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!

Voices at the Lakeside

What a day!

It was a bit of a rollercoaster, that’s for sure. Toni and I spent most of Friday getting things ready – picking up the van, heading up to Harrogate to collect the staging, over to my friend Dylan’s to borrow some PA gear, then back home to load everything up. We’d promised ourselves an early night, as we knew Saturday would be a long day. The best laid plans… We finally got everything finished around 12:30am, and we were in bed just in time to get about 5 hours sleep ready for concert day…

The morning didn’t go to plan. We arrived nice and early, and started unloading the van. I’d underestimated how long it would take to get everything into the venue, so we were a little behind when we started building the staging. We’d hired this from our friends at “Rock Up and Sing”, and it’s a brilliantly engineered piece of kit – the geeky side of Toni was in her element building it all. However, it was a bit of a learning curve, despite the training we’d had, and we took a few wrong turns (the best of which was when we’d assembled the whole back row of staging, then realised we’d got it the wrong way round and needed to turn it all through 180 degrees!). As a result, our tech rehearsal started very late – I didn’t actually check the time, but it must have been something like an hour and a quarter later than we’d planned. Thank you to everyone for your patience – you were all absolutely professional about it, and took the delays (and my “focussed” attitude!) in your stride.

Once we’d got everyone seated, and practiced entering and leaving the stage, we only had time for a very brief sing, but already I could tell we were in for something special. The sound was powerful, rich, and full of expression – and that was only in rehearsal. We had the quickest of run-throughs with the soloists next, all of whom rose to the occasion admirably. There was just time for a quick change and a dash to the box office to check up on Heather, who we’d drafted in to help with ticket sales at the last minute, before the front of house announcement was ringing out and we were off!

The matinee performance was incredible – really strong singing, definition of tone, clear words, and lots of fun evident on peoples’ faces and in their body language. It seemed to fly by, with each song building on the last, until I was telling the audience that we were nearing the end of the concert (I’ve since discovered that the audible groan from an audience member when I said it was nearly the end actually came from my Grandma – bless her!). We powered through the Superstar medley and then sealed the deal with I Love The Lord – brilliant, inspirational singing.

Toni and I got chance for a little break between the concerts, and we spent that catching up with audience members from the matinee and getting some feedback. There were a number of our singers in the audience – some of whom were singing in the evening performance and wanted to hear what they were about to be a part of, and some who weren’t doing this concert but had come to hear what kind of sound we make as a choir. Every single one of them who commented to Toni or me said the same thing – they couldn’t believe just how good we are. They all said they’d strongly recommend all of our singers to be in the audience for one of our concerts at some point – you really can’t get a full picture of it when you’re surrounded by the rest of the choir, and everyone who’s been on both sides of the podium is always blown away by just how good we are – and it gives an added thrill, knowing that you’re a part of something that good!

It wasn’t too long before we were all lining up again for the evening performance, and raring to go. The energy was incredible, and it brought the stage to life. I must say thank you to Pat Roberts, who had been in the audience for the matinee performance and said she’d loved it, but thought that “Over the rainbow” could do with more light and shade – she was right, and we brought another level to it in the evening performance. Thanks for the tip, Pat!

It was great to be playing to a sold-out crowd, and the response from the audience was magnificent. They weren’t shy about letting us know what they thought, and their whoops and cheers helped us raise the roof – along with the standing ovation after “Superstar”. Everyone did an amazing job – hats off to the soloists, of course, but also to every single person on that stage. We can only create events like this when everyone pulls together, and that was so evident yesterday. Thank you.

Whilst I’m saying “Thank you”, I must mention two other people – Pauline, for the incredible job she always does of keeping us all organised on concert day, and Tony Pannell, for staying behind after the show for over an hour, lugging staging and PA gear – we wouldn’t have survived the get-out without you!

I reckon a day like yesterday is even more of a reason to encourage more people to join us. If you were on that stage, you know just how much fun it is. Let’s get more people having that amount of fun! If you were in the audience, you could see how much fun it is – come and be part of the fun next time! I know it sounds like a boring recruitment pitch, but this honestly comes from a really different place – I can just see how much people are getting out of singing, and I want everyone in the world to have something that gives them that much pleasure. Spread the word – be an evangelist for singing! It’s so good for you – physically, mentally, socially, emotionally – just about every way possible. If you sing, either with us, with another choir, or anyhow – shout about it! It’s an incredible thing, and the world should have more singing.

Yesterday we put smiles on so many faces. Thank you for being a part of that, and here’s to the next time!

