This Saturday, the Selly Oak Constituency Choir performed for the first time, when they sung a collection of songs in Cotteridge Park, as part of the Selly Oak Art Soak. Below, two of our bloggers tell us about the experience of their first live performance, and conductor Matt Beckingham gives his reaction…
The choir had a real buzz about it today when we met for our pre-concert rehearsal. Apprehension, excitement and a certain amount of trepidation were in the air but a beautiful day meant that any fears about looking bedraggled and singing to a nonexistent audience were allayed.
The splashes of red in our ‘black with splash of red’ outfits were fantastic. We had necklaces, belts, shirts, shoes, bags, sashes, scarves, earrings, lipstick, nails and probably socks as well. I think looking like a choir really made us feel like a choir.
24th March – Saturday – pre concert
“It’s the morning of our first concert – yay!
I have been treated with a lie in and singing in the shower took the form of a certain selection of songs I have come to know.
Black and red are the colours we will be wearing and being the only person in the world not to own black trousers ensured a shopping trip last weekend and new trousers have now been purchased (these will also be useful when I go back to work). As for something red – I ordered a scarf from EBay but that hasn’t arrived yet and although I have loads of red clothes they really constitute what I would call a ‘splash’. I have a red necklace that I have been meaning to mend for years so with a little DIY it is now wearable.
Mustn’t forget my notebook to take down some quotes of people’s reactions both choir and audience.
I walked up to Cotteridge School for our rehearsal and by the time I was half way there was boiling. It may be the end of March but it is about 100 degrees and wearing all black does not help. As I walked up I bumped into another choir member wearing red and black too and then walked around the corner and there we were – The Selly Oak Constituency Community Choir looking resplendent in black and red. The rehearsal was good and we finally got to run through Fix You with the soloists – we really looked and sounded like a choir.
I really started to feel the community aspect of this community choir. Within minutes I had one person say, “We met at the MAC my little girl was the one that said ‘Those babies are the same’”, and then her friend said ‘Are you friends with Caroline?’ (a mutual friend had told us to look out for each other) and another asked me whether I went to Cadbury College and we had been in the same French class together. It felt really great to have all these people chatting and talking to each other.
On the walk to the park I asked one lady whether she was looking forward to it as I was very excited (just in case you hadn’t gathered this!). She surprised me by saying ‘no’ however I spoke to her afterwards and she said she had really enjoyed it which pleased me.
As we got to Cotteridge Park’s lovely amphitheatre (many of us had sledged down its steep slopes when we were young) it was reassuring to see a good crowd of people there, the audience was bigger than in the choir which is always a good thing. We found our places and Matt stood in his place. I looked up and saw my family and friends and my two baby girls being held up – I was feeling a little emotional and a little tear came to my eye and for the rest of the performance couldn’t look up there again – I steadfastly concentrated on Matt’s conducting which is exactly how it should be.
The spirituals were a great starter, Rent was fun to sing, the Nigerian song worked very well – a few stray claps but all in all pretty good. The soloists in Fix you sounded lovely and Anthem was as anthemic and patriotic as you can be in a pretty park on a lovely sunny day. Finishing off with Bring Me Little Water Sylvie was a perfect end for me as this was the song that I had loved right from that very first choir practice.
It was over before it had even started but I think for the venue and the audience (and the amount of rehearsal time) it was spot on. I think/hope we left them wanting more!
There was a definite buzz for a good while afterwards. I know the sun being out helped but usually if people have really enjoyed something they hang around, if they think it’s rubbish they disappear pretty quickly. Me and my lot were the last people there as there seemed to be even more people that we knew to chat to. A proper community feel.
We walked home with the sun shining and the babies chattering – a perfect day.”
“It was fantastic for the Community Choir to make our debut in the constituency where we live and in front of our families, friends and intrigued passers-by; even children and dogs seemed to be captivated! The fact that Cotteridge Park’s amphitheatre was built by volunteers made it the ideal venue for us.
After the performance (which included demands for an encore as well as enthusiastic audience participation) most people took the opportunity to hang around and chat, mingle and to bump into people they hadn’t seen in ages. Everyone was smiling. Several people asked if they can join the choir, which must be a sign of success!
I caught up with Katie and Michelle – two of our sopranos whose nerves that they’d forget the words hadn’t stopped them stepping up to sing solo parts during the performance. They were word perfect and said that Matt’s conducting definitely helped. It turns out that they work together at a local school and had boosted their confidence by giving a sneak preview of the song to their appreciative class!
Katie said it had been a joy to sing with backing from the choir and Michelle confirmed that they’re very excited about the performance at Symphony Hall. Michelle also has another event to prepare for – she’s singing in the ‘Britain Loves Variety’ competition soon and we wish her the best of luck.
As I left the park, one audience member remarked that she’d ‘willingly listen to it all again’. You can: the SOCCC will be giving a free performance at Symphony Hall at 18:15 on the 12th April before the CBSO’s Dream of Gerontius concert.”
“I am really thrilled. Genuinely thrilled about how it’s all come together. When a first time choir comes out you can be a bit apprehensive but we really seemed to grasp the performance aspect. We are definitely ready for Symphony Hall.”
Matt Beckingham – conductor