Posts Tagged ‘choir blog’

Last Day – Benodet

August 10, 2010

Well, at least the last day that properly counts. In order to give time to folks to pack and do some shopping, the departure for Benodet was set in the early afternoon. Hannah and I were travelling separately because we were going to bring back Ella from staying with her grandparents in readiness for the early departure on Sunday morning, as well as loading up her baggage. I spent the morning, as I think most people in the choir did, packing up our stuff. On Hannah’s behalf, I have to confess that we brought back an enormous suitcase of clothes that were unworn. To give the magnitude of the amount of clothes, it was the suitcase I took to the USA when I went there on 3 months assignment, so I’m talking lots of clothes. Hannah has many good excuses why she needed them, without actually using them. While I packed, Hannah shopped, getting presents for taking home as well as the last supply of water for the choir (something that was a daily run round the corner to Geant to collect in the car).

After that was done and the car was loaded, Hannah got stuck into writing the notes for her speeches before each of the songs at the evening’s concert. This needed a new set because Saturday night was our only Abba and Beatles concert. This did take quite a while, and we were off to Benodet an hour later than planned. When we arrived, Hannah went to talk to the owner of the campsite (Camping du Letty) where we were performing, and I went to my parents’ pitch. The choir arrived just before 2, by which time both Hannah and I were up at the L’Amiral bar where the concert would take place. Everyone unloaded the gear, and Simon and I considered the possibility of using the sound system in the bar. Unfortunately there were one or two sockets that we needed that were absent, or converters we needed that we didn’t have, so we used our own PA, as we had all week.

The rehearsal that followed was the hardest and longest of the week, I think. We must have started just after 2, and continued until about 4:45. ‘Does Your Mother Know’ took particularly long to choreograph and practice, and was most embarrassing. There were several new solo songs that needed run-throughs, and Finlay Lockhart and Cyrus (our young basses) were being very brave with their performance of ‘Something’, which was their first time singing. Chris Heath, another bass (and ‘slightly’ older than Cyrus and Finlay) was also going for a first, with his debut solo piece, with a rendition of ‘Michelle’. So there was a lot to sort out, as well as the PA setup, which was a lot different to the previous concerts because of the very different venue.

The point at which our lovely keyboards went crashing to the ground, narrowly avoiding crushing Richard Wiseman’s feet (our pianist), was about the only time there was silence. For some reason the keyboard stand gave way while Rich was playing (an Am chord, apparently). Everyone froze, I’ve no idea why, given we all knew what happen. I think it was to admire the shocked look on Rich’s face. Finally Simon and I move to help put the stand back up and make sure the keyboard was okay, which thankfully it was.

After the mammoth rehearsal there was time for dinner, which Hannah and I had back at my parents’ pitch, along with Hannah’s Mum, Barbara Holmes (soprano); her partner, Brian Wells (bass); Rachel; and also my littlest brother, Hamish and his wife, Christine, who’d flown in that day to start their holiday. Other choir members went to the campsite’s bar, took the walk into Benodet itself, or down to the beach at the campsite.

At 8pm, Hannah had arranged for the choir to assemble at the bar, with a drink provided by the choir fund, for the prize-giving. I’ve no idea what prize titles Hannah gave out, with such as ‘Bloody Good Bloke Award’, but she gave something to everyone and had some remarks for everyone on the tour, including the partners and groupies that were along with us. Everyone enjoyed this, as there was much laughter and clapping.

Finally we headed up to L’Amiral for the last hurrah of the tour, the Abba and Beatles concert. This really wasn’t a concert, because we were providing entertainment in a bar, so the atmosphere was quite different, with the audience chatting away, playing pool and buying drinks. Nevertheless, the performance was well received, with plenty of clapping, including along to some of the songs, such as ‘Ob-La-Di’ and ‘Gimmie, Gimmie, Gimmie’, which was reprised, complete with costumes, from its original outing back in the Choir’s concert in July 2009. Chris’s performance of ‘Michelle’ was particularly special, and Hannah had lots of people in floods of tears with her rendition of ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’. Finlay and Cyrus successfully pulled off ‘Something’, in what was probably a seat of their pants performance.

Overall, as with the very first concert of the tour, this one had rough edges, but nothing that showed through to the audience, and it went very well, with the venue filling up throughout and being packed by the end. The campsite owner said it was the busiest it had ever been when they’d had entertainment in, and said that if we were back next year, then he’d book us for a straight week. Nice.

