It’s not a mystery any more!

Yesterday was our Musical Mystery Tour – and what a day it was! Toni and I had been so excited (and nervous!) about the plans we’d made, and it was simply incredible to be there and see them all becoming real. It was a truly special day, in so many ways.

Overview

Here’s a quick breakdown of what actually happened:

  • Two different coaches picked up our guests from four different locations, and took different routes to our first destination – the Seacombe ferry terminal on the Wirral side of the Mersey
  • Everyone boarded the ferry and had a guided tour of the Mersey, ending at Pier Head ferry terminal in Liverpool
  • We sang “Ferry cross the Mersey” to a very appreciative crowd right outside the ferry terminal
  • We walked to Liverpool ONE shopping centre, where we had lunch
  • At the end of the lunch break, another choir did a flash mob – but then it turned into “Magical Mystery Tour” and we all joined in
  • We went to Liverpool Metropolitan Catholic Cathedral and sang a full concert to a good-sized local audience, with some of the Liverpudlian singers from the flash mob earlier joining the choir
  • We had a celebratory themed banquet in the Lutyens Crypt beneath the cathedral

Trust

Something Toni and I keep coming back to whenever we think about the trip is how much faith everyone had in us. When we first came up with the idea for the trip (inspired by a throwaway comment by my mum), we knew it was a really big ask – we were asking people to trust us to give them a day to remember, without knowing any of the details beforehand – and to pay for the privilege too! No-one will truly know just what an effect it has had on Toni and I, seeing over a hundred people display that level of trust in us. We’ll never take it for granted, and we’re forever grateful for it.

Family

People often refer to BeVox as their “singing family”. I think this is true of most community singing groups – the bonds formed when people sing together are so strong, and BeVox is no exception. We love to include as many people as we can in our BeVox family, in lots of different ways, and the Mystery Tour certainly did that. We had our singers, from all the different areas we work in, and the friendships and camaraderie between them were a joy to behold, yet again. One of the things we love about our events is that we normally have singers from at least two, if not all three of our different geographical areas, and it’s great to see old friendships being renewed – people who only see each other at the end of each season asking after each other and sharing stories of what has happened in their lives since the last “big concert”.

For the Mystery Tour, we also had a number of guests – friends or family members of our singers, who were coming along for the ride, and to be our audience whenever we sang. We love spending time with the people who like to come and watch us perform – they are as much a part of the choir as those who sing, and everything we do relies on them being there to listen just as much as the singers being there to sing.

BeVox has family at its heart – in its most basic form, it’s run by the family that is Toni and me. My parents are massive supporters of the choir, as many of you know, and having them along as part of the Mystery Tour was very special. We included a bit more of my family too – the catering for our celebratory banquet at the end of the day was provided by Gravy & Custard, the catering firm run by my brother Dan and his partner Sam. I was thrilled to be able to work with them, and I know it made our parents very proud indeed.

We extended the BeVox singing spirit out to a wider family with this event too. We wanted the day to be full of surprises, and one of the most surprising things we can do as a choir is to do a flash mob. We thought about how we could integrate a flash mob into the day without giving anything away to our singers – and hit upon the idea of having ANOTHER choir do a flash mob, with our singers as the unsuspecting audience! So, over the last few months, we advertised and recruited singers from other choirs across Liverpool, and gave them the chance to form a “scratch choir” especially to join us for the Mystery Tour. We put together a “Liverpool medley”, consisting of songs made famous by artists from Liverpool, and rehearsed it in secret, before surprising the BeVox singers with a flash mob just as they were finishing lunch. Of course, we couldn’t resist the opportunity of getting the BeVox singers to join in with the flash mob, so the final song in the medley was our arrangement of “Magical Mystery Tour” – everyone entered into the spirit and joined in, essentially doing a flash mob without realising they were going to do one!

We were thrilled that the Liverpool singers wanted to play as big a part in the event as they could, so a significant number of them learnt our whole summer programme (in just two rehearsals!), and joined us for our big concert that afternoon – singing in the incredible setting of Liverpool Metropolitan Catholic Cathedral. The sound of 145 voices singing in that incredible building will stay with me for a very, very long time.

