Grand Venues – Winter Gardens, Blackpool and the Spa Grand Hall, Scarborough, 2003.

Whilst we put on some fund-raising concerts purely for ourselves, many are on behalf of others. Some of these we arrange, often as a result of a local contact, sometimes from within the choir. Beneficiaries have included Lupus, Parkinsons’ Disease, McMillan Nurses, Anchor Trust and Forget-Me-Not. In addition, we have helped raise money for local and national organisations. We have, for example, sung in massed choir events at Cardiff Arms Park in 1993, Sheffield Arena, and twice at the Royal Albert Hall in aid of Yorkshire Cancer Research. On the second of these occasions, the choir stopped at Stowe School for refreshments on the way to London.   Stowe School is said to be a great place to play cricket and rugby.  The library too was impressive – one of those where many of the bookcases were locked and barred (- to stop the books from getting out?)  There was also a gallery with lots of old-looking big faded leather-bound volumes.  Most appeared rather heavy and it must be doubted whether they get read much – particularly as there didn’t appear to be any steps to reach them!

In 2005, we took part in two concerts as part of the international relief effort for the tsunami victims. We have also helped out Save the Children and York Against Cancer – both at the Riley Smith Hall, Tadcaster – as part of our rehearsal weekends (2008 and 2009), and again for York Against Cancer at York Minster in 2011.

In 2003, we were particularly privileged to perform for Inner Wheel and Rotarians at the Winter Gardens, Blackpool and the Spa,Scarborough.  Jocelyne, (is it Jocelyne or Jocelyn?) the wife of one of the choir members, Derek Haigh, was National President of Inner Wheel (the organisation for wives and relatives of Rotarians) at the time. Her National Conference was held in Blackpool, and as part of the evening entertainment, she arranged for Blackpool Corporation to commission the choir to perform in the Winter Gardens, in front of the Mayor and Mayoress of Blackpool, and an audience of approximately 2,500 conference delegates. The Winter Gardens is the largest true theatre in the UK, and the only theatre outside London to have hosted a Royal Command Performance, so it was an awe-inspiring venue for the choir.

As conference delegates were attending from all over the British Isles and Southern Ireland, it was Jocelyne’s wish that the choir’s repertoire should encompass songs from all these parts, and a programme was chosen to reflect this, with English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh items, interspersed with solos from the guest artists, Thom Meredith and Elaine Clelland.

The 48-strong choir’s first item was, most appropriately, “With a Voice of Singing”. Thom also shared the platform with the choir in its rendition of “The Rose”.  The regional pieces followed, including “The Fishermen of England”, “The Rose of Tralee”, an unaccompanied version of “Myfanwy” in Welsh, and “Eriskay Love Lilt”.  Elaine delighted the audience with Verdi’s “La Vergine” sung with the choir’s choral backing.

As the concert in Blackpool had proved such an outstanding success, the 2003 District Governor of the Yorkshire Rotary District, Rotarian Robert Jackson, invited the choir to entertain 1000 delegates at the Spa Grand Hall in Scarborough, during his District Conference in October 2003.  The following night, the choir travelled to Helmsley to sing in the Arts Centre there.

The Hambletons ordered the best meals in the Helmsley ‘Italian’. Eddie regaled us with a tale about a Japanese vase which no-one could understand why he’d bought – including Elizabeth. She’s happier now though, as it’s recently been valued at £1200! The Arts Centre gave us free beer in the interval – marvellous! Ibbo and Clive told stories of childhood and adolescent Salford days. Ibbo was apparently the only one sober working the last steam tug on the Manchester Ship Canal – doesn’t bear thinking about!