Eggs and bacon, strawberries and cream, tea and toast. Some things, may not, on the surface, have any relationship with each other, but nevertheless, they unequivocally fit. Like Choirs and Churches.
Religions, of all denominations and flavours, are punctuated by rituals which include singing; ancient and modern acts of worship that commemorate momentous events, the seasons and the passage of everyday life. Everyone contributes and feels that they belong.
So what’s this got to do with our Choir?
Take a look at the our concert calendar and you will see that many performances are staged in churches. Our repertoire is studded with religious songs, spirituals and hymns, composed to express the deep emotions associated with events significant to community and faith. The best raise the hairs on the backs of the necks of both singers and audience alike, regardless of their respective religious commitments. During occasions that are already emotionally charged such music produces an atmosphere that you can almost touch. No one forgets singing at a wedding or a funeral.
The Choir have been fortunate to sing in the finest Yorkshire Churches, York Minster and Sheffield Cathedral. The latter in the company of Worral MVC and Weybridge MVC at Worral’s 40th anniversary concert. We met ‘BBC Look North’s’ news-queen Christa Ackroyd, compere for the night. Later that year, she officiated at our concert with Julian Lloyd Webber in Huddersfield Town Hall. Christa’s father sang in a male voice choir. She thus has her favourite items and expected each choir to produce that special ‘tingle factor’ as she called it. We didn’t disappoint with particularly moving performances of The Lord’s Prayer and Balm in Gilead. Hardly surprising really, religious songs in a Cathedral!
The soprano soloist was Kathryn Adam. Coincidentally, Kathryn was later named Young Welsh Young Singer of the Year 2011, a competition sponsored by the Morriston Orpheus Choir, our guests in Huddersfield Town Hall in 2009. A small world.
As I write this I have to confess that I remember very little of our own performance. About halfway through I know that we all got the feeling that we were really ‘on song’ and producing a great male voice sound. Several items were outstanding. In contrast to my recollection of our performance, I vividly recall one member of the audience mouthing the words ‘Thank You’ as our eyes met as we returned to our seats in the Chapel to await the Grand Finale. I presumed he was referring to our singing and not our exit. In contrast to the Choir’s solo spot the joint items were always going to be something of a lottery. They might be glorious, they might be calamitous or they might be somewhere in between. The Grand March from Aida was an adventurous piece for an all-male ensemble to attack but attack it we did. The combined talents of all three Choirs were deployed and away we went. I suppose we can say that we started together and, more or less, finished together. What happened in the middle was something of a blur as we tried desperately to keep up with the furious pace set by the conductor and the accompanist. A race with three unevenly matched competitors. We found ourselves standing cheek by jowl with our fellow choristers, unable to follow the score that was 6 inches from our eyes and resting on the head of the gent in front. Turning pages was practically impossible. It’s amazing how you forget the sublime and remember the farce. But the audience were kind and applauded our efforts and what preceded the finale had been good. Christa was fulsome in her praise, like only a seasoned pro can be, and she had a ball conducting all three Choirs in Speed Your Journey. So many men obeying her every command!
In our own small way we added to the history of the building on that night. We turned up and sang, like many before us, and added our layer of sound to the thousands already embedded in the stone walls of the Cathedral façade.