Charity

We thought it would be a great shame to put on a concert at the Cathedral and not use it as an opportunity to help support charitable causes in Liverpool, so we reached out to some Liverpudlian friends of ours to find out which charities would be dear to the hearts of a local audience. We then collected donations as part of our concert in the cathedral – and many of our singers generously donated too. As a result, we’ve raised £1,030, which we’ll split equally between Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, and Sunflowers, a charity supporting cancer patients in Merseyside.

Feedback

Comments we’ve had from people who took part in the Mystery Tour have been overwhelming. Below are a few quotes to give you a flavour of how much fun we all had:

“What an amazing day yesterday in Liverpool. Huge thanks to BeVox for a fantastic experience being part of the flash mob and the scratch choir at the concert at the Metropolitan Cathedral. Everyone made us so welcome. Great experience and can’t wait to do it again.” – Julie, Liverpool singer

“What a wonderful day. A massive thank you to Tim and Toni for organising the whole day. A massive thank you to all the Liverpool singers who made our day so brilliant. Thank you, thank you!” – Anne, BeVox singer

“Thank you so much for a brilliant musical mystery tour. It was a fabulous day and your imagination, organisation and attention to detail was amazing and made the day so very special. The fantastic performance venue came as a complete surprise and certainly brought the ‘magical’ into the mystery tour. The impromptu flash mob was another highlight and as for the banquet, it was fantastic in terms of both the venue and the food.” – Sue, BeVox singer

“Just wanted to say a great big thank you to you both for such an amazing day yesterday! It was an experience I wouldn’t have missed for the world.  The flash mob was such fun and we were so lucky with the weather! Singing in the cathedral was a wonderful experience especially with so many great voices. It was very emotional. The banquet was a splendid way to round the whole day off. The food was absolutely delicious. It was lovely sitting and chatting to members of your choirs and sharing our musical stories!” – Gill, Liverpool singer

“Thank you so much for an unforgettable day in Liverpool yesterday. Fantastic surprises – much hilarity as usual – I had a wonderful time. Thank you for providing me with some opportunities and experiences I couldn’t have imagined having.” – Jill, BeVox singer

“It was a really phenomenal day, can’t remember when I last had a day that made so many memories! Every second was a joy; being flash-mobbed and  working with local singers was a master stroke – a real surprise in a day of surprises- even the weather knew it had to do its bit!!! As for singing in the cathedral- well, words fail me. To sing there was absolutely awesome, so special – goosebumps and even feeling a little bit tearful! The banquet was glorious- Dan’s food was absolutely delicious, and our table comprised entertaining and interesting new friends.  We had a ball!” – Lyn, BeVox singer

Videos

I’m collecting together as many videos of the various bits of the day as I can find and putting them all into one playlist on the BeVox YouTube channel. There are various other videos on Facebook, but they aren’t always publicly available – below is a link to everything I’ve currently found and have access to. I’ll continue to update this as I find more videos out there!

Musical Mystery Tour playlist

And finally…

As a number of people have commented, it took a lot of work and organisation to make a day like yesterday run so smoothly. Toni and I are both done in – but it was so worth it! We do love creating unique and unusual events – and we’re looking forward to our next one already…

That was the night – actually, several of them!

We’ve had three absolutely fantastic concerts in the last week. On Wednesday, the first concert of the season was Lincoln’s end of season at the EPIC Centre, Lincolnshire Showground. I think the event lived up to the venue’s name! It was great to share this music with an audience – and what an audience! A very appreciative crowd indeed – over 220 of them – and they seemed to thoroughly enjoy the whole show. We had some fantastic comments from people afterwards, and it was clear that everyone on stage had had a blast too.

The next day we were up in Sheffield for the end of season concert at The Springs Academy, where we’d sold out of tickets a week before the show. The atmosphere was electric, the singing was superb, and the camaraderie between the singers as evident as ever.

Then it was “Tonight’s The Night” – our big concert for this season, at Nottingham’s Albert Hall. What a night that turned out to be! I genuinely believe it’s one of the best concerts we’ve done. Everyone on stage gave their all, and it resulted in a really inspiring performance. I think we went through pretty much every emotion – the fun of “Pack up” to the passion of “All of me”, the desolation of “Mad world” to the rollercoaster that is the “Jesus Christ Superstar medley”. And of course we brought the sounds of Africa to Nottingham with a phenomenal rendition of “Africa”.

