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!

BeVox Rocks!

One of the things that I find really exciting about my job, even if it sometimes messes with my head a bit, is that we’re constantly working on things with very different timescales. I can go from answering a telephone call about tonight’s session, to recording a backing track for a concert in a month’s time, to writing the arrangements we’ll be singing in two month’s time, to planning a concert in six month’s time – all within a few minutes of each other. The last few weeks have been full of this, and it all seems to be coming together right now.

Over the weekend, I finished the last backing track for the Autumn series of concerts. I’m really excited about how everything is sounding for these performances, and the work we’ll do over the next couple of weeks to polish everything up will result in some stand-out shows, I’m sure.

I’m now working on writing the arrangements for next season – I’ve only got a fortnight until our session singers, Alastair and Eloise, come up to record their parts! The song list has been chosen from suggestions made by our singers, and you can read it here, along with the song lists from all our previous seasons.

We’ve also just finalised the details for our big event for the Spring season – and it’s going to be a whopper! “BeVox Rocks” will take place on Saturday 11th April 2015, at The Octagon in Sheffield. It will feature a programme of stadium rock classics, as well as some more unexpected material, and we’ll be singing alongside a live rock band! The arena-like layout at The Octagon is ideal for this kind of music, and we’re sure to put on one hell of a show!

The Octagon, Sheffield
The Octagon, Sheffield

Soloists for the Autumn season

It’s been a busy first half of the season, and I haven’t really had chance to write any blogs since we started. To be honest, I don’t really have the time now – I’m swamped with trying to get all of the backing tracks orchestrated and recorded before we hit concert time. I’m also trying to stick to my plan of getting next season’s music arranged and rehearsal tracks recorded by the end of this season (so I can actually have some kind of break between seasons, and particularly keen singers can start listening to their tracks before we start next season!). The recording sessions for next season’s rehearsal tracks are booked in, and the first one is early – 24th November – so I’ve got to get cracking!

We’re really excited about our plans for our 5th anniversary celebration next summer – we’re off to the seaside for a weekend, recording a CD and having a big party! Information packs and application forms are available for our singers now – check your email for where to find them.

We’re also making great strides ahead with plans for our big concert for Christmas. Tickets should be on sale early next week, and we’ll put an information page on the website with links to ticket sales as soon as they’re up.

We had our auditions for soloists this weekend, which were great fun. We heard some fantastic performances, and we’re thrilled to be able to include many of them in our concerts this season. Below is a list of all the soloists that are performing this season. We’re doing lots of concerts this Christmas that don’t feature soloists, so just the ones that do are listed below. If you want the full list of all the performances we’re doing, please check out the main BeVox website, under the “Performances – Forthcoming” menu.

Concert for TASTE – Monday 1st December

  • Sally Kirkham (TBC) – Take a walk through Bethlehem
  • Julie Currey – Mira
  • Toni Ratcliffe – A spaceman came travelling

End of season concert in Nottingham – Tuesday 2nd December

  • Ged Tinley – Mary’s boy child
  • Dominic Marshall – Hallelujah
  • Ann Hallam – What child is this?
  • Grete Evans – Jar of hearts
  • Solos in Christmas Medley – Ged Tinley, Ann Hallam, Paul Howard, Grete Evans

End of season concert in Sheffield – Thursday 4th December

  • Hugh Bland – The Christmas song
  • Julie Currey – Mira
  • Pete Dye – Have a holly jolly Christmas
  • Martin Clarke – Joseph’s lullaby
  • James Tringham – White wine in the sun
  • Heather Clarke – Christmas letter
  • Rachel Wood – Please come home for Christmas
  • Solos in Christmas Medley – Paul Howard, Anne O’Hara, Hugh Bland, Anne Seneviratne

Kimberworth Christmas concert – Saturday 6th December

  • Sally Kirkham – Take a walk through Bethlehem
  • Ensemble (Sally Kirkham, Anne Seneviratne, Heather Clarke, Denise Treece, Martin Clarke, James Tringham, Toni Ratcliffe) – Lead me Lord
  • Julie Currey – Mira
  • Martin Clarke – Joseph’s lullaby
  • Toni Ratcliffe – A spaceman came travelling
  • Heather Clarke – Christmas letter

West Bridgford Methodist Church Christmas Tree Festival – Tuesday 9th December

  • Ged Tinley – Mary’s boy child
  • Dominic Marshall – Hallelujah
  • Grete Evans – Jar of hearts
  • Chris Shaw – Summertime

Christmas at the Cathedral, Wakefield Cathedral – Saturday 13th December

  • Ged Tinley – Mary’s boy child
  • Sally Kirkham – Take a walk through Bethlehem
  • Ensemble (Sally Kirkham, Anne Seneviratne, Heather Clarke, Denise Treece, Martin Clarke, James Tringham, Toni Ratcliffe) – Lead me Lord
  • Martin Clarke – Joseph’s lullaby
  • Dominic Marshall – Hallelujah
  • Toni Ratcliffe – A spaceman came travelling
  • Heather Clarke – Christmas letter
  • Solos in Christmas Medley – Ged Tinley, Anne Seneviratne, Pauline Masheder, Anne O’Hara
  • Quartet in O Tannenbaum – Julie Currey, Susan Bridgeford, Timothy Allen, James Tringham)
  • Soprano soloist in Frozen Heart – Anne O’Hara

Things to look forward to

It’s been a busy summer for us so far, and we’ve only got two weeks to go until the next season starts. We can’t wait!

The end of the Summer season was really busy, with lots of performances in varied locations. We’d hoped that we’d then be able to put our feet up and relax for a bit, but life doesn’t work that way! Recording next season’s music early ended up being a very good plan, and we were very glad to get that out to everyone before the summer break really kicked off. We then got started on a number of plans, and we knew we’d only got a few weeks to sort them out.

Over the summer, we’ve got everything in place to launch our latest area, Lincoln. We’ll be bringing a number of singers over to the city to sing in some really iconic places throughout the weekend of 6th/7th September, then we have our big launch on 10th September. We’ve got adverts in lots of local press, and we’re really looking forward to getting Lincoln singing.

We’ve also been working on our big 5th anniversary celebration next summer, and it was great to be able to release those plans last week. We’re off for a weekend at the seaside, recording a CD and having a big party at the incredible Spa Centre in Scarborough.

Other things have taken up our time too, including a couple of short trips (we had a couple of days away to celebrate Toni’s birthday, and we’ve just got back from a week in Scotland). Toni has been working very hard on designing lots and lots of publicity material, and you’ll be seeing our adverts in newspapers and magazines across Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire over the next few weeks. We’ve also been sorting out more performances for the Autumn season, and there are still more in the pipeline – we’ll release details as soon as they’re finalised. Finally, we’ve been working on our “Christmas at the Cathedral” – we have another meeting lined up in the next couple of weeks to get everything nailed down, then we should be able to put out all the information you’ll need. For now, just keep the date free – Saturday 13th December. We’ll have an amazing show for you!

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!

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!