Posts Tagged ‘festival’

Isle of Wight Festival

June 13, 2010

A couple of weeks ago, Hannah was contacted by Rich Wiseman, the pianist for Hannah’s choir, Medina High Community Choir, and music teacher at Hannah’s school. He said that John Giddings, chief organiser of the Isle of Wight Festival, had been in touch with the school to source a choir to back Melanie Safka for her appearance at the Festival. Hannah, being Hannah, lept at the chance and said yes, and so began a crazy journey that ended with the Medina Choir (a combination of the MHCC and the Medina High School Choir) taking to the stage yesterday in front of thousands of festival-goers on a rather sunny, lovely day.

A lot of that journey has been composed of Hannah communicating with Melanie’s people to establish musical criteria (keys, numbers of repeats, etc etc) and actually what songs we’d be backing. The main song has always been ‘Lay Down‘, which was written about Woodstock, which Melanie performed at. Hannah wrote an arrangement for the Choir and we’ve been practicing that over the last two weeks, with Hannah always stressing that this will be a live performance with the lead coming from Melanie and therefore completely open to change compared to what we’d rehearsed. This week the two choirs rehearsed together for the first time on Tuesday, and then on Thursday we all gathered at the Riverside Centre in Newport, just next to the Festival site, to have our first (and really only) rehearsal with Melanie and her son and daughter, who accompany her. That was quite an experience for everyone, and a tricky one of Hannah as she finally had to make the adaptions from the arrangement she had prepared for the choirs to what Melanie planned to do on the day. There was definitely a lot of improvisation that night, amongst sections of the choirs, as much as Hannah directing us. On the whole, the members of the choirs adapted very well, but there were a few mutterings about this not being what we’d practiced.

Anyway, the day itself was sunny, which was a relief because we’d been told we could take nothing to the site, because there weren’t the facilities backstage to keep piles of our stuff. We gathered just outside the backstage entrance, looking rather odd amongst the festival-goers, as they were brightly dressed and looking summery, and we were all in black. Once taken into the backstage area, we were left right behind the stage with quite a long wait in the sun (I’ve got a red head now). Hannah did some warm-ups, and when Melanie arrived we had a quick run-through of ‘Lay Down’ to take on some final amendments. While Melanie was onstage, we were all huddled in the wings watching her, checking out the size of the crowd, watching the roadies and technical crew behind the scenes, admiring the amount of technical kit back there (lights, cables, amps, desks, mics, everything and all very black).

We walked as Melanie sang the final chorus of ‘Ruby Tuesday’, before a quick capo change on her guitar and we were into ‘Lay Down’, the piece with the shortest rehearsal time in MHCC’s history but with the biggest audience. It was very different being on that stage to anything I’ve experienced before: a) it was huge; b) you couldn’t hear anyone else because of the size and being outside; c) the audience just went on and on over the field. You can see ITV2’s editted transmission of the song on YouTube. I can report that we got a cheer as we came on, and as we went off. A couple of shouts were for specific members of the Choir, so there were some groupies out there. 🙂 It was a fantastic experience, even though it wasn’t the most demanding piece of music I’ve sung.

I can safely say that everyone in the Choir loved it, and Hannah was very pleased with how it went. Lots of people were saying on Facebook that they were still on a high hours afterwards. I guess the biggest disappointment was how quick the actual performance was, it really did feel it was over in the blink of an eye. It’s great to look at that stage now and be able to say ‘I’ve been on that stage and sang where the likes of Jay-z, Crowded House, Pink and Paul McCartney have performed’.