The final pack up was aided by free drinks for everyone in the choir from the owner. This time we were loading up a local bus, as Dave couldn’t do this one, in order to do the early run to St Malo the next morning. This driver wasn’t as confident as Dave, and needed some persuading before leaving Benodet to take his bus into the B&B car park. As I was driving Hannah and I’s car, I was back in Quimper before the bus, along with Rachel. Hannah and Ella went on the bus, with Ella requesting that the choir singing what she calls Inganyama, ie ‘Circle of Life’, this they did, and as they sang, she fell asleep, which must one of the best lullabies any kid can have. 🙂

All that remained before everyone could head off to bed (or if they prefered, a four hour drinking session before the 4:30am bus departure), was to transfer the equipment from one bus to the other, and it was goodnight Quimper.

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Medina High Community Choir Brittany Tour Day 5

August 9, 2010

We’re all back home now, and I’m playing catchup on blogging the tour. Hopefully I can remember the hectic end to last week.

This day didn’t start brilliantly for Hannah because as we were queuing up for the breakfast buffet, the proprietor called out to Hannah ‘you’re too late!’, by which he meant that the choir were coming for breakfast too late and distrupting breakfast for the other hotel guests. An unfortunate situation, but basically he had too many people in his hotel for the small breakfast room to cope. Okay, we did get a good discount rate, but we had brought many thousands of Euros of business to his establishment. Other than that, he was very helpful throughout our stay, and anyone I spoke to in the choir was very compliemtary of the B&B.

The fifth day of the tour brought visits to Concarneau and Ploerdut. Concarneau is a very well-known fishing port and ancient medieval walled town; Ploerdut is not so well-known, and, so it appeared from the coach journey there, is somewhat in the middle of nowhere, but does have an historic church, the oldest Romanesque church in Brittany, which we had the priviledge to perform in.

Concarneau was not an official performance. Hannah and I had visited it last year while on holiday, and Hannah had mailed the Cultural Office of the town many times over the last year to get permission to have a concert in an amphitheatre in the Ville Close, which is set against the town walls. It is a wonderful setting, with seating (bleachers style) and power (a boon for an outside performance). All of those mails went unanswered, much to Hannah’s disappointment. Therefore she decided we’d do a smash-and-grab gig there, and just turn up, sing a few songs and then move on; and this is what we did. We sang ‘Over the Rainbow’ and, I think ‘Mamma Mia’, although my memory is already beginning to fade of what we sang where. As the amphitheatre is at the end of the main thoroughfare, we gathered quite a few people in the audience during the short time we sang, and the weather was lovely and sunny, so it was great.

After that quick performance, the choir had free time to explore the ancient city and have lunch. Again, it was another place that all were very impressed with. Tara Dean, one of the lady ‘middles’, was treated by her children, Cyrus and Hanna, to lunch, and had asked Hannah and I for advice on a good place to go to make the most of this. We had advised a restaurant we visited last year, which Hannah believed had the best mussles of our trips to France. Unfortunately, that establishment had changed its name, but pretty much seems to be the same as it was. It’s now called Lobelys. I believe they had an excellent lunch, and somehow Cyrus and his friend and fellow bass singer, Finlay, consumed a five scoop ice cream cone bought in the Ville Close.

For Hannah and I it was a particular highlight as we had Ella with us for that part of the day, after we’d picked her up and borrowed her from her Granny and Grandpa earlier on. She got to enjoy the performance, and the adoration of the choir, with Dr Chris (Christine French, one of the lady ‘bottoms’) being that day’s favourite of Ella’s. Ella wasn’t so pleased with her lunch, describing the mules a la creme, as ‘too creamy’.

Once everyone was back on board the bus, it was a long journey on some back roads to Ploerdut. I think it took longer than expected but as I was asleep I lost track of times. When we arrived at Ploerdut, we were straight into performance as we’d agreed to do some singing at the evening market in the town. It was certainly the smallest market I’ve ever seen in France, having about five stalls. This meant we had a rather limited audience. This was a notable outside gig as it was the only one we did with the keyboards, as it was the only one where we had access to electricity. We rattled through a number of Abba and Beatles songs before breaking to either have dinner or set up the equipment for the concert in the church.

