Snow update – Saturday 17th March

Today’s rescheduled session in Lincoln is currently planned to go ahead. The school is open, and although there’s snow and wind on our route, it looks manageable. If anything changes whilst we’re en route, we’ll post here.

UPDATE: We’ve arrived in Lincoln and it’s fine – so fine, I had to wear my sunglasses!

Tomorrow’s big rehearsal with the band is also still expected to run. If the situation changes overnight, we’ll post here.

How to make a BeVox concert happen

We’ve had some feedback from some of our singers who wanted to know how we decide on what concerts to do each season. We have a little section about booking BeVox for concerts on our website, but we realised that we don’t really explain it very clearly to our singers when they first join us. So, this post aims to lay out our process for organising concerts – how many we do, who we do them for, and how to make them happen.

Types of concert

We consider our events to fall into three different categories – based purely on who is producing them. When we talk about producing a concert, we’re referring to the process of booking a venue, finding an audience, selling tickets or taking donations etc. The best way to think about who is producing an event is to consider who is taking the financial risk of putting the event on. If no-one came, who would be out of pocket?

Events where BeVox is the producer

We do a minimum of three BeVox-produced events every season – one in each of the areas that we operate. In the Autumn and Spring seasons, we will do two “end of season” concerts (in two of our areas), and one “big concert” in the third area (and we rotate the “big concert” around our three areas in order – for instance, we’re in Lincoln this season, Sheffield next season, and so the next big concert after that will be in Nottingham). We break this pattern for the Summer season, as experience has taught us that people are often away at the end of the Summer season and so we don’t always have enough singers to do a “big concert”. For the Summer season, we do an end of season concert in each area, and a “special event” that isn’t based in any of our three locations – it’s either somewhere in the middle, or somewhere else entirely! These events are things like the CD recording we did this summer, or the “Musical Mystery Tour” we’re planning for next year.

For all of these events, we produce the concert, so we are responsible for every aspect of it – booking a venue, advertising, selling tickets, checking tickets on the night, looking after the audience etc, as well as all the musical and logistical details. Tickets for these events are available from us (depending on the event, either directly in our weekly sessions, or via our website), and the proceeds cover the cost of putting the concert on, with anything left over going into choir funds (although we sometimes, when we feel it is right, partner with a charity and donate some of the proceeds to them).

BeVox – A Circle of Life
Events where an external organisation is the producer

We are happy to take bookings for concerts from any external organisation. We’ve done hundreds of events this way – everything from singing in retirement homes to charity fund-raising events in cathedrals. We have a straightforward process for organisations who want to book us – they provide a venue and an audience, we provide the choir and all of the musical equipment to support the concert (PA, mics, piano etc). We also provide promotional material for the producers to distribute. As the external organisation is producing the event, they are responsible for ticket sales (or any other method of allowing people to attend the event), and they take the proceeds from the event. We charge a fee to the producers for providing the choir, equipment, and organisational support. This is on a sliding scale depending on the nature of the event, and discounts are available for registered charities.

We are often booked by external organisations because one of our singers has recommended us to that organisation. For instance, we have sung for residents at a local hospice on several occasions, because some of our singers who work there suggested to their manager that it would be good to book the choir to sing. We get the majority of our bookings from external organisations because of an introduction made by our singers, although some people have just found us by searching the internet, or by word of mouth.

Because we’re dependent on receiving bookings for these kinds of events, the number we do each season varies depending on who books us. In 2015, we did 39 of these events, and in 2016, we did 20.

Concert for TASTE
Events where one or a group of our singers are the producer

We’ve done a few events which have been produced by some of our singers. These have normally been where the singers in question have a close personal connection to a particular charity, and they’ve wanted to do a concert to raise funds for that charity. They have secured a venue, advertised the event (using publicity material that we provide), sold tickets, and run the front-of-house on the night. We have provided the choir, musical equipment, and as much practical advice and support as we possibly can! We understand that this process can appear daunting to people who have not produced a concert before, so we help as much as we can along the way – by sharing our experience, by recommending suppliers, by being a sounding board for bouncing ideas off – and by providing moral support too! We do still make a charge for these events, to reflect the work we put in, but it typically only takes a small number of people buying tickets to the event to cover the fee we charge. The events that our singers have produced themselves have been resounding successes, and have resulted in significant donations to the charities our singers have wanted to support.

Over the last three years, we’ve done six of these events. We’d love to do more!

