• Sandra Smith

Sidmouth Folk Festival, a personal dream!

Great spread in the Mid Devon Advertiser

After the excitement of the Royal Albert Hall - and getting credits in the press reviews as well, we approached our wonderful and local, Sidmouth Folk Week, to see if we can get a slot there! We have tried before to get into these big festivals and it is hard work! I think that Show Of Hands helped us a lot, as they are patrons of the festival! So we had a lovely email back saying, ' YES! We will find you a space!' We quickly booked in Chris Hoban, as our guest, as we are journeying together and we'd had such a great time during the summer tour with him!

We got to work on perfecting our short set of 40 mins, choosing our best songs. Singers cancelled their holidays to be at rehearsals, families re-organised their schedules to allow singers to be free - it really was a community effort to get us there!

We were tired, after a long period of performances - only one week off since January, working straight through Easter, prepping for the Albert Hall. We had been running 2 complete sets of songs for the whole of the year, moving between them regularly, for an amateur choir, that is an amazing feat!

We arrived at the Manor Pavilion Theatre, in Sidmouth, excited and a bit nervous! We went upstairs in the main building to warm-up, in the theatre bar, next to the main theatre. We were booked into the small Arts Centre below. It was a small room, with no furnishings to soften the 'bounce' of the room, and when we arrived, it was full of lovely people doing messy arts and crafts! The turn around from workshop to performance space was done in 30 mins flat! The arts leaders were just incredible! They worked to the deadline and left the place spotless - I really don't know how they did it!

To be really honest....I wasn't expecting many people. This was a big festival, we hadn't played there before and we were performing at the same time as many other great acts. Somewhere in the back of my head, I thought we might be the 'Billy No Mates' gig:- a few locals who knew about us, but not many more!We had worked hard on the marketing front, we always do, but I thought if we got 30 people, we'd be doing really well.

During the warm-up, one of our young singers keeled over, she was really poorly, but she desperately wanted to perform and not let us down. Bless her, she just couldn't do it even though she really tried to push through. So.....One singer down, we got ourselves together and lined up to go down to our room. Walking around the corner there were loads of people standing in a queue. 'Oo that's strange,' I thought. I asked the woman at the front who they were waiting to see. 'We're all here to see The Lost Sound!' NO WAY! I couldn't believe it! We were packed out in there! All the seats went really quickly, then all the standing room went, so the only way to see us, was to hang over the window sill, from the outside! There were loads of people outside, too! Oh, and a cat!

We had such a great gig! What an atmosphere in there! There was such warmth and affection for the music and the music makers. It really was very, very special. The room made us sound even better - with so many people in there, the bounce had dropped to a warm reverb! The choir loved it - what a momentous ending to our summer concerts - singing to an audience who recognised what we are trying to do and acknowledged our 'sound'. We were humbled and touched by their listening. Soloists rocked their stuff - there were some real highlights during the show! Ros sang her lead in 'Way Beyond The Blue' and nearly took the roof off!

We had to leave really quickly after our set and leave Chris Hoban to woo the audience with his songs. We packed up all our rostra and ran to the other side of town to sound check for the Show Of Hands session in The Ham marquee.

We got to the sound check( with Rob Waite) just in time - jumped on stage with the band and sang through some of the SOH set to get the balance. We then went round the back of the marquee to go through some of the newer, more difficult arrangements, that we hadn't sung with them since April. Yep, still worked! All fine and dandy and ready to go!

Acoustic rehearsal backstage

We threw some food down us as we had to sing again in an hour! Geoff Lakeman was on first, so we had time to eat and digest then warm-up again! Geoff was fantastic and held the stage with simple charisma and strong songs. We've bumped into him a few times now, and he is such a lovely person. During the SOH set he walked on and shared Steve's mic for Cousin Jack - a classic moment!

The Ham, Sidmouth Folk week with Show Of Hands

Another great show - full of laughter and great music making. It is such a brilliant thing to do - singing with the top folk band, it isn't something you forget! Alan Bearman who runs Sidmouth - was at the side of the stage, listening - he had already heard that we had sold out at our gig and offered us a bigger venue for 2018! What a finale to the night! We'll be back!

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