by Nick Walker
For the last note of the concert finale, One Day More, we really went for it – choir and band nearly raising the roof of the Atrium Hall.
The audience rose to their feet, cheering and clapping in appreciation of what had been a hugely uplifting, moving and entertaining show. A tribute to the power of music to bring people together. And a payoff for all the hard work done by the movers and shakers of Sing! Community Choir to get us concert-ready, raising serious money for our charity, Romsey Mill.
There were youngsters dancing down the front and old folk tapping their toes. We even managed to keep my Dad (88) awake. On stage they saw a sea of vivid pink, yellow and blue tops, a bit like Elmer the patchwork elephant. Smart move by the wardrobe department!
Sing! Community Choir is special. After a decade of rehearsing and putting on shows, they somehow manage to combine friendly informality with meticulous organisation. I first came for one of their Taster Days in January and loved it. I’m not very good at singing. But I wanted to have a go. I get a buzz from making music with other people. Singing in a choir is prescribed for depression on the NHS: it’s great for your mental health.
Sing! is run by a group of talented and inspiring people, with three of its founder members – Bethany, Naomi and Tizzy – still going strong. It has a rotating cast of volunteer conductors for multi-genre songs, which are taught by ear rather than sheet music.
All year we’ve been learning one or two new songs every week, building up to a repertoire of 14 for the concert. Audio files and lyrics for each part – alto, bass, tenor, soprano – are shared on the web so we can learn them. After a while you absorb these songs until you know them off by heart.
By July 9th, the day of the concert, I felt ready – excited rather than nervous. Blue skies were smiling at us as we gathered for a warm-up in the light and lofty foyer of Netherhall School’s Atrium Hall, with its quirky sawn-off Cadillac from Grease. We ran through the non-band songs while the musicians set up in the hall. Sounded pretty good. Cakes accumulated on side tables. During the interval the audience could have their cake and eat it. Keep them sweet! Another crafty piece of planning.
Then onto the stage to rehearse together with the band. I stood on the back row and enjoyed the view until I started to worry about fainting in the heat. What if I expired in a sweaty heap during the concert and fell backwards? It was a long way down…
We had been on our feet for nearly three hours now, so it was good to take a break. Netherhall playing fields are vast, stretching up a hill. Munching on a sandwich and basking in the still-hot evening sun I spotted a deer emerge from the bushes on the horizon. A good omen.
Changed into our finery, we assembled in a classroom for a final pep-talk from Bethany and took part in Tizzy’s ENERGY chant to get us revved up. Trying to be quiet, we took our positions onstage. The band played the intro to Shut Up and Dance and the curtains parted.
We were great. Did you ever doubt it?
Highlights for me were the songs I enjoy singing most – the breezy pop-rush of Rhythm of Love, the bonkers Grace Kelly (belting out the ‘violet skies’ bit gives me goosebumps), the trance-inducing One Day Like This and the epic One Day More.
For those of us who weren’t performing the Cabaret items it was a treat to sit down and enjoy them close-up for the first time. After Welcome Home and Love Medley (15 songs in 2½ minutes) I was tearing up a bit. The occasion was getting to me. When you’re right next to live choral singers it does something to you. When they sing in harmony (doesn’t have to be perfect) it goes straight to the heart.