What a summer!

It’s been a really fun week – we had our end-of-season concerts on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, followed by a concert for Bolsover Parish Church yesterday afternoon. It’s the culmination of our summer season, our chance to share the music we’ve been making for the last twelve weeks with our friends, family and other guests. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and judging from the feedback we’ve received so far, so have our singers and audience members too!

When we were planning it, this season was meant to be a slightly easier ride than last season – we pushed ourselves hard for the Elemental concert, and we thought it would be a good idea to relax things a little this time around. That went out of the window pretty quickly though! The music was more complex than I’d originally intended, with wordy songs like “Windmills of your mind” and “Skid Row”, complex harmonies in things like “Blue skies”, stylistic challenges with “I won’t give up” and “The Greatest Showman medley” – it ended up being just as big a sing as last season was! Nevertheless, as ever, everyone rose to the challenge and we ended up with some really strong singing. Thank you to everyone who was a part of it along the way – both in the choir and in the audience.

Nottingham end-of-season

Our first full concert of the season was in Nottingham, and we returned to the Performing Arts building at Rushcliffe School. Everyone on stage did a grand job under challenging circumstances – probably the hottest room of the week, and the new addition of curtains all the way around the room also gave it a very dull acoustic. It took a little while to adapt, but as the concert went on, everyone raised their game all the way through to the finale. The end result was a mixed bag of a concert – a slow start, but a really strong finish, and I think everyone who was a part of it should be really proud of being able to push through the challenging situation and deliver something at that level.

Lincoln end-of-season

I don’t know about anyone else, but I had a slightly odd sensation going into the Epic Centre to set up for the concert – last time we were here was for Elemental, and it felt strange to be coming back to do a “normal” concert here, even though we’ve done so many times before. There must have been something in the air though, because the concert was electrifying. Singers from others areas who’d joined us in Lincoln were coming up to me in the interval and saying, “What’s happened? It feels like a different choir tonight!”. That’s the joy of live performance – you never know what’s going to happen until you start singing, and occasionally something really special comes together, for no particular reason at all! I loved being able to play with the songs and finding new subtleties in them – “Fields of gold” was a treat, with so many nuances it really came to life.

Sheffield end-of-season

Another hot room, another sell-out crowd – and another great concert. Having 110 singers on stage was always going to make a big sound, and it didn’t disappoint. We had a cracking reaction from the audience, and some really strong moments on stage too – I felt like I was on stage at a massive festival when we got to the final choruses of “You’re the voice”! The husband of one of our singers filmed the whole concert, so if you want to take a look, it’s on YouTube here.

Bolsover summer concert

Our (almost) final concert of the season was at Bolsover Parish Church, a venue that we’ve developed a great relationship with over the years, and a real treat to sing in. With just over forty singers, we made a great sound, and it echoed off the walls and up into the rafters – hurrah! The concert contained a very special moment for me: singing “Blue skies” with my beloved Grandma Joy in the audience. Joy introduced me to the music of Irving Berlin when I was really small, and her passion for his songs has stayed with me all these years. She went on to teach me music theory, and to encourage my development as a musician throughout my childhood, so it’s always a real thrill to be able to perform for her. It was also lovely to see a number of BeVox singers in the audience (as we’ve had at all the concerts this week) – it’s great that people want to support their fellow singers, and to see what all the fuss is about!

Onwards…

We have a few things coming up over the summer, with a summer singing day, our annual picnic, and (hopefully) singing at a wedding in Nottingham. We start sessions again in the middle of September, and we’re looking forward to that very much – some fun and interesting songs next season (see the full list here), and a return to The Octagon in Sheffield for our big concert. We’re also very close to releasing the DVD of Elemental, our unique concert from this spring – singers will be able to place pre-orders very soon indeed, then the DVD will go on general sale via our website in the Autumn. On top of all of that, we’re also getting very close to being able to announce our plans for our 10th anniversary celebrations next summer – watch this space!

Elemental: Reflections

For about the last year, Toni and I have been planning “Elemental”, our ground-breaking, multi-sensory themed concert experience. Since the beginning of the year, hundreds of BeVox singers have been working on the music. Countless hundreds of hours have been spent on the staging, lighting, sound design, videos and special effects. And it all came together in an utterly unique performance yesterday. In the immediate aftermath, I wanted to set down my thoughts and feelings about it all, and to share some of the feedback we’ve received.

From a personal point of view, yesterday was utterly incredible. I couldn’t be more proud of everyone who was a part of it, and I hope beyond hope that everyone is incredibly proud of themselves and what they achieved too. There were several moments, throughout the day, when I just couldn’t contain myself, and was either leaping up and down and giggling like an idiot, or so overwhelmed with emotion that I stopped conducting and just let the sound wash over me. So many things came together to cause those emotions – sometimes it was the relief when things that had been planned for so long finally came together, sometimes it was delight at how well the marriage of music and images, text and light all created something greater than the sum of its parts – but mostly, it was feeling that human connection with the emotions being felt by the 200+ people on stage. When we all pull together to create something, when we overcome difficulties to achieve a goal we’ve all been striving for – it all just feels so much more worthwhile. It was a joy to share it all with everyone, and I’m humbled by the dedication, support, professionalism and exuberance of this incredible choir. I truly feel that it’s a privilege to work with BeVox – I get such a buzz from it.

