stage in Bristol, as the Devon fans, who had seen us before, had come up for the gig! That felt great! It was a little daunting, not knowing how the SOH fans would like the sound that we added to their set. After the first song - we had a fabulous reception. Concentration was very high throughout the gig - new songs out for the first time took on a new life - live on stage!

We were singing in the moment and feeding off Steve and Phil and feeling where they wanted to lift! It was such an exciting sing. Hard work, yes but tremendous!

The room was packed - only a few gaps in the upper balcony

It was a very exuberant trip home - Happy and excited - such great feedback from our Devon friends!

On to RAH - Thursday April 16th

It was a 9am start for London with another pick up in Exeter. Arriving at the Hall after a long 5 hour haul (yes, pit stops, again!) we had to find our other singers, as we were arriving from different places, not all on the coach.

Quick press photo shoot on the steps of RAH then straight into finding dressing rooms etc We were front page in the Mid Devon Advertiser when we got back!

The RAH is a warren of tunnels and passages - somehow we managed to find the canteen and our way back

Waiting for sound check call

Plus of course our dressing rooms - it's the little things!

Then it's into the big one - nothing quite prepares you for the size of the hall - it is SO high and faces are looking at you from every angle. 5000 people in one place is a lot of people!

When you get to see the show - the band have been there for about 5 hours rehearsing, sound checking etc they have probably done the set 3 times, on the day, before you hear it!

Rehearsals for sound check and checking monitors

Sandra had a video link and monitor link to Steve throughout the show, as she couldn't see him. Getting the mix right in the monitors is tricky. the acoustics in RAH are such that we were told to ONLY follow the monitors, NOT the live sound, as if we did, there would be a delay on the mix

Fantastic Lighting effect by Marcus Bartlett

ABOVE: Standing ovation for 25 years at the top of the Folk world!

BELOW: All performers, crew and management

The after show party in Kensington saw us getting back to the hotel in the wee small hours and it was a very quiet coach on the way home!

Photos by Judith Burrows, Rex Preston and Pete Andrews

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