As the church was a simple Romanesque one, it meant that the acoustics were also similarly simple, so that the sound wasn’t as dispersed by various statues and chapels as they might have been in the previous two churches, and also it had a lovely vaulted ceiling.

A couple of non-singing standouts for this concert were Sarah Whitehead, one of the lady ‘middles’ falling down a step of the podium we were singing on when we returned after the break (no damage taken) and Avril Osbourn (another middle), who had twisted her ankle the day before and couldn’t stand through the concert and as she didn’t want to sit the concert out, had a chair on the podium behind the choir so that she could join in.

It was universally agreed that this was the best gospel concert we did during the tour. Vicki Brewer’s (soprano and treasurer) solo in Hannah’s mash-up of ‘A Moment Like This’ and ‘Ave Maria’ was absolutely spot on, and she was particularly pleased with it. In general all the songs went very well and again the audience was very appreciatively with a small standing ovation at the end.

As ever, once the concert was done, we quickly took down the equipment and loaded up the bus. Indeed, at some stage during the tour this swiftness of taking down needed reigning in because things were either being put back in the wrong place, or being taken off to the bus before they were ready to go, etc, and so Hannah had to restrict the people helping Simon Woods (tenor and given the charge of the set-up of the equipment) to try and keep it more orderly. Fortunately this was extended to the lifting and carrying, because there was always plenty of that to do.

This day had another late return back to the hotel, and everyone returned to their rooms to either sleep off the day or party into the small hours.

Evening Revelry

August 3, 2010

Last night Hannah organised a meal for all the Choir which was paid for out of Choir funds, which was most generous. A good time was had by all at O’Keltia in Quimper, and they handled 47 hungry and thirsty people very well. A good time was had by all, with plenty of chatter.

The meal was preceded by free time, with most people heading into the middle of Quimper from our hotel, which is just on the outskirts. It’s a short bus ride, or 30 minute walk into town. For some folks, it was their first French bus experience. I’m not sure the other passengers on the bus were too impressed with the extra long wait at the bus stop as Hannah negotiated with the bus driver for the best way to pay for 20 people. Once in the centre, Hannah and I showed where the O’Keltia’s was and then everyone went their own ways. Hannah and I, with Hannah’s family had a wander, and had lunch in a creperie, and then the ladies went shopping while Brian (Hannah’s Mum’s fiance) and Simon Woods (tenor) had a couple of drinks while watching the world go by. Eventually everyone gathered up in the square where the restaurant is, and the meal began.

After the meal, Hannah instructed us to go to the cathedral square for an impromtu performance of ‘Over the Rainbow’. I’m not sure how good we sounded, handling an eight part harmony song after a few alcoholic drinks and a large meal, but it must have looked impressive anyway.

Afterwards we returned to the hotel, some in taxis and a number of us a pied, and we were very thankful for Chris French’s wind-up torch for getting us through the park that was the first part of the walk.

I’m sure everyone had a good night, and the carefully planned breakfast rota (to avoid queues and filling up the breakfast room) was rather destroyed this morning by people staggering down with the after-effects.

Arrived

August 2, 2010

Just a quick post to say that the Medina High Community Choir has safely arrived at the Quimper B&B Sud and are settling in. Hannah and I came up from Benodet this morning, and unloaded our stuff, and sorted out everything with the managers, who have been very helpful. We bought some refreshments for the choir for when they arrived, and distributed everyone to their rooms. Soon we’re heading out to Quimper and tonight it’s a meal out for everyone in a restaurant in Quimper.

When I find out more about the ferry crossing (there are a few people the worse for wear), I might update the blog.

Coming Soon

July 28, 2010

Over the next fortnight or so, lots of the postings will be about the Medina High Community Choir tour in Brittany. If you’re on Facebook, there are events for the actual concerts we’re doing, and we’ll also be busking in Quimper, Josselin and the general area.

The events are here:

The first three will be Gospel concerts, in various churches, and the final one is from our Abba and Beatles repitoire. All will be excellent, and we hope to see many people there. I’ll report on how it all goes here on my blog.

WordPress for Android

June 29, 2010

Last summer while in France on holiday I blogged from the WordPress mobile site. This year for the forthcoming Medina High Community Choir tour to Brittany I will be using the WordPress app for Android instead. This should mean less fiddling to load up a website, easier to use tools and less data to download. This is my first post from the app, and it seems up to the task.