Sing! Weekend Away 2023: an extra special weekend

By Katie Grace

It was an extra special weekend at the beginning of May. Not only was it the King’s Coronation but it was also the Sing! Community Choir weekend away. Woohoo!! Sixty of us ventured into the Suffolk countryside and descended on Ringsfield Hall, near Beccles. Having stayed in the beautiful Thetford Forest for the past four years, there was some anticipation about how this space would work for us, but I think I can safely say it all worked out very well.

Choir members began trickling in from about 5pm on a slightly rainy and damp Friday evening. Since we were hidden down some country lanes, this was perhaps a little adventure for those arriving after dark! Once safely inside, it was exciting to see all the space we had. There were some ‘soft
areas’ with comfy sofas and chairs for us to relax in. It was also ‘exciting’ to see the bathroom/toilet situation (some members with quick maths skills looked a little pensive at the bathroom-to-weekender ratio; but it all worked out fine!).

Once most of us had arrived and settled in, we launched into a few hilarious rounds of Just A Minute – the popular radio game show, brilliantly hosted by Andy and marvellously masterminded by Marie. We learned that Rowan really does love dinosaurs and how the battle of Hastings actually
happened in 1666! Who knew?!

Off we toddled to our dorms, with a few party people staying up later to enjoy drinks and crafts and late-night chats.

Hello, and welcome to… Just A Minute!

Saturday: a day of activity

Our social guru Jon miraculously masterminded a timetable for us all so we could enjoy as many different activities as possible. The workshops were run by members of the choir with other talents besides singing. There was glass fusing, printing in nature, haiku writing, improv, movement to
music, felting, lino printing, cross stitch, social crafting and a ‘watching the coronation’ group. Ringsfield Hall also put on some outdoor team building, bushcraft and archery activities for us. So there was plenty to choose from.

Plenty of activities to choose from!

Choir members were free to do as much or as little as they liked. Some went for a peaceful walk in the beautiful grounds or found a quiet corner to knit. Some sat on the stairwell plaiting each other’s hair and some found contentment playing the piano. Some even went for a run!

Saturday night dinner was provided by the venue, something we didn’t have at Thetford. It was delicious and much appreciated after a busy day of activities. There was plenty of pasta bake and bolognaise, salad, garlic bread and pudding for us all. With our bellies full, choir members slowly
wobbled out to the campfire to gather under a bell tent of sorts, and enjoyed all being together and having a sing. I heard everyone had a lovely time. (I may or may not have passed out on my bed fully clothed at about 8pm!)

All songs sound better round a campfire!

Sunday: a day of singing

Choir numbers grew on Sunday as we were joined by our lovely choir ‘day trippers’ for our teaching session by Craig Lees and Declan Davies (Craig is the Musical Director behind Leeds Contemporary Singers). I think I can safely say on everyone’s behalf how utterly brilliant they were. Also that most
of us are now seriously considering how we can arrange a musical accompaniment to provide the soundtrack to our lives.

Without introducing himself, Craig brilliantly launched straight into an invigorating warm up. Choir members demonstrated excellent focus and concentration as they touched each other’s knees and massaged each other’s shoulders!

Craig taught us the Whitney Houston belter How Will I Know and how to get emotion into our voices. Who knew there were so many ways to sing the line “How will I know” – maybe with a whimper or a cry or absolute desperation? It was a lot of fun.

Next, Becky and Beth bravely conducted us singing a few songs from our own Sing! repertoire in front of Craig and Declan: the Friends theme tune I’ll Be There for You and Coldplay’s Viva la Vida.

They gave us helpful feedback on how to get more out of performing these songs.

Learning in action

The weekend away sadly came to a close about 4pm and everyone seemed to chip in with the final clean up before heading back to real life.

All in all, it was a great weekend. But don’t take my word for it. Here are a few quotes from other Sing! members about what they thought of our weekend away.

What other people said…

“Everything I expected and more. Nice to meet new people and chill out in this corner of Suffolk.” — Alex

“Wonderful.” — Clare

“Delightful.” — Marie

“Lovely times with lovely people.” — Becca

“Lovely to spend time with people you see every Thursday at choir, getting to know them a bit better in the beautiful surroundings of Suffolk. There are so many talented folk here, sharing their skills.” — Vicky

“Wet. But warmed by the good company.” — John

“Lino printing went amazingly well. I’m happy, happy, happy.” — Lydia

“Getting to know people from other sections of the choir is great. It’s not an easy job to organise sleeping, eating and multiple activities for 60 people. Jon did a brilliant job and seemed unfazed and relaxed. We thank him very much and everyone on the music committee for making this happen.” — Elyse

See you all again next year 🙂

Please note that these facts may not be correct at time of writing and are purely the mutterings of my tiny mind. I do truly hope there are similarities to real people and actual events that occurred!

You can peruse more photos of the Sing! weekend away on our Flickr album here.

Katie (centre) with two fellow Sing!ers Becca (left) and Rowan (right)