Wakefield end of season concert

Our end of season concert in Wakefield on Monday was huge fun. Standing room only! How thrilling to sing to such a packed house, and to get such a fabulous response from them afterwards. We’ve included some of the comments from the audience on our new “feedback” page on the website – take a look here: www.bevox.co.uk/feedback

We set the tone right from the beginning, with a fun start – the sound was vibrant and exciting, and the “special effect” in Mr Blue Sky really worked well. All the soloists (and duettists!) gave really solid performances, and it was great to see everyone from the choir giving such support to them. The sound of the whole choir singing together was definitely the highlight for me – a rich, strong, energetic sound that really connected with the audience. Well done, each and every one of you!

A Circle of Life update

Back in December, we put on “A Circle of Life”, our most ambitious event to date. We’ve very nearly finished putting together the DVD of this concert, and we’ll be selling copies at our weekly sessions in a few weeks, once the discs have been manufactured. Incidentally, we’ll also be selling copies of our “BeVox @ Magna” DVD, from our first ever big concert back in 2011 – we have a small number of copies left, so we’ll be selling them off at half price.

In the course of putting the “A Circle of Life” DVD together, I’ve managed to pull quite a few still pictures from the video feeds – I’ve uploaded them to our Flickr page, so if you want to take a look, head over there.

We’re looking forward to creating many more special events like these – remember, tickets for “Voices at the Lakeside” go on sale very soon, and we expect them to fly out the door!

Reflections on an incredible journey

Almost all of our performances for the Autumn season are over now – we just have Papplewick Pumping Station to come on 22nd December. In the morning, I’m heading down south to spend a week with my daughter, so I thought I’d take a little time to reflect on what has been an incredible season – actually, an incredible year.

Toni and I started this season, back in September, feeling a little flat. We’d had a lovely week away over the summer, but we’d not managed to do most of the things we’d hoped apart from that – we’d wanted to spend lots of time relaxing with each other and enjoying Toni’s continuing recovery after her operation in February. We knew that the Autumn season was going to be hard work – we’d committed to putting on a big concert in December, and I’d outlined my plans to make it a different, unique experience, unlike anything we’d done before. I had my reasons for wanting to make this one special of course, but Toni didn’t know that, and we had serious reservations about the budget, and the amount of work we were taking on.

Within the first week or two of the season, we had our first ever Discussion Picnic – a chance for everyone to get together socially, but also to share their views about the direction BeVox was going in, and feedback any concerns. This was a really valuable process, and helped shape a number of changes. It was very grounding, hearing people’s concerns and being able to respond to them, whilst also being really rewarding as people shared what they love about BeVox, and what they want to do more of. Some of the issues raised have continued to be present throughout the season, but the way in which they’re being handled has improved no end.

As the season progressed, the workload got heavier, but it was made easier by the energy people were bringing to the weekly sessions. Although some of the music was difficult, everyone attacked it with enthusiasm, and that helped to keep us going. We had a number of setbacks behind the scenes, and sometimes it was hard to keep going – weeks of 12-16 hour days take a toll. Nevertheless, I was sure it would all be worthwhile, and the fun we had in sessions was a lifeline – it’s the most visible bit of the work we do, but it’s the most fun bit too!

The last week of sessions was a turning point, I think. Having got all the songs to a good standard by Week 11, we could easily have spent the last session running everything through and feeling pretty pleased with ourselves. Instead, everyone voted to push harder and find new emotional levels in the performance, and as a result, that final session was hard work, but very rewarding. I threw a bucketload of new techniques at everyone – material that would normally take 5-6 workshops to cover was absorbed in just 2 hours. Not everything worked entirely successfully, but everyone embraced the journey and it really transformed a number of the songs.

The week leading up to “A Circle of Life” was just incredible. Having got the vast majority of the work and planning complete by this point, we could sit back and enjoy the performances. The Wakefield end of season on the Monday set the tone for the week, with some fantastic singing, and an utterly lovely atmosphere. The support from the audience was great, and it reminded us of our community roots – something we really want to build on next season. Heading to Nottingham on the Tuesday, we were both excited – Wakefield’s performance had given us a boost, and the acoustic of the Nottingham venue is always a joy to sing in. It was another great night, with everyone raising their game to give a splendid night out.

Then came “A Circle of Life”, and what a day that was! Elements of that performance had been in the planning for the best part of a year, and it was so satisfying to see it all coming together. I had such admiration for the professionalism virtually everyone displayed in the tech rehearsal, handling all the challenges with admirable patience. I’m sure that the couple of people who didn’t play ball with the seating arrangements will have learnt from the experience, and the team spirit will pull them into line next time. We had our share of technical problems too, although they were small fry considering the amount of technical stuff we’d thrown into this show, and the time constraints the production crew were under.

