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!

Anniversary celebrations

We’re just home from our incredible weekend celebrating the 5th anniversary of BeVox. It’s been a brilliant time, shared with so many people, with lots of others willing us on from afar too. From the moment people came together for the workshop on Friday afternoon, we knew we were in for a pretty amazing time. The camaraderie was brilliant, with people forging new friendships as well as strengthening existing ones. Throughout the whole weekend, the support people showed for each other was second to none. This ranged from the big things (real emotional, physical and even financial support), to little gestures like the whoops and cheers people gave to EVERYONE who got up to sing at the party, and the singers who bought coffee to surprise the recording engineer on Sunday. It’s all this support and camaraderie that makes BeVox the community that it is, so it felt utterly right to have it shown in such abundance for our anniversary celebrations.

The flash mob on Friday night was great fun – and showed that even if you plan something, you can always improve on it with a little improvisation! Instead of trying to cram everyone into the foyer of the Spa theatre, after a quick meeting with the duty manager we headed outside instead – so we really were “dancing in the street”! Ben, the husband of one of our singers, Anne, filmed the whole thing, which is now on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/TEMD9DgHihU

Quite a lot of us then went to watch the show in the Spa theatre that night – “The Best of Thoroughly Modern Musicals”. The performers were great – and they clearly appreciated having such a lively and vocal audience! I wasn’t expecting it when they made reference to the flash mob in their show, so I was even more surprised when the following day I was passed the phone number of their producer, who is apparently interested in doing some work with us – who knows, maybe next year we’ll be doing a whole summer season in Scarborough!

The Best of Thoroughly Modern Musicals
The Best of Thoroughly Modern Musicals

We got stuck into the recording on Saturday and Sunday. This was a new experience for virtually all of our singers, and a very different one from singing in concerts. The focus and concentration needed was hard work, particularly when we were also trying our best not to get too serious and lose that fun edge that defines us as BeVox! Both days of recording were tiring, but very rewarding. Although we got a couple of sneaky peeks at how things sounded on the day, of course these were only the raw tracks before they’d been mixed and properly produced, so we’ll all have to wait a while before we hear the finished product. I know everyone will be keen to hear it when it’s ready!

The view from the conductor's podium
The view from the conductor’s podium

Then of course it was party time! The Spa’s magnificent Ocean Room had been transformed from recording studio into glitzy party venue, and everyone arrived in high spirits. Toni and I even got to practice a “receiving line”! It was lovely to see everyone letting their hair down, and sharing in good food, good music, and exceptional company. A number of people got up to sing to everyone – hats off to each and every one of them. We had a few trips down memory lane by singing some BeVox songs from the past, and then we partied until midnight with some serious dancing!

Dancing at the party
Dancing at the party

Thank you to everyone who has shared in the first five years of BeVox, in whatever form and for however much of that time. We’ve had a blast, and we can’t wait to share the next five years with you too!

Until next time...
Until next time…

BeVox Rocks

What a night! Huge congratulations to everyone who helped make “BeVox Rocks” such a sensational event, and a huge “thank you” to everyone who came to support.

The crew from Sound & Light UK worked tirelessly to create a spectacular setting, and I have such respect for their professionalism and commitment. They worked until 10pm on Friday on the initial load-in, then were back at 7am to rig – they worked throughout the day and evening, and they were still working on the de-rig when I left at 11pm. Seriously hard-working – hats off to them! I know that there were parts of the auditorium where the balance wasn’t ideal, with the band being louder than the choir, but I also know that in other parts the balance was great – and the challenges of balancing a choir with a rock band, in a venue with an unusual shape and difficult acoustics, was always going to be a tough one. They did a great job under difficult circumstances, and it’s also been a learning curve for us, so we know what to do to ensure the balance is just right next time.

The band did an awesome job – stepping out of the comfort zone of their usual gigs to take on the challenge of learning someone else’s arrangements, sometimes in different keys to the versions they already knew – it took some doing, and they blew me away on the night. A special “thank you” to Andy for stepping in at the last minute to save the day on keyboards – no-one would have guessed that he was actually sight-reading a couple of the pieces during the concert! And as always, the greatest of “thank you”s to my best mate Dylan – another musical adventure we’ve been on together, and it’s always so reassuring to have you at my side.

