• Sandra Smith

Christmas 2018

We started off our winter tour with another collaboration with Show Of Hands and Chris Hoban. Show of Hands were performing at the Theatre Royal Plymouth on Armestice Sunday, 11th November, as part of their sell out tour with the amazing percussionist Cormad Bynre, who was setting the stage a light with his drumming!

Given the importance of the day, the 100 years anniversary, we were invited to participate and sing some of the songs we performed with SOH for the Centenary album (2016). Chris Hoban had arranged a beautiful new song, Bright Morning Star, especially for Steve and our choir and also composed a stunning song especially for the occasion called 'The Christmas Truce' with himself as solo and our choir backing him. Chris writes incredible story songs – getting a complex and emotional narrative into 3 verses of superb quality.

The evening wouldn’t have been complete without Chris’s iconic song ‘Lily and the Rose’ for which I filled in for Miranda Sykes, who was off on maternity leave and Annabelle stepped in to conduct the choir. It felt incredible to sing in that theatre and with Chris on accordion. It was a beautiful and unforgettable moment, for me. We also sang some of our new songs from the winter set.

It really was a memorable concert in so many ways. It was the first time that SOH had played the theatre, due to a change in management, which meant our Cornish cousins came over the Tamar in droves, to join us. The staff and crew from the theatre were so helpful and supportive and the techie crew were in and out in record time!

It was a very emotional and exciting concert and it was brilliant to have the whole of the first half as the support act – it was a promotion of sorts for us! We did our very best and had a tremendous reception from the audience.

Plymouth 24th Nov Back on the road

Our winter tour was key for raising money for three local causes and charities. We were tremendously fortunate in having photographer, Andrew Lester, in attendance for all of our gigs and he was personally responsible for keeping our social media alight for the whole season.

Our first solo concert was only a couple of weeks after the Theatre Royal and we still had songs to polish, in what was a very new set. After working so hard on the SOH songs, this was a big ask form the choir! So with only ONE full run through and a HUGE new finale song that was only just finished, we launched into Plymouth to sing.

St Emmanuel’s couldn’t have been more welcoming and it was a beautiful church to sing in. We were raising money for Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, a little known and life limiting lung disease. (As a singing teacher, I also work with clients needing help with their breathing and went down to help this group in Plymouth. They had literally NO funds – not even a tea kitty! I knew we needed to help)

Our new inside and outside banners were on show – designed by Helen Duvall from Screaming Abdabs gallery with our new logo -which looked fantastic in the foyer and on the outside railings. It certainly caught passers by attention – Job done!

We had people in the audience who had ben to the SOH concert on the 11th Nov and who liked us enough to return – that felt good! We had support from other local choirs too, coming to see what we are about – all in all a great turnout for an area that we are quite unknown in.

The concert was remarkable! I don’t know quite how we pulled off such a great programme! Running 2 different sets is pretty hard work and our singers truly delivered! Our new finale song had people leaping to their feet, which is exactly the response we hoped for!

Here is Tobias giving it all in his solo!

Next stop was for the Buckfastleigh Xmas Market for a short and rowdy set , where lots of the big numbers came out of the bag! Having men in the choir is very useful for outside gigs as their voices carry well and, with only a smattering of rain and not totally freezing, we got off lightly! We raised some funds for our much needed Food Bank, based in St Lukes Church, where we rehearse.

With a little time between gigs for polishing, we were ready again for Dec 8th in Teignmouth. We were very lucky to have a fantastic and forward thinking vicar and a beautiful acoustic in the church. We were raising money for the South Devon Amnesty International group, for this concert. This is a small and impassioned letter writing group and their writing still needed funds to continue. Paper, stamps etc all add up and they get through a lot! They were a lovely bunch of people and ran the bar too, educated us on what they do and all in all we all went home happy!

Our finale was at Ashburton arts Centre on Dec 22nd – our homeground, well, nearly! What a finale it was! 155+ people in the centre and we had to turn away at least another 15. It was packed in there and such a great atmosphere. For some reason we were really nervous in the first half – more so than any of our other gigs that season! The singers were superb and we even fitted in a ‘Happy Birthday’ in 4 part harmony for a member of the audience.

Steve up for his first solo

After that we were well and truly shattered and disapeared in to the pub across the road for a bhajee and samosa take out and pints of beer! Singers are ravenous after singing and we are very lucky that our choir seem to like each other - the litmus test is how loud the talking gets during the reherasals!

Jan – April

This is the time we get on and learn our new set list, ready for the summer season. We tend not to do concerts in these months, as we need time to train as well as learn. This also tends to be the time when choir singers pick up every bug around and boy, have we had some this season! A horrible laryngitis caused some problems and lots of very nasty coughy, cold bugs going round, which really knocked our singers out. This term has been the worst it’s been for a while. Despite this, we still managed to learn the hardest song we have ever tackled – a big, fat choral blues – commissioned by us for our 10th anniversary year. We are keeping everything crossed that you like it! We love it but boy it’s been hard getting it learnt!

Oh and another small thing – we recorded 3 more songs to complete our first EP in the middle of the full force of Storm Freya! Joshua Norton Cox came to record and mix for us

Tobias Ben Jacobs, who is a singer/songwriter is in our choir and has guided us through the process of getting this pressed – couldn’t have done it without him! We are hoping it will be ready for our first gig of the season in Kingskerswell. Hope to see you there!

#ShowOfHands #TheatreRoyalPlymouth #ChrisHoban #PhilBeer #SteveKnightley #CorrmadByrne #LilyandtheRose #Charityconcert #IPF #AmnestyInternational #AshburtonArtsCentre #HappyBirthday #Choral #Choir

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