Posts Tagged ‘MHCC’

In Concert

April 17, 2011

We’ve been singing again, and I’ve blogged on the Choir’s blog, which I recently set up along with a proper website for them.

Solo Work

December 26, 2010

One of the original concepts of weblogs was for people to post their favourite websites and links, so I’m going make a post which is really just a link to a Youtube video. Earlier this month, the Medina High Community Choir had its Christmas concert (a sell out at Medina Theatre) and Ella had her first ever solo, singing the first verse in Away in a Manger. You can see the footage of it on Youtube.

Enjoy, it was certainly a proud moment for Hannah and I.

 

Hannah’s Tour Round-Up

August 16, 2010

Hannah, as Medina High Community Choir Director, submitted a write up of the tour to the Ventnorblog, and you can read it here.

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.

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.

Josselin

August 6, 2010

Yesterday we had a gig in Josselin, which is about an hour and a half from Quimper. We had our earliest departure yet, at 10, slightly later than Hannah wanted because of the time needed for Dave, the bus driver, to have between trips. The journey was broken-up with a stop in Quimperle for coffee.
Josselin is a lovely medieval town, but does suffer from the problem that it wasn’t designed for big vehicles. We followed the instructions from the tourist office, but still had to squeeze through some narrow roads. We were dropped close to the basilica, where we performing, and the equipment was stowed there. Then Hannah negotiated with the castle ticket office to get a reduced rate tour of the castle. She succeeded in getting half off and we got a tour from a guide who hadn’t done one in English before. She started well, but got confused as Hannah tended to repeat words in clearer English and the choir kept behaving like a panto audience booing baddies and awhing at love stories. One of the latter got the guide into a fit of giggles and she had to stop doing the tour in English Ans switched to French and Hannah did the translation. It was all very interesting and everyone really enjoyed it and were much impressed with the castle. Likewise, the guide was impressed with us,saying we were her best group every, and she came to the concert in the evening.
After the castle tour was done, Hannah had arranged for us to sing some songs in a little square at the entrance to the castle, bounded by it’s walls, ticket office, tourist office (in ancient, pretty buildings) and a small chapel. An excellent setting. We did the stock ‘Over the Rainbow’, followed by some Abba and Beatles, for the first time on the tour. This generated a small audience and Rachel shook an offering box for choir funds.
Then there was time for lunch and for folks to admire the town. The climb up the basilica tower was very hard work, but worth the views, apparently.
At 5, Hannah had us singing again, this time in front of the basilica, surrounded by bars and cafes, so an audience was provided. They seemed to enjoy it. After that came the wait to set up the kit, as there was a service and mass in the basilica until 7. We got that all set up with no problem.
An unusual aspect of this concert was that the toilets were at the back of the alter, and so some nodding and bowing was needed on the way.
The performance of the concert went well. Again, the acoustics were excellent. The sustain pedal on the piano developed a squeak, which could be heard during quiet music. The audience was more than Tuesday’s, with probably more than a hundred people in total (there was a lot of coming and going).
The main incident was in the second half, when two arrivals did some heckling. The particularly drunk one did a drum impersonation during a fanatic rest during a song, followed by other random noises. At the end of that song, Hannah turned and quietly asked him to leave, which thankfully he did. His friend remained (on whom Hannah noticed fresh needle marks). Then during Chris’s introduction to the next song, he heckled saying this was all hypocritical, he didn’t like us singing in English, it wasn’t right in a church and he didn’t believe in God anyway (this is Hannah’s translation, as he was speaking French). Hannah asked him to leave, and he said no, to which Hannah replied “we’ll wait for you then”, so he got up and left. A very brave and well handled situation by Hannah.
As Josselin is quite a journey from Quimper, we were late back and all quite ready for a good night’s sleep.

Free day

August 5, 2010

Yesterday was a free day, or rather a day free of concerts. There were a couple of casualties of late night revelry but everyone signed up to go on the trip that Hannah had planned.
The first stop was Douarnenez, to go to the market there. On arrival at the town the problem was finding somewhere to park the coach. We drove through the town searching for a suitable place, eventually arriving at the fishing port without success. Dave, the driver, and I were quite frustrated at this point, so Hannah and I got off the coach to interview a couple of locals. The first thing we discovered was that the market was in neighbouring Treboul this week, and they couldn’t help with parking advice. So we set off out of town on a different route and into Treboul. Fortunately we found somewhere Dave could squeeze the bus into and the choir went off to explore the market and have lunch.
After Treboul we went to Pointe du Raz, the most westerly point in France. The weather didn’t look good as we arrived, as it was raining. We were allowed to take the bus right up to the lighthouse at the Pointe rather than parking a ways away in the car park, and as we got off the bus the rain stopped. The choir were most impressed with the views and surging seas, and Hannah couldn’t resist making us sing a rendition of ‘Over The Rainbow’.
The final stop of the day was Audierne, a pretty sailing and fishing town. There was a night market here, so a second chance to haggle. Hannah and I had a great meal with reasonably priced wine with Hannah’s friend Helen and her husband, Ben (a choir groupie) and Hannah’s sister Rachel, who is additional music backup on the tour.
Some latecomers back to the coach struggled to find it, as Dave hid it round a corner to provide a lesson in time keeping. 🙂
Then it was back to the hotel for those that wanted a early night, as advised by Hannah, or some partying in the rooms, depending.

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.

Choir Tour Day 0

August 1, 2010

Hannah, Ella and I have been in Brittany for a few days now. The weather has been very changeable, eg yesterday it was rainy in the morning but hot by evening. We had a big rush of packing up the house for Cowes Week renting before leaving home, as well as all the usual pre-holiday stuff, along with rehearsal, trips to buy extra cables for sound equipment, test viewing of the DVD of the choir’s summer concert, etc.
The journey didn’t start too well as we missed our ferry off the island, as we were booked on an earlier one than I’d thought, so we had an hour’s wait until there was space. It wasn’t a big problem because we were going to Rachel’s house (Hannah’s sister), rather than connecting with another ferry. Other than that, the journey to Benodet was okay.
So far as the tour goes, Hannah and I were in Quimper yesterday sorting a couple of things. Hannah negotiated with a restaurant that we’ve been to before to organise Monday dinner. It’s called O’Keltia, and is central and pleasant. She got a good deal, which is important as this one is out of choir funds. We also visited the Office de Tourisme, where Hannah confirmed our visit to an asinerie (more on that later) and tried to find out more about our concert in Pont L’Abbe, as it didn’t appear in any listings. Unfortunately we couldn’t get confirmation so back at the campsite emails were sent and we’re waiting to hear.
The rest of the choir bus out of Medina High this afternoon, with an overnight ferry over The Channel. We’ll meet them at the B&B Quimper Sud early tomorrow afternoon, and the festivities will begin!