Sing! Weekend Away 2022

By Sophie

The first time I went on a Sing! weekend away I was nervous. This time, after three years of waiting, I was excited. Andy and Beth sang in the front of the car, and it felt as if we were kids heading for the seaside. I had to stop myself blurting out, “Are we nearly there yet?”

There were board games on Friday night, which were great for getting us into a flow of daftness, concentration and competition – without the pressure to make conversation.

I liked the way that next morning some people sat quietly reading, while others got straight back into the Bananagrams groove over before breakfast (Cocoa pops as well as sensible granola… yay!)

Saturday was glorious – sunshine, woodland, and a feast of workshops to choose from – physical, reflective, culinary and creative.

The intrepid climbed 18 metre trees (Becca D completing the challenge barefoot); then they navigated a high ropes course, jumping from terrifying platforms.

Other people made bright bunting for the 10th anniversary concert.

I really enjoyed Jon’s “values” session, thinking about what makes us sing. He gave out questions like, “What made you happy as a child? Think of an occasion and describe it to a partner.” The partner then identified the underlying things that made the experience valuable. I really appreciated that quiet time, together with others in a dappled wood; time to really listen, and to be still. That quiet hour of attentive reflection, rippled through the weekend for me in a special way.

I also loved Naomi G’s glass suncatcher making, and Jane’s collaging. Both these activities allowed people who might think “I’m no good at drawing” to have fun playing with shapes and colours. I smile each time I pass the little sun catcher which now hangs on my kitchen window.

Sian taught a further group to make pierogi, a filled Polish pasta, savoury, sweet and tasty.

After lunch lots of singsters meandered through the woods; there was a choice of walks to suit different wishes. One person decided that 500 metres was just the right length for the short stroll!

I’m told that Jon shone in the archery session, while Lindsey hit the fence a few times, but missed the passing DofE children. 

A “team challenge” contingent developed their skills of balancing, breath-holding and crossing lava flows (which made me think of my favourite children’s book: Quentin Blake’s “How Tom beat Captain Najork and his hired Sportsmen” in which Tom “fooled around in the mud, and stomped and squelched…he fooled on high-up things that shook and wobbled and teetered”; he was great at “womble, muck and sneedball”)

EA forsook sneedball but excelled at crochet, commenting “It was great. Now I’m hooked!”…

We were treated to a joyful display from Elyse’s line-dancers par excellence.

A mellow collection of people sat in the sun and sang their way through the alphabet, choosing a band for each letter.

The biggest laughs came with Marie and Mario’s Giant Hungry Hippos game. One member of a team lay belly down on a skateboard clutching a laundry basket (as you do); their partner flung them into the middle of the hall where plastic balls had to be gathered into the baskets; the “fisher person” was then hauled back on a rope and the “catch” was unloaded

Naomi said it was “Excellent – a full body workout”. Becca D pushed Marie at super high speeds, while EA and Piete had “some mad thing going where they hoovered up more balls than anyone else.” Top game!

This was followed by a magical woodland campfire. Building fires is one of my favourite things. Beth played her guitar and Andy the ukulele, and we enjoyed many songs from the Sing! repertoire.

Our lovely singing lured the DofE youngsters to join us, abandoning their own fire. We took requests and sang “Sweet Caroline” for Jo, and then “Wonderwall” for Reece. One of them led us on the guitar with “Eye of the Tiger”.  I liked the way that the teenagers were part of a motley group of adults, all ages, and able to feel how much happiness there can be in fires and singing.

At the end of that first day, Rob, who hadn’t been away with the choir before, said “this has far, far exceeded my expectations”:-)

On Sunday we were joined by more people, and Helen arrived with the lovely Juliet Russell, who ran two great workshops.

I’m very unmusical, but I really liked watching the way her passion and enthusiasm was visible in every movement she made, and in her wonderfully expressive face (as she told us, “It’s all in the eyebrows!”) I get pleasure being around others who have the musical knowledge I lack, and hearing things like Juliet announcing a song started “in a D minor 7th” and Naomi whooping with joy!

Juliet worked on our unison singing, and encouraged us to make joint decisions about how to express a passage – by, for example, inviting the altos to sing in imitation of the tenors, and to think about how that changed the tone and emotional content of their singing. We worked on Mark De-Lisser’s climate protest arrangement of “What a Wonderful World”, and Juliet sent him a video of us singing. Lindsey immediately requested that he send a selfie in return! 

I loved the musical language of onsets, smooth, glottal and breathy; vocal jams and fricatives. And I relished Juliet’s turn of phrase as she talked about “sonic sandwiches”; (some hybrid genre, sci-fi/cookery?) and told us, “The sopranos do all the work here – the rest of us get to have an ‘Oooh-y-holiday’”; and the unforgettable insight that “Oohs” can be “like a cat’s bum, or softer and cuddlier, like going in for a kiss”!

Altogether, it was a wonderful weekend, a real chance to get to know people, and to build our community. As Rob put it so beautifully, “If Putin nukes us, I want to be with Sing! people” 🙂