The whole day was an absolute joy for me. What can I say – I love working with you all! The relationship between a conductor and a choir is a special one, and I felt overwhelmed by the closeness of that relationship on Saturday. I received a lovely piece of feedback from an audience member on Sunday, which I’ve reproduced below (with permission):

There’s a clear passionate connection between Tim and his choir. It can be seen in the energy that flows between the two. It’s not a conductor with a group of singers, it’s people sharing a passion together. A deep love of music that reveals itself in the performance. The group makes you feel part of them as the music fills your soul. Well worth travelling to wherever they are singing!

We had our erstwhile unofficial videographer in the audience again (Tony Evans, the husband of one of our sopranos), so if you want to see how any of it looked, check out his YouTube channel here.

Dylan, my good friend and long-time musical collaborator, recorded the show from the sound desk, so we’ll be looking at whether we can make any of that available to people too.

That’s not the end of this run of concerts – we’re closing the Inner Wheel’s annual conference at the Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham on Wednesday, then appearing in two charity fund-raising concerts on Friday and Saturday, organised by Doris Stubbs on behalf of the village of Rywanyana in Uganda on Friday, and by Sue Humphrey and Jane Trotman on behalf of Go Make A Difference Tanzania and The Brain Tumour Charity on Saturday. For full details, see our website.

We’re looking forward to getting back into sessions again at the end of April, and then we’ll be performing again in June and July. We’re also going to be recording our second CD in July, so watch this space for more details of how you can get a copy!

Onwards and upwards

It’s been a long time since I lasted posted a blog – too long! Here’s a quick update of what’s happening with the choir.

Our Spring season, running January to April, went really well – lots of good singing, great concerts, and fun times had together. The concerts at the end of the season got fantastic comments from audience members, and a number of people who had never seen BeVox before spoke to us about just how impressive the whole experience was. We’ve got a number of new recruits for the Summer season – people who saw us perform and thought, “I want to be a part of that!”.

We also continued doing events that support various different charities, and as a result of this work, the total amount that we’ve helped to raise since we started has now exceeded £55,000 – something we’re very proud of.

We got off to a slightly bumpy start to the Summer season in Lincoln, as we were stranded on the A1 and couldn’t make it down for the first session of the season – we’re really looking forward to getting things kicked off properly in Lincoln next week. Everywhere else, it was great to be back together and making a joyous noise. The music for this season is such fun to sing, and it was sounding pretty fantastic after just one session – I can’t wait to hear what it sounds like at the end of the season!

Our “big concert” this season is “The BeVox Show”, at Leeds Town Hall, on Sunday 24th July – 4pm. Tickets are on sale already, from the Leeds Town Hall box office – you can get them by calling 0113 376 0318, or you can book online at www.leeds.gov.uk/townhall

We’re launching a new initiative this month – BeVox Evolution. This is a chance for us to raise the musical standards of the choir still further, by offering additional training to those who want it and are ready for it. You can find out more about this at www.bevox.co.uk/evolution

We’re working on several really exciting projects for later in the year too – we’re very close to being able to announce the details of our big concert in December, and we have a number of other special events that are in the pipeline. We’ll release more information once everything is confirmed. Until then, take care, and have fun!

Happy New Year 2016

Happy New Year!

2015 was a big year for us, in many ways. BeVox celebrated its fifth birthday, which felt like a real milestone. We recorded our first ever CD, and had our busiest year ever when it comes to number of performances, and number of singers singing with us. We helped to raise nearly £12,000 for charity in 2015, taking the total we’ve helped to raise since we started to over £42,000. And amongst all that, we managed to squeeze a wedding in too!

The New Year is a time for looking forward as well as looking back, and we have lots to look forward to. We have a number of big concerts planned for 2016, as well as continuing our smaller, community-based events too. The bigger events include “Let us entertain you”, our first big concert in Lincoln, at the Lincoln Performing Arts Centre on Sunday 17th April. We’ve also got exciting plans for our big concert for the summer in Wakefield, which will see us at a new venue (for us) – more details will be available soon. We’re exploring a couple of different options for our 2016 Christmas concert too (yes, we’re thinking about next Christmas already!) – one of those options would be absolutely jaw-dropping if we can pull it off, so we’re working hard to make it happen if we can.