All the soloists did amazing work. Clare and Louise were the ultimate precise 80s duet (aided and abetted by 200 pairs of arms behind them!). Lis took a few people by surprise when her beautiful ballad kicked into a full-on rock number. Wendy injected a welcome dose of fun and humour into her song, entertaining the crowd marvellously. That random bloke who kicked off the second half tells me he enjoyed himself immensely! Dominic had the audience bouncing up and down with his rock histrionics. Toni found enough voice to sing her song despite not being able to speak all day – and then performed the arse off it! And of course Rachel had the whole audience rocking out like crazy. Each of them should feel incredibly proud of their performance.

What we’re really about is the choir, of course – and what a choir it was last night. First and foremost, we had a huge amount of fun together. That’s always the most important thing for me. Before I even get to the singing, I have to say a heartfelt “thank you” to you all for so many other things. The camaraderie backstage (and on stage!) was phenomenal. The way that you all looked out for each other, supporting those who needed it and celebrating with everyone, absolutely exemplifies what we’re about. Thank you for being a true community, where the people come first and the music comes (a very close) second!

I loved how we looked as a choir last night! Not only had people really embraced the spirit of the event in their outfits, make-up and hair-dos (some of which were utterly incredible – I saw a number of people in a whole new light!) – the level of animation was the best we’ve ever achieved. We’re often told by audience members that we look like we’re having lots of fun on stage, but I think last night took that to a whole new level. The energy and enthusiasm was great, and it was infectious – it’s not often people go to a choral concert and end up dancing in the aisles! Some videos from audience members have already been uploaded to YouTube (check our “Favourites” list on our YouTube channel – www.youtube.com/bevoxuk), and we’ll be posting pictures from the event to our Flickr page over the coming days (www.flickr.com/bevoxchoir).

And then there was the singing. Boy oh boy, was there the singing! From the opening electrifying sound of the sopranos and altos’ “Ah” in You took the words right out of my mouth all the way through to the climactic closing vocal explosions at the end of the Stadium Rock medley, the singing was superb. I loved the way we were able to shape the sound, and take the audience on a journey – not just an out-and-out blast from end to end, but bringing subtlety to things like Mad worldTrue colours and Who wants to live forever?. Even in the rockier numbers there were contrasts, and that’s a testament to you really caring about the music – it’s not just about making the right sounds, it’s about infusing them with the right emotions too.

I have to say, I had an absolute blast. BeVox well and truly rocks. It’s been my dream since we started the choir five years ago to do a gig with a proper rock band, and we absolutely nailed that last night. It was an absolute pleasure and honour to share the stage with you all.

Onwards and upwards – we have a few more concerts still to come with our Spring programme, but of course we also launch into our celebratory “Best of BeVox” season in just over a week’s time. We can’t wait to share another incredible journey with you all. We have some further plans in the pipeline for events at the end of the summer season, and of course we’re desperately excited about our CD recording weekend in Scarborough. We’re also continuing to make plans further and further ahead – jobs this week include selecting the songs for the Autumn season (including the programme for our “One Night at the Albert” concert at Nottingham’s Albert Hall on 20th December), and a meeting to discuss the first tentative plans for another Summer Singing Retreat…

See you soon!

Christmas concerts a-plenty!

What a fortnight it has been! We’ve done 14 performances in the last fortnight – everything from charity events to full-on concerts, from small-scale performances with a couple of dozen singers to the magnificent sound of over 125 voices at Wakefield Cathedral last night. I want to say a little something about each of them, but that would mean going on for even longer than I usually do, so I’ll just pick out the highlights.

Lincolnshire Food & Gift Fair, 30th November

This was the first time that any of our Lincoln singers had performed with us, and so there was lots of excitement and nerves before we started. After the incredible experience we’d had at our final session of the season, I was full of confidence that we’d put on a great show, and we certainly did. The feedback from everyone was fantastic – members of the public, stallholders, and the events team at the Showground all said how much they’d enjoyed our singing, and it was really clear from conversations with the singers how much they’d enjoyed themselves too. It was a really strong debut performance!