Ride on a Star


We would like to actively encourage our singers to get involved with making events happen. We will always produce at least one event in each of our areas every season, so there will always be an opportunity to perform locally. We’re very happy to do more events than this. We do have a maximum number we’d consider in a season (there’s a limit on how much work we can squeeze in, plus we have other commitments that can reduce our availability too), but until we reach that maximum number, we’re open for bookings! Part of our philosophy as a choir is to encourage our singers to take responsibility for their own involvement – we know that people achieve their best, and get the most satisfaction possible, when they are fully invested in what they’re doing, and the best way to achieve that is for more and more of our events to be led by our singers.


If you’d like to consider booking BeVox for an event, whether you are one of our singers, or a representative of an external organisation, please get in touch. We have a Performance Enquiry Form that guides you through the process of booking us, and this includes all our fees. We recommend making initial contact with us 3-6 months in advance of your event – or even longer if you’d prefer. We usually have three periods of the year where we take bookings – late March to late April, late June to late July, and mid-November to mid-December. We will consider events in all kinds of venues, but we’d recommend locations that are within 15-20 miles of Nottingham, Lincoln or Sheffield.

Nottingham sessions affected by the football

We love singing at our usual session venue in Nottingham, the West Bridgford Methodist Church. It’s a great venue to sing in, with really good acoustics, and the people that run it are incredibly friendly and helpful. It does have two related downsides though – parking isn’t always easy, and as the church is just down the road from Nottingham Forest’s football ground, parking becomes a serious issue on match days. Last night was one of those occasions, and I know there were some choir members who drove around for half an hour trying to find somewhere to park, and ended up giving up and going home again! Obviously this isn’t ideal, but sadly there’s not a lot we can do about it, except to publicise the dates when parking is likely to be a bigger problem than usual, and encourage people to come early if they can on those dates.

There are only two more dates we’re currently aware of when Forest are playing at home whilst we have a session. These are:

  • 26th January (Week 4 of Spring season)
  • 8th March (Week 10 of Spring season)

You can find the complete list of Forest’s fixtures here, which might be useful for the future.

The passing of time

I’ve been thinking a lot about time passing recently. Part of the nature of my job is that I’m constantly flitting between different timescales – one minute I’m working on events over a year in advance, the next I’m planning how to tackle a song I’m teaching this week. Having to swap between thinking about small timescales and large ones can be disorientating sometimes, and it can take a short while for my head to refocus. It can also make it hard to be truly “in the moment”, as even when I’m in the middle of a session working on a song, part of me is thinking about how the shape the song next time we sing it, how it will work in different performance spaces, and whether we can bring it back for a big concert in six months or even a year. I’ve been feeling the need recently to find a way to park some of the bigger “planning” thoughts whilst I’m doing immediate things, so that I can truly enjoy every second of what I’m doing. It’s important to be truly in the “now”, I think, and I’m going to focus on that in the coming weeks.

Maybe some of this introspection is related to anniversaries. The idea of forming BeVox came to me on a long car journey in June 2010. That makes this summer our 5th anniversary. As most fledgling businesses do, I made a business plan, which included 5-year projections for where we would be in 2015. Re-reading that plan now, some of it is hopelessly naive, and some we have failed to deliver on pretty spectacularly (the business plan had us running eight groups, two a night, with 480 singers by now!). What’s really interesting is seeing how the focus of the business has changed over that time, and whathas stayedthe same – all of which has been led by suggestions and comments from our singers.

Of course, the other anniversary that’s on my mind is my birthday. I turn 40 today – traditionally an age at which people reflect on the past and think of the future. In some ways, turning 40 feels odd – I remember my Mum turning 40, and it feels very strange to be hitting the same milestone. In other ways, it’s just another day – I’ll be starting the day with a Workplace Choir session, then recording backing tracks all afternoon before heading out for a BeVox session in the evening. I am celebrating at the weekend though – privately with Toni on Friday, then a family party on Saturday. It’s the first time in decades that I’ve celebrated a birthday with a family party, and it will be great to be surrounded by them this weekend.

So, nothing particularly musical in this post, but just some musings. One thing is for sure though – I would never have dreamed I would be where I am today, even just five years ago, and I’m incredibly grateful for the shape my life has taken. I’m glad to share it with so many lovely people.

What a weekend!

