Tudor Owen writes about Friday July 12th, the opening day of the Manchester Streetchoirs Festival
Let’s start where it all got sorted, on the shop floor. The registration process on Friday afternoon was quiet, efficient, quick – and friendly, the programme explained everything you needed to know, the army of volunteers in bright green were reassuring knowledgeable – and friendly. The RNCM staff were engaged, badge wearing and (what’s that word again?) friendly. The bar staff worked their proverbial socks off – and everybody got served, in friendly fashion.
So three cheers for the unsung planners, organisers and doers, the people who stayed in the background but made sure the whole weekend was a massive success! You know who you are……………
Now on to the Friday night concert, which was brilliant. Every act got a standing ovation and the cheers rang through the auditorium.
The Lovenotes and Stone Flowers were received with such warm audience appreciation that saltwater welled in my eyes (briefly). Only briefly because then it was the interval, and I did wonder how the bar would cope with the rush. Answer – admirably.
Then Manchester Musical Youth were a bundle of singing, dancing energy and they really have some musical theatre stars of the future in their ranks. Cottontown Chorus are pure class but even more importantly they had done their homework, and tailored their set (and their “patter”) to the sensibilities of the SCF audience. They got the positive response that care deserved. And what a brilliant idea to bring the youngsters back on to sing with Cottontown; it brought the house down.
Now over to William West to talk about Saturday……………….
Singing in the Manchester Community Choir is an extraordinary experience. Even the rehearsals are uplifting. But then bring together nearly 50 choirs and you have the 1,000 people who gathered together last weekend for the annual Street Choir Festival held this year in Manchester!
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham with Liz Powers and Rose Hodgson (current and soon to be MD of Manchester Community Choir)
The Saturday felt like a mosaic to me. Lots of colourful events that both blended together yet had their own distinctness. The warm welcome from Andy Burnham Mayor of Greater Manchester. Then the 1,000 of us singing 6 songs in a wonderful uplifting sound. Closing thanks to everyone were given by The Lord Mayor of Manchester, Councillor Abid Latif Chohan. Just time for a quick lunch, and each choir split off to busk at three spots in the City Centre, raising money for homeless people in Manchester. It was a treat to hear the other choirs busk before and after our singing slots.
That evening each of the choirs got seven minute slots singing in one of the theatres theatres in the Royal Northern College of Music, which was our host venue for the weekend. There were so many rich and varied sounds produced by these choirs. I had flashbacks to my youth hearing the poignant All I Have To Do Is Dream sung by Golden Voices and then there were at least two choirs singing about the challenges of climate change. And the choir that did Amazing Grace and an unbelievable version of David Bowies Starman……………..
As hosts we were the last choir to sing on stage at the Royal Northern. After our second song the audience erupted with applause, and a standing ovation. I was gobsmacked and tearful. Sadly this was the last gig with the choir by our wonderful director Liz Powers. She has helped us raise our game, individually and as a group, beyond what many of us thought was possible. She will be greatly missed.
Now to Chrissie Gibson to talk about Sunday morning’s workshops…………….
There was an excellent choice of workshops this year ranging from Zulu, jazz, Irish, Gospel, circus skills, and dance to walks around Manchester. The Carmina Burana workshop led by Matthew Hamilton (pictured below) gave us the opportunity to stretch our operatic vocal chords. Matthew’s credentials are impeccable; he is Choral Director at the Hallé. Initially that felt a bit daunting, but he reassured us that he frequently runs workshops with amateur singers to bring them up to the standard to work with professional orchestras. Matthew was inspiring and managed to weave his technical knowledge into teaching us how to sing Carl Orff’s O Fortuna. We carefully worked through the Germanic Latin words in the quiet sections. Then he let us rip with the introduction and the finale. It was really energising, particularly after a late night.
In the Soul workshop Clare Morel took us through an exploration of African music, jazz and soul. Her easy-going style helped us get up to speed culminating with Stevie Wonder’s very moving ‘Heaven Help Us All’. The words are as relevant today as when they were written.
During the break and at the picnic people were discussing their workshop experiences. Everybody felt uplifted by their morning’s experiences.
Back to Tudor Owen to finish off with a few words about the picnic and closing ceremony in Brunswick Park.
It was a fitting end to a great weekend. All around was the sound of contented munching as groups of choir members sat chatting and enjoying a relaxed picnic, served in and on fully recyclable materials. We gathered for the handover of the Streetchoirs 2020 good luck pennant from Margaret Seaby, Chair of Manchester Community Choir to Sam Dunkley MD of Forgotten Voices Community Choir, who are organising Streetchoirs Festival 2020 in Pocklington, Yorkshire. And then to round things off in style, Sam led us as we all sang a rousing rendition of Billy Bragg’s Internationale and left for our various destinations, near and far.
Let’s close with this email received today “I have just attended my first street choirs, well done everybody!! Superb organisation, helpful folk at every twist and turn, RNCM superb venue, everybody so helpful. Well done Manchester!!