Parkinsons UK Sheffield Christmas lunch, 2nd December

Under slightly challenging circumstances, we brought lots of fun and enjoyment into the lives of some very special people. We didn’t have an ideal blend of voice parts, we weren’t in the best of acoustics and we weren’t laid out in the most useful way, but despite these challenges we still did a really good show – thank you to everyone to took part, for pushing yourselves to achieve great things.

Kimberworth Christmas Concert, 6th December

I have to confess that I’d been looking forward to this concert especially, as my Mum and Dad were coming up from Reading for the weekend to see this concert and our appearances at the Lincoln Christmas Market the following day. They normally come up to see our big concert if they can, but this season they weren’t able to make it as they’ve joined a choir themselves, and their big concert was on the same day as ours! We just about squeezed everyone on stage, and I had some fun juggling the conducting, piano-playing and operating the mixing desk. The singing was really strong, and we put on a show to be proud of. Feedback from the audience afterwards was overwhelmingly positive, and we were immediately invited back by the organisers for another concert in the summer.

West Bridgford Methodist Church Christmas Tree Festival, 9th December

We arrived at the church to find it surrounded by the most beautifully decorated Christmas trees – it was a real treat to be singing in such festive surroundings. It was lovely to be able to do a performance here, after having to move our end-of-season performance elsewhere – it’s such a great venue to sing in, and all the singers threw themselves into it with gusto. Again, we had utterly lovely comments from the audience afterwards, and we may have gained a few new singers for next season too!

“Christmas at the Cathedral”, 13th December

I was nervous about our big concert this season. I wasn’t worried about the singing – I’d heard such great singing in the lead-up to the concert that I knew we’d make a great sound. It was all the other bits that make up concert day that worried me – setting up the audio equipment, getting everyone onto and off the stage safely, getting the audience into the venue smoothly etc. I love that we are involved in every single aspect of our concerts, as it means we can be sure that everything is done in a very “BeVox” way – and the BeVox philosophy was right at the core of yesterday’s show, with lots of people stepping up to the plate to help each other out, and to be there for each other. I felt very proud of this choir.

And then we started to sing… and oh boy was that good! Everyone gave it their all, and the result was something to be incredibly proud of. My uncle and grandma were in the audience, and they were blown away by the whole experience – they wanted me to pass on their heartfelt appreciation to every one of our singers for giving them a really memorable night. Another old friend was in the audience too – an accomplished choral director who I’ve worked with several years ago, and who I’ll be working with again next year, and he was full of praise for the choir – he’d been looking forward to hearing BeVox for months, and he said it was well worth the wait.

There were several of our singers in the audience too, a number of whom had never seen a BeVox concert from the audience side before. They had some really useful and constructive feedback for me too, which chimes with observations I’ve made myself throughout the performances this season. Every one of them was really impressed with the sound we make, and a number said that even though they knew what was coming next, as they’d learnt all the music themselves, it still exceeded their expectations. They also had a few suggestions for things we could do to raise our game still further for future events, and we’ll be looking at ways to incorporate this feedback into our performances for next season. For now though, all I can say is that I am inordinately proud of the show we put on last night, and of the incredible atmosphere that all our singers created, both on stage and backstage. Thank you for being a part of our journey.

Onwards…

That’s not the end of our performances for this season – we still have plenty more to come between now and Christmas. I did want to let everyone know something else that we can be really proud of though. With the performances that we’ve done for charity over the last few weeks, we’ve taken the total amount that BeVox has helped to raise for charities since we started to just the tiniest fraction under £30,000. Now that’s something to celebrate…