We’ve just got back from an incredible weekend. We kicked off by singing for the wedding reception of one of our singers, Claire. There was a lovely atmosphere, and she looked incredible in her dress. We all wish her and her new husband many years of happiness in their marriage.
Toni and I couldn’t stay for long after we’d sung, as we had to head over to Lincoln for a radio interview. That was a load of fun too!
We’ve then spent the weekend singing throughout Lincoln, spreading the word about BeVox in preparation for our launch there on Wednesday. Toni and I want to extend a massive thank you to everyone who came along to help us, whether as singers or leaflet distributors! We’re grateful beyond words for the time you all gave up for us – Thank you doesn’t seem to cover it, but it’s all we have.
The singing was great, the camaraderie irreplaceable, and it’s set us up for a great first week back after the summer break. All we need now is for our legs to start working again… 🙂

Amazing start to Spring performances

What a great day! We started off with a fantastic performance at Nottingham’s Victoria Centre, where a huge crowd gathered to listen to us – certainly the biggest audience we’ve ever had there, and the biggest reaction too. It was great to see everyone really getting into it, including the kids that we’re having a good old dance, and then the icing on the cake was getting a massive round of applause halfway through the Superstar medley – the sound as we rang out those chords was just too good not to applaud! We had lots of enquiries afterwards, so let’s hope we’ve encouraged some new blood to come and join us. I’m really looking forward to going back to Victoria Centre at the end of April – if it’s anything like today, we’ll have a fantastic time.
Then we spent this afternoon having our final rehearsal for “Voices at the Lakeside”. Wow. What a sound! You guys sure know how to pace yourselves, as you’ve hit your stride just as we’re starting to put ourselves in front of audiences. I’m so excited for these concerts – yet again, we’re raising our game and delivering something a cut above where we’ve been before. I’m so proud of this whole community!

Songs for the Summer 2014

I’ve finally managed to narrow down my many shortlists and pick the songs for next season. It’s always tough to do this, as we have so many suggestions from our singers – over 450 to pick from at the moment! I’m sure there will be something in the list for everyone though.

As we don’t have a “big” concert next season, I thought we could bring back a couple of songs from previous seasons and include them in the main song list – it’s always fun to go back to songs we’ve enjoyed in the past, and I think bringing just a couple back strikes the right balance between not being intimidating to new people, whilst meaning we can cover a slightly longer list of songs.

As the Tour de France is coming to the UK in the summer, we just had to include Bicycle Race – and we’re planning a few special events based around this too.

The other event we’re commemorating with the music for the season is the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. I’m writing a medley of songs either from that time, or inspired by it, which focusses on those left behind. Continuing that theme, we’ll also be singing the beautiful “Wherever you are”, originally performed by the Military Wives choir. We hope this is a fitting tribute to all those caught up in conflict, in whatever capacity.

The full list of songs can be seen on our “Song list” page on the main website – take a look here. We’re looking forward to singing them all!

They Will Rock You

We’ve been invited to go and see a performance by another contemporary community choir, Rock Up And Sing. We’re planning to do some combined work with this choir next year, so it would be great to see them in action. They’re hoping to reciprocate by coming to see “A Circle of Life”, so it would be great to get plenty of singers up to Harrogate to support them. There’s an email going out now to all our singers inviting them – here’s the poster for the event!

They WIll Rock You - Rock Up And Sing's November 2013 concert
They WIll Rock You – Rock Up And Sing’s November 2013 concert

Music theory: Double sharps

WARNING – This post is quite technical, so please only read it if you’re really interested in why I’ve written several double-sharps towards the end of “Do you know where you’re going to?” – otherwise, feel very free to skip this one!

One of the basic building blocks of music is something called an interval – not the bit in a concert where everyone grabs a drink, but the gap between two notes. If you picture a piano keyboard, to travel from one note to the note immediately higher than it (whether white or black) is to go up one semitone. Two semitones make one tone, so to travel from a C to C# is one semitone, and from a C to a D is one tone.

The next important note regards sharps and flats. A sharp raises the pitch of a note by one semitone. A flat lowers it by one semitone. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking of sharps and flats as “the black notes on a piano” – that doesn’t always hold true, as we’ll see later. Just remember that a “something sharp” is the note one semitone higher than the “something”.

We’re going to look at what happens when we play each white note on a piano in turn, starting on C. There aren’t black notes between every white note on a piano, so travelling from each white note to the white note above it doesn’t mean you always go up by a tone. The pattern is below:

  • C to D is a tone (travelling via C# or Db)
  • D to E is a tone (travelling via D# or Eb)
  • E to F is a semitone (there’s no black note between E and F)
  • F to G is a tone (travelling via F# or Gb)
  • G to A is a tone (travelling via G# or Ab)
  • A to B is a tone (travelling via A# or Bb)
  • B to C is a semitone (there’s no black note between B and C)

So, to travel between C and C along the white notes of a piano, the pattern is tone, tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone, semitone. This pattern defines a major scale. Using this pattern starting on C, we play a C major scale.