On top of the usual run of events, we have some other plans for 2016 too. Not all of these are ready to be revealed yet, as we’d always rather wait until things are definite before announcing them. I will mention though that we have ideas for some exciting workshops this summer, and a brand new initiative that will really raise our standards – without changing our open-to-anyone ethos. We’re also planning to develop our relationships with other leading musicians, which could open some very interesting doors…

2016 feels like a year of possibilities – a year in which change is inevitable. That sounds rather exciting to me, and I can’t wait to get started!

Preparations for the New Year

I hope everyone has had a really great Christmas, and that you’re looking forward to 2014. I know I am! It’s been an incredible year, filled with drama and emotion – both personally and professionally. It was the year in which Toni had her life-saving transplant operation, which had its highs and lows – it was one of the most worrying times of my life, waiting for her to come out of theatre, and the weeks after the op were incredibly stressful and difficult, but since then the changes in her have been incredible to see, and that has been truly remarkable. It was also the year in which I finally proposed, after seven years of us being together.

Professionally, there have been some real highlights to 2013 too. We’ve done three incredible “big concerts” with BeVox (“Music at the Minster” in Southwell Minster, “Music for Life” at Wakefield Cathedral and “A Circle of Life” at Elsecar Heritage Centre). We joined with City Voices Cardiff and the Rodillian Singers to create three memorable flash mobs in London for Victoria BID. We’ve sung at weddings and funerals, in exhibition centres and greenhouses, in pubs, hotels and pumping stations(!), and helped to raise over £7,000 for several charities. And although it wasn’t a BeVox event, I was also thrilled to be the artistic director for the “Donate Life” concert at Sheffield City Hall, with Matt Cardle, Aled Jones and the National Transplant Choir.

I’m looking forward to getting stuck into the Spring season, which starts on 6th January in Wakefield (7th in Nottingham, 9th in Sheffield). We’ve got some interesting music this time around, and a great venue for our big concert. We’re working on a little extra something for towards the end of the season (we’ll announce the details here as soon as they’re confirmed). We’re also putting a call out for any local places you’d like to perform in – we want to really get out into the community this season and give as much back as we possibly can.

One final reminder before I sign off for this year – if you want to sing with us in January, you need to sign up via BeVox OnLine – and if you want us to print your music or burn you a CD, you need to sign up and request this via the OnLine system by the end of this year!

Happy New Year to you all, and I hope we’ll see you in 2014.

Yet Another One Off Show – Concert for Nepal

On Friday evening, around 35 of us braved the cold and wet to go and sing as part of “Yet Another One Off Show”, a variety evening organised by local businesswoman Maggie Nunn to raise funds for the charitable work she does in Nepal. It was great to dust off the music from the Summer season one last time, and share it with a very appreciative audience. I’ll post an update here once I’ve heard from Maggie how much was raised.

It was a late night – not often we go on stage 45 minutes later than planned! Thanks to everyone for bearing with the delays in good humour. If we’re asked back again next year, I’ll ask if we can start the show, rather than being on in the second half – we might get home before breakfast-time then!

So, that was the last of the concerts in which we’re performing music from our Summer season – next time we take to the stage, it will be to share the music we’re currently learning in this Autumn season. In fact, our next public performance will be at the switch-on of West Bridgford’s Christmas Lights, on 23rd November – always a fun event, and one we’re looking forward to. It will be our fourth year appearing at this event – amazing how the time has flown.

Music for Life at Wakefield Cathedral

It’s been nearly a week since our “Music for Life” concert at Wakefield Cathedral, and now the dust has settled I feel I can write about it. It was an incredible concert, with some really remarkable and memorable performances. All the singers on stage raised their game to create a great sound, and I’m grateful to every single one of you. We made people laugh, cry, think and leap to their feet with applause – exactly what a concert should do.

I was particularly glad to finally produce a larger-scale event in Wakefield – we’ve had big things in Sheffield and Nottingham before, but this was a first for most of our Wakefield singers, and from the comments I’ve received this week, it’s clear that people really enjoyed the experience. I hope that means that we’ll have more and more of the Wakefield crowd joining us for our larger-scale things in other areas in the future.

Of course, we weren’t just singing for pleasure on Saturday – we were also raising awareness of organ transplantation, and funds for “Live Life Then Give Life”. I’m thrilled to announce that we’ll be making a donation of £1,241.05 to this very worthy cause.

BeVox performing in Wakefield Cathedral
BeVox performing in Wakefield Cathedral (photography by Peter Wells LRPS)