First performances of the Christmas season

We’ve had great fun starting to share this season’s music with people this weekend. We launched the inaugural “Voices” choir festival on Saturday with a performance in Nottingham’s newest outdoor performance space, Trinity Square. It was great to start putting these songs in front of an audience, and we had a lovely reaction too. It was also marvellous to catch up with a few old friends in some of the other choirs that were performing – always lovely to see people enjoying singing together.
Sunday saw us kicking off the Sheffield Christmas light switch-on – and if I’m honest, this was an event I was both looking forward to and dreading in equal measure. Outdoor performances are always a challenge, and this one was fairly high profile – plus it was the first outing for our version of “I believe in Father Christmas”, which we’ve struggled with in the last few sessions. I needn’t have worried! A quick sing through backstage sounded really strong, and gave me hope that we’d put on a good show, and then the performance itself was excellent. The sound was fantastic, and we’ve had great feedback afterwards too – from audience members and the event organisers alike. It’s always a good sign when you’re asked back for next year’s event!
I’m in the studio most of tomorrow, recording the tenor and bass parts for next season’s music with Alastair. I’m doing the soprano and alto parts with Eloise on Thursday, so it will be a busy week, but I’m really looking forward to hearing this music sung for the first time. As soon as these recording sessions are done, we’re into the busiest bit of the season, with around 20 performances in just a few weeks. See you on the other side!

Concerts a-plenty!

It’s the end of our Summer season, so we’re right in the middle of a busy week of concerts. We sang at St Mary’s Church in Arnold on Saturday, in a concert organised by the Nottingham Soroptimists to raise funds for Nottingham’s Women’s Centre. This was a great success, and we helped them raise £720 for the cause. The audience feedback has been tremendous, and we’ve definitely got some new converts!

Monday was our end of season concert in Wakefield, and we had a brilliant evening. The singing was really strong, and it was great to see everyone throwing themselves into the spirit of it and having such fun. We had some lovely comments from audience members afterwards, and we can’t wait to come back and entertain them all again next season, when we’re back at Wakefield Cathedral.

We were in Nottingham again on Tuesday, this time for our end of season concert there. The heat seemed to have ramped up an extra level, and we were all melting before we even began, but it didn’t dampen anyone’s enthusiasm (even if it did dampen our brows!). Again we had a great concert, with powerful singing, lots of emotion and huge fun being had. It was lovely to see a number of singers in the audience too, coming to support their fellow BeVoxers.

There was an incident during Tuesday’s show that somewhat marred the evening though, and I feel it’s important for me to comment on it and make Toni’s and my position crystal clear. There were several small children at the concert, sons or daughters of singers who had been brought by their parents. As you would expect, these small children made a small amount of noise – nothing too distracting, and no more than you would expect. During the concert, an audience member turned to the mother of one of these children and told her to keep her child quiet, and that she shouldn’t have brought a small child to a concert. I’ve been told that she was fairly rude about it, and the mother of the child in question was really upset – so much so that she had to leave for a while to recompose herself. When she was able to return to the auditorium, after a while she challenged the woman who had spoken to her and told her how much she’d upset her. The woman reacted badly and upset the mother again. Unfortunately, both Toni and I were unaware of this at the time. We’re really grateful to the other audience members who offered their support to the mother of the child, and to those who came and spoke to us about the incident after the concert.

We’d like to make two things very clear indeed. Firstly, we are a family-friendly organisation, open for anyone to come to our concerts. We love having children at our concerts, and they add something really special – it was great to see kids dancing in the aisles at the end of the concerts, and even coming up and joining in with the choir. We are primarily a community, and this is actually more important to us than the singing. If this isn’t the kind of event that you want to be in the audience for, then our concerts aren’t for you.

Secondly, it is absolutely unacceptable for any member of our audience to make another member of our audience feel upset, unwelcome or threatened (just as it is for our singers too). This behaviour has no place in a caring, sharing community such as ours, and if we are made aware of it occurring, we won’t think twice about stopping the concert and ejecting the person responsible so that we can carry on in a positive atmosphere. If we knew who the audience member was who was responsible for the incident last night, we would be contacting them and making it clear that their behaviour will not be tolerated again, and if they are unable to restrain themselves from being rude to other audience members, they are not welcome at our events. As it is, all we can do is share our views with our singers and regular audience members, and make it very clear that if any member of our audience is ever made to feel uncomfortable by anyone else, it is absolutely fine to come and speak to Toni or me at any available opportunity, and we will address the problem as quickly and professionally as possible.