You can have a major scale beginning on any note, and the pattern is always the same. For example, if you start on D instead of C, the notes look like this:

  • A tone up from D is E (via D# or Eb)
  • A tone up from E is F# (via F)
  • A semitone up from F# is G
  • A tone up from G is A (via G# or Ab)
  • A tone up from A is B (via A# or Bb)
  • A tone up from B is C# (via C)
  • A semitone up from C# is D

So the notes of a D major scale are D, E, F#, G, A, B, C# and D.

A scale must contain every note-name (A, B, C etc) once and only once. That is why, in the D major scale example above, the third note is F#, and not Gb. F# and Gb are the same note, but it wouldn’t make musical sense to use Gb here, because that would mean there was no F of any type, and G would be used twice (Gb and G natural). This is really important when it comes to double-sharps (and double-flats, for that matter).

Before we get to double-sharps, which are a pretty rare and extreme case, let’s look at something which is less rare, but shows an important step along the way. What happens when we start a major scale on F#?

  • We start on F#
  • A tone up from F# is G# (not Ab – it must be a G something)
  • A tone up from G# is A# (not Bb – it must be an A something)
  • A semitone up from A# is B
  • A tone up from B is C#
  • A tone up from C# is D#
  • A tone up from D# is F – but we can’t use F, as it must be an E-something. A sharp merely raises the pitch of a note by one semitone, so we use an E sharp – this is the same note as an F, but we can’t write F as the previous note was D – it has to be an E-something, so it’s an E#
  • A semitone up from E# is F#

This is really important – even though an E# is the same note as an F, we have to have every note-name used once and only once, so we can’t skip D and have two Fs, one natural and one sharp. It would break the rules of music theory.

Of course, F# and Gb are the same note. So could we get around the “problem” of using E# by calling F# Gb? Let’s go through the tone, tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone, semitone pattern and see:

  • We start on Gb
  • A tone up from Gb is Ab
  • A tone up from Ab is Bb
  • A semitone up from Bb is B – hold on, we can’t use B twice – so what do we use instead? It has to be a C-something, as that’s the next note-name up – and B is just one semitone lower than C, so we use a Cb. We’ve got the same “problem” as we have with an F major scale – we have to use a “white” note that is a sharp or a flat.
  • To finish the pattern, a tone up from Cb is Db
  • A tone up from Db is Eb
  • A tone up from Eb is F
  • And a semitone up from F is Gb

Starting on F# or Gb makes no difference – we have to use an E# or a Cb.

At the end of “Do you know where you’re going to?”, we finish in the key of D# major. (There’s a reason I use D# major and not Eb major, which I’ll explain in another blog post if anyone is interested – let me know if you are). Let’s step through the notes of a major scale beginning on D#, using the tone, tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone, semitone pattern we’ve already established.

  • We start on D#
  • A tone up from D# is F – but it has to be an E-something, so we use E#
  • A tone up from E# (or F if it helps you to think of it this way) is… what? G. But it has to be an F-something. It isn’t F#, as this is just a semitone up from E# (F), and we need to be a tone up from there. This is where the double-sharp comes in – G is a tone higher than F, a single sharp raises the pitch of F by one semitone, so a double-sharp raises it by two semitones, which equals one tone. An F double-sharp is the same note as a G.
  • A semitone up from F double-sharp is G#
  • A tone up from G# is A#
  • A tone up from A# is B# (or C, but we have to use B#)
  • A tone up from B# is… D. Again, we can’t use D as it must be a C-something, so we use C double-sharp.
  • Finally, a semitone up from C double-sharp (or D) is D#.

This is why we have some double-sharps at the end of “Do you know where you’re going to?” – we end in the key of D# major, and the notes of D# major are D#, E#, Fx (double-sharp), G#, A#, B# and Cx.

I hope that has proved useful to at least someone – I know it’s rather technical, but the question was asked and I was determined to answer it! If anyone would like more posts explaining the finer points of music theory (like why I used D# major and not Eb major, or what the pattern is for a minor key and why some minor keys are closely related to other major keys), just drop me an email and I’ll happily oblige.