Toni and I have long believed that the most important thing we can do in life is to create special memories, for as many people as possible. It’s something we aim for personally as well as professionally – for instance, we don’t give each other gifts for our birthdays, we take each other to special places and share experiences instead, as we know these experiences will create memories that will last a lifetime. We still regularly reminisce about what we did for each other’s birthdays a decade ago! We think that this is a fundamental part of what we do with BeVox too – it should be about creating memories together, memories that we can treasure in the years to come. Elemental will live in people’s memories for a very long time, and that is a really special thing.

We’ve already had lots of feedback, both from audience members and from singers (and from some singers who were in the audience!), and it seems that the overwhelming response has been that this was a highly ambitious event, delivered at the highest level. Whilst Toni and I are very proud of our part in that (and we are truly thankful to all the people who have made comments about the work we put it), this was a team effort. No matter how impressive the videos, lighting, staging etc was, no matter how wildly I waved my arms, it wouldn’t have meant anything without the voices and passion of everyone on stage. Because of how technical the show was, it would have been easy to get hung up on the technicalities, and delivered a show that was impressive but that lacked heart. I don’t think anyone could say that Elemental lacked heart – it was dripping with emotion, and that came from the singers. I’d like to thank each and every one of them.

Whenever this whole project has felt too hard, whenever we’ve been struggling with the workload or the various challenges that arose (many of which were “behind the scenes” and no-one in the choir knows anything about), we’ve been sustained by a simple truth. We think of the singers of BeVox, and we know that they are sailing right behind us. Thank you.

Looking back on Spring 2018

We’ve done virtually all of our Spring concerts now – our big “Sounds of the Sixties” event in Sheffield last Saturday, and our end of season concerts in Lincoln on Monday and Nottingham on Wednesday. We still have Hilton Grange coming up, but I thought now was a good time to look back on the season, and the concerts, and reflect.

The season, especially the end

We’ve had an amount of disruption this season, for one reason or another – different venues, the “Beast from the East” etc. Another choir has started in Nottingham, which has attracted a number of people who have previously sung with us, and this (along with the ongoing parking problems at our venue) has led to quite a fall in numbers – which in turn has worried those people who are still singing with us.

I’d just like to say – don’t worry! BeVox is an incredible community, and all of the things that could have brought us down this season have instead only served to make us stronger. The lower numbers in Nottingham haven’t meant that the group has weakened – those people who have been with us this season have raised their game, and the sound has been fantastic. (Oh, and by the way, we’d just like to make it clear that we’re happy for the people who have joined other choirs – we’ve always said that what we really care about is that people are singing, rather than who they’re singing with. It’s important that people sing with a choir that is right for them, and if people have tried another choir and found it suits them better than us, for whatever reason, that’s good – we’re pleased they’re happy! If it doesn’t work out in their new choir, for whatever reason, they’d be welcome back with us too – we wouldn’t want anyone thinking we had any kind of problem with people who have sung with another choir.)

The atmosphere in the sessions during the last week of the season was electric. The problems caused by the snow just spurred people on to give it their all, and I was blown away by the energy and vibrancy of the sound. It was huge fun, and I felt privileged to be a part of it.

Sounds of the Sixties

The big concert at The Octagon was an exhilarating experience. The revised schedule made it a very long day – after I started sound-checking with the band at 10:30am, the next chance I got for a break wasn’t until 6:30pm – I didn’t even get to nip to the loo! All the hard work was made so completely worthwhile by the concert itself though – it was such a buzz. There were some real spine-tingling moments, and a real sense of fun too. Some audience members filmed a few bits, so look out for them on YouTube – “Whiter shade of pale” in particular was fantastically good. Dylan, the drummer from The Magic Mushrooms (and my best mate), did a “behind the scenes” vlog too, which is also on YouTube – a good giggle!

Bravo to everyone who made the show such fun. Remember – I only wave my arms around – it’s the singers who make the sound, so hats off to every one of you. I hope you’re suitably proud of yourselves.

Lincoln end of season concert

Monday saw us in Lincoln for another blast through this season’s music – a near-capacity crowd was thoroughly entertained by the nearly-hundred-strong choir. The reaction during the interval and afterwards was fantastic – a number of people told me it was the best Lincoln end of season concert we’ve done.

Nottingham end of season concert

We were in a new venue for Wednesday’s event, and we had some very positive comments about it – despite the heating being stuck on! It was so warm, Toni even took her jumper off!! We’ll be certain that they’ve fixed that before we return in the summer. The concert itself went very well indeed – I know a few people were concerned about the voice part balance, but actually it worked very well, and people were very sensitive in their singing as they compensated for the slightly uneven number in each part.

A note on dress code

At the end of season concerts, we did notice quite a number of people who weren’t quite within the spirit of the BeVox dress code – tops that were more turquoise than blue, or had significant amounts of white trim etc. We have a dress code so that we present a unified look to our audiences. We want everyone to feel like they’re on the same team – but still give enough latitude within the dress code for people to be comfortable with what they’re wearing. We’d like to ask all our singers to remind themselves of our dress code (www.bevox.co.uk/dresscode), and to stick to it for future events.

The future

We’re putting the finishing touches to the learning materials for next season’s music, and we’re also hard at work on several other events spread across the rest of this year (and into 2019). We’ll be posting more about some of these soon – especially our “Summer singing day” on 18th August, which will be open to all singers, not just members of BeVox. Watch this space for more info!