Onwards – we have a private event tonight, singing for a residential home, then it’s the Sheffield end of season concert on Thursday. We’re looking forward to this one, after the disappointment of missing last week’s session, so we can round the season off in style.

Great weekend of concerts

It’s been a big weekend, in so many ways. A big weekend of sport I know, with the World Cup, Wimbledon finals, the Tour de France and Silverstone all happening at the same time. It’s been a big weekend of concerts for BeVox too – one of my personal favourites events on Saturday, and a new departure for us on Sunday.

BeVox at Sooper Troopers
On stage ready to sing for the Sooper Troopers concert

This is the third year we’ve sung for Sooper Troopers, and it was as inspiring as ever. It’s a real privilege to share the stage with these talented, determined people, who don’t let their disabilities get in the way of thoroughly enjoying themselves! Next year is the 25th anniversary of the group, and we’re thrilled to have been invited to celebrate this milestone with them – we’re going to make next year’s concert even bigger and better.

BeVox at Clarence Park
Clarence Park, and all that jazz… (Photo credit: Ben O’Hara)

Sunday saw us take the the stage at the newly-refurbished bandstand in Wakefield’s Clarence Park. We had a really appreciative audience, and it was lovely to get out in the sunshine and sing! It’s great to share our music with people, and it was lovely to see people dancing along. Congratulations to our two soloists too – especially as we dropped them into the programme at virtually no notice! Thanks for stepping up to the plate.

WW1 Sheffield Cares for the Wounded event

We had a great time singing for the opening of the “Sheffield Cares for the Wounded” exhibition at the University of Sheffield’s Medical School last night. Comments from the guests were uniformly positive, and we even have a few people who are thinking of joining us after hearing us sing. The event organisers sent a lovely thank you today, reproduced below:

Can you thank your lovely singers for the performances last night.  Many people told me how great the choir were and how much they set the atmosphere.  Our guest speaker particularly,  Mr Tom Scotland, was enthralled and despite being expected at dinner was insistent on staying on until you finished to give his thanks personally.

I was chatting with a few of the older guests afterwards, and they said that our singing brought back some really vivid memories for them, which was really touching. We also spoke to the University’s events manager, who was very impressed with us and has taken our details – she wants to use us for other events that the University arrange. All in all, a good night!

Thanks to everyone who came along, and to those who volunteered but who we couldn’t squeeze in. Thanks also to Susan for getting us in the invite in the first place – much appreciated.

Great weekend of performances

We spent Saturday in Nottingham, with two performances in two very different places. After a grand tour around the majority of the shopping centre, we took to the stage at the intu Victoria Centre and blasted out some crowd-pleasing favourites – a few from last season, and a few from this season too. The event organisers said afterwards that we’d attracted the largest crowd of the day, and it was clear from their reaction that they loved what we were doing. I particularly enjoyed “Happy”, as we got out amongst the crowd and got them involved too. It was great to see how people reacted to our slower number too – an impressive sound, matched by a real swell of applause. Great fun. Afterwards, I caught up with a couple of our singers who were doing their first ever performance with us, and their reaction was magical – they’d had such an incredible time, and were itching to do it all over again. That’s what it’s all about!

We then decamped to Bramcote Hills Park for the annual Hemlock Happening. It’s the third year that we’ve sung at this event, and this time they’d moved the main stage to be right in the middle of the action, rather than slightly tucked away. It made a big difference, with a great crowd assembled. I kept eyeing the skies nervously, as the torrential rain from earlier in the day kept threatening to resurface. We launched into our first song, “Mr Blue Sky”, the clouds parted, and we had glorious sunshine for the whole of our set! We couldn’t have planned it better!

It’s been really good to start getting some of this season’s songs out in front of the public – we can’t wait to do more. Our next full weekend of performing isn’t until the beginning of July, but then we’ll be singing the whole of this season’s programme – very exciting. We have a couple of smaller events before that, including a very prestigious invitation to provide the entertainment for a private event organised by Sheffield University. July is definitely concert season though – seven concerts in three weeks!