After a frantic drive home to fix a technical problem during the lunch break, the matinee performance passed by in a blur – my head was focussing on so many different things at once, I barely had time to register it was happening before it was over. It was great to see so many supporters in the audience, including a number of our singers who hadn’t been able to take part but had come to watch. I’m sure everyone was grateful for the break between the matinee and the evening – a chance to come down, relax, and reset for the evening. And what an evening it was. From the beginning of the show, the atmosphere was electric. It’s great to perform to a sold-out house, and the audience were so incredibly supportive – they were clearly on this journey with us, and were cheering us on at every turn! The performances from everyone on stage were exemplary that evening – soloists, duettists, ensemble singers and choir members alike. I could feel the energy coming from every voice, every face. It was a very, very powerful experience.

Then of course, we ended the show with an event that has been seven years in the making. Toni and I would like to thank every single person that’s shared in that journey with us, and it was so absolutely right to celebrate our engagement with this community, this family, that is BeVox. We’ve been bowled over with the love and support everyone has shown us, and we count ourselves very lucky indeed to have such a great bunch of people around us. Thank you.

A Circle of Life

Wow. What a day. I know it will live in my memory for the rest of my life, and I’m sure it will stay with a lot of other people too. Thank you to every single person who was a part of it in any way. You all helped to turn it into something truly unique and incredible. The feedback I’ve heard from the audience so far has been overwhelming – it really was a landmark experience. And to top it all off, she said yes!
I’ll try to write more fully soon, but for now, we must to bed. Thanks once again for sharing this magical experience with us.

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.

A great weekend

We had two really lovely events this weekend. On Saturday, we had our first ever Discussion Picnic – a kind of very informal Annual General Meeting, where we shared food and company, before sharing our thoughts and ideas about how we can shape BeVox for the next year or so. We’re grateful to everyone who was able to be there, and to the large number of people who couldn’t make it on the day but sent their ideas and viewpoints via email beforehand. We had a very lively discussion, as I’d hoped we would, with a good range of opinions aired. It was really reassuring that there was broad agreement on the majority of issues, and also fantastic to hear people’s ideas for how we can improve what we do. We’ll be reflecting on the whole experience over the next few days, and producing a document that outlines how we’ll respond to all this valuable feedback.

We spent Sunday celebrating the wedding of John and Lyn, two of our singers in Nottingham. We had a group of over 30 singers, beautiful sunshine, the relaxed surroundings of Langar Hall, and a very happy bride and groom! It was lovely to have the chance to socialise together for a while, and then the singing was great fun too – lots of slight panicking beforehand as people realised they hadn’t sung these songs for months, but then lots of relieved looks when they realised it all came flooding back as soon as we started singing! The sound was strong, the camaraderie stronger. Thanks to all who took part, and congratulations to John and Lyn – may you spend the rest of your lives blissfully happy with each other!

Victoria BID flash mob

What a day!

Yesterday, around 200 singers travelled from across Yorkshire, the Midlands and South Wales to London in order to flashmob the capital – three performances at Victoria Rail Station, the Piazza outside Westminster Cathedral, and Buckingham Palace. We were invited to put this together by Victoria BID to help promote the Victoria area of London as a tourist and business destination.

It was incredible! In the station, we had hundreds of people stopping to watch, take pictures and film us. The station management were seriously impressed with how well we did (and how well we respected their rules too), and have invited us back to do something similar there again in the future. It was a challenge, with so much space to fill and everything else going on around us, but it absolutely worked – a testament to everyone’s concentration!

Then we went to the Cathedral, and the acoustic in the Piazza really helped us – it sounded magnificent. The reaction from the tourists who had stopped to take pictures of the Cathedral was great to watch!

Finally, the big one – Buckingham Palace – time to take our Queen medley to the Queen! As all the singers know, I’d been very nervous about the musical side of this one – an open space with no walls to bounce the sound off meant some serious worries about us staying together and sounding good. I needn’t have worried – we rocked it! The sound was awesome, and the reaction from the crowd was immense – hundreds of people filming us, and dozens deciding to get involved and sing and dance along with us!

I’m sure everyone involved had a great day, and now have some incredible stories to tell (including the people who made a grand entrance to the Piazza performance – rocking up in a taxi just as they started singing – classic!). The events manager at Victoria BID was utterly thrilled with what we’d achieved for them, and is already talking about plans for our next appearance.

Thank you to everyone who took part, came along, or otherwise made it possible. Thanks to our friends at City Voices and The Rodillian Singers – it’s always great to sing with both of these brilliant choirs, and lovely to see friendships being renewed. Let’s do it again sometime!