Choir practice


I’m off out to choir practice today. Learning new songs, and old ones to different tunes.

I’m sure my mental health has been better since I began going to a choir over ten years ago. It’s good for things like relaxation and concentration. I would recommend it to anyone who nerds some stress busting.

I can be sitting with the choir with no memory if the words or tune. Then almost miraculously they come to me as we start singing. We sing mainly acappella and my voice is most suited to alto and low parts.

We learnt a version of let your little light shine for the Stoke sings choir festival the weekend before last. With words that were appropriate to the cities history of pottery and mining.

I hope we sing it again tonight. It was fun to sing with 600 other people belting out the various parts. It is on YouTube  somewhere.

Barn dance coming up..


Imagine whirling around with a bunch of people… Then imagine some of them looking completely confused, going in the wrong directions and flinging each other about in mad abandon. That’s a barn dance. Add amazing live music. A caller explaining the dance moves to people trying to understand what on earth he’s saying. The fun that can be had getting dizzy, twisting and turning, jumping about….

And a pie and peas supper that has both meat and vegetarian options.

It’s all in aid of the Penkhull Mystery play this July.

If you are in the area perhaps you would like to come along to these February Frolics and then get involved in the mystery play itself where there are openings to act, make props and help paint scenery. You never know you might enjoy it.

Charity singing day.

I’ve been out all day singing at workshops with various tutors. Then in the evening 16 choirs were involved in a concert to raise money for three charities.

The day started early at a local theatre, groups went off to various changing rooms, bars and the auditorium to learn new songs and vocal techniques. In the same way as artists have different styles so do musicians. The first workshop I attended was called “joy” and it was joyful and bonkers. Fast cheery tunes and ” jazz hands”, it woke us up and some of us even threatened to join the teachers choir. The second workshop I went to was called “raise your voice” and helped us to harmonise and listen to each other while we learnt two folk songs.

In the afternoon around 400 of us.. Yes that many, learned a new song written specially for the day. Based on “let your little light shine” the lyrics were written by a local poet and music by a local musician. The result was filmed this evening when we sang it at the end of the concert.

It should be going on YouTube.

Each choir also sang one or two songs. Some of the singers were in 3 and even 4 of the choirs so they were busy.

We had a satisfying day and I think everyone should be proud of what they did.

La Traviata


I’ve never seen live opera, but I just came back from seeing Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata at our local cinema – broadcast from the Royal Opera House .

The cast included

Ermonela Jaho as ViolettaValery.

Charles Castronovo as Alfredo Germont.

Placido Domingo as Georgia Germont.

The story tells the fortune of Violetta and Alfredo. Violetta is a Parisian courtesan. Alfredo is introduced to her at a party and they fall in love. Violetta has been suffering from tuberculosis and they decide to move to a country house where Alfredo can look after her.

Alfredo doesn’t know that Violetta is selling her possessions so they can afford pay their bills. When he finds out he goes off to Paris to try and raise funds himself.

In the meantime Giorgio, Alfredo’s father, arrives and asks Violetta to leave his son because his daughter is due to marry. Alfredo’s affair with Violetta would cause scandle and prevent the marriage. She begs the father to comfort his son when she has left. Then when Alfredo returns she asks him to promise he will always love her. She leaves the house and sends him a note to say she had gone.

Alfredo goes to Paris to try and find Violetta. He goes to a lavish party and gambles. Violetta and a baron who is involved with her arrive. Alfredo beats him at cards. Alfredo asks Violetta to come back to the country with him but she says no, so he throws his winnings at her and tells her that is to pay her back for the money she has spent. He has a duel with the Baron who is injured. Alfredo leaves Paris.

In the final act Violetta is dying of tuberculosis in a run down house in Paris. She sends her maid to watch the carnival and in the meantime reads a letter which Giorgio has sent her. It tells her that he has told the truth to his son and that Alfredo is coming to see her. Then her maid returns with Alfredo, she is ecstatic and suddenly feels much better but then collapses and dies in Alfredo’s arms.

The music is gorgeous, swooping, life affirming. I cannot explain how superb the singing was. Seeing Placido Domingo singing as the father Giorgio was wonderful. There was so much character and warmth in his voice. Charles Castronovo sang with gentleness and love. He was tender and fierce in turn as Alfredo. But above all Ermonela Jaho’s Violetta was outstanding, excellent. She not only sang the part beautifully but her acting was so intense.

I am so glad that I went. If there is another performance I will go again.


Community Spirit


Five public houses, one private house and a Christmas tree…. What do they have in common? We went Carol singing around them with the Penkhull Mystery singers last night.

From wassail songs, Latin carols, ancient hyms and fairytail of New York… We sang so much last night. Its becoming a local tradition to visit all the hostelries to sing to the locals and collect funds for the Penkhull Mystery play in the summer. Its a difficult way of doing it because it relies on the number of people in the pubs and we outnumbered everybody in each of the pubs. But it was fun! Singing the Holly and the Ivy in four part harmony, or Good King Wenseslas with the men and women split into parts. And we sounded good. We are becoming more balanced as a choir. More choral.

After the New Year the choir splits back up. It’s made up of members of two Choirs and other members who just get together for this. But the cameraderie will remain.

I’m looking forward to next year when we do it all again.


Tech rehearsal…


We got here today and have been busy sitting around for a lot of the time, interspersed with standing around on the stage being set in position, then singing as loudly and brightly as we can for our songs. I’m shattered, I hope I can keep my energy up for the performance.

To be honest I’m actually enjoying being fitted for a costume (a tee shirt). I brought my own silly blingy jewellery to wear. I’ve actually got some stuff from the 1990s which I was given one Christmas.

The play is called Beautiful Thing at the New Vic theatre at Basford, Newcastle-under-Lyme. Performances run till Saturday and start at 7.30pm.

The play is about the blossoming relationship between two teenage boys. It is set in 1993 and we are singing music by Mama Cass and hits from the 1990s. I hope I don’t break my leg