The annual Choir workshop took place in Scarborough at the Red Lea Hotel. Blizzard conditions en-route were quickly swept away as we enjoyed the convivial surroundings of The Highlander prior to starting work on Saturday morning. The weekend is a concentrated period of rehearsal where new pieces are introduced in to the Choir's repertoire. When I Fall in Love, There is a Balm in Gilead, Let All Men Sing, Jonny Come Down to Hilo and a piece arranged by Accompanist Anne, Can't Take That Away from Me, were unveiled by Elizabeth. The coming weeks will see more work on these songs and their eventual introduction into this years concert programme.
The Choir's Annual Ball took place, once again, at The Venue in Barkisland. The Choir was delighted to welcome our new Honorary Life President, Mr Edgar Dickinson, MBE. Edgar has been a strong supporter of the Choir and Hade Edge Band for many years and both owe him a massive debt of gratitude. This appointment goes some way towards recognising that support.
An anouncement at the Choir's AGM took everyone by surprise. Elizabeth revealed that she will retire as Musical Director at the end of 2010! After a great deal of thought she has decided that, for personal reasons, she will step down and the Choir's Christmas Concert in New Mill Church will be her final appearance as MD. This will mark the end of 10 years of unrivalled commitment to the Choir, first as Accompanist then Musical Director. She has set high standards of professional competence and commands enormous respect and affection amongst the membership. Hers will be huge boots to fill.
The Choir began March with a concert in Cudworth at Emmanuel Church which, coincidentally, marked the 10th anniversary of Elizabeth's appointment as accompanist. Stephanie Helliwell joined the Choir in a wonderfully enjoyable concert which included the best half time cakes we have had for a long time. Thank You Ladies!
At the end of March the Choir successfully defended the Nixon Trophy won last year at The Don Valley Festival. The Festival is held in a very relaxed atmosphere. Competition is keen but friendly. The Choir were placed first with what the adjudicator described as an 'electric' performance of Li'l Liza Jane and Still as the Night. We look forward to toasting the Trophy with the barrel of Elland Brewery beer, part of the winning Choirs prize, and defending it again in 2011. A hat-trick of wins would be nice but adjudicators are fickle people and one man's winning performance is anothers also-ran.
The Choir broke new ground in April when it sang at The Square Chapel in Halifax. The concert was promoted jointly by the Choir and LB Brass, a brass ensemble we have appeared with several times in Huddersfield Town Hall. The Square Chapel is an intimate environment in which to sing, being short and wide, rather than long and narrow like many other venues. This configuration meant that the Choir could not remain in the auditorium when we were not performing and it almost felt (to me at least) that we gave two concerts on the same evening, the first in a hall flooded by brilliant late evening sunlight, the second in more atmospheric surroundings illuminated by the stage lights. It also meant we could not hear the band's solo sessions, only catching the end of New York, New York as we lined up on the steps to enter the hall - well done Band, it sounded great. For me, the highlights were all in the second half of the concert. Let All men Sing, There is a Balm in Gilead and the first performance by the Choir of When I Fall in Love all went well. Ending with Li'l Liza Jane brought a smile to faces in the audience.
Another new venue, St Thomas the Evangelist in Cleckheaton, proved popular with both the Choir and the audience. The concert was organised and promoted by the Rotary Club and featured entertainment provided entirely by the Choir. Rod and Dave handled solo/duet spots with their usual aplomb. The Spaniard that Blighted my Life brought the house down! The Choir performed a varied programme to a receptive audience. I suspect they didn't even notice the slight wobble in Li'l Liza Jane which passed almost before it could be registered. They were too busy laughing at the new found comedy roll discovered by the Basses. If this section continues like this they'll be wanting their own dressing room! The evening concluded with a stirring and emotional performance of Morte Christi which was requested specifically by the Rotary President, an authority which, as Elizabeth said, could not be refused.
The Choir made their annual appearance at the Rotary Concert in Huddersfield Town Hall. The performance was well received by the audience and Rotarians alike. A local recording studio, QWAX Audio, made a recording of the performance which we may use as a 'live' CD later in the year. This is still in the experimental stage but there are some promising performances so we'll see how things go. QWAX have made a sample available for download on there web site here. Thanks to Stuart at QWAX for his hard work.
The Choir began their Autumn season with a fund raising concert for The Holme Valley Memorial Hospital in Holmfirth Civic Hall. Traditionally, this event has been held in the grounds of the Hospital but after two successive years where rain has curtailed the performance the organizers decided to hold an indoor event at the Civic Hall. Inevitably, the evening was warm and dry! The Hade Edge Band , Rod and Daveand the Choir entertained an appreciative audience in a hall with peculiar accoustic qualities. I'm told the Choir sounded OK but to those on stage it felt like we sang in a vacuum. However, this did not detract from what was a very enjoyable and typically English event. Long may it remain.
Worrall MVC 40th Anniversary Concert
The Choir were delighted to accept an invitation to Worrall MVC's 40th anniversary concert in Sheffield Cathedral. Also invited were Weybridge MVC from Surrey. A fine bunch of fellows. Saturday afternoon rehearsals culminated in exhilarating performances to a packed Cathedral audience. What a place to sing! The acoustics were great and we made the most of them. Christa Ackroyd from BBC Look North proved a competent MD and enjoyed herself conducting the massed Choirs in 'Speed Your Journey'. She commented afterwards that it was wonderful to be in charge of so many men and to have them watching her every movement. Glad to oblige Christa! We'll see Christa again in October when she compere's our concert with Julian Lloyd Webber.
Huddersfield Town Hall Concert with Julian Lloyd Webber, Di Xiao and Sarah Ogden - October 9th 2010
A night to remember! All who came to this concert won't forget it for a long time.
To be on stage was, for the Choir, exhilarating. We had the great good fortune to hear Julian Lloyd Webber and Di Xiao rehearse for an hour on Saturday afternoon so knew we were going to hear something special. And Special it was! Julian put the disapointment of Leyton Orient's defeat at Sheffield Wednesday behind him and, together with Di, gave us a performance to remember. A packed Town Hall were enthralled and demanded they reappeared on stage three times before allowing them to leave for the concert interval. An extraordinary first half was succeeded by a second that crackled from start to finish. The Choir responded with fine performances off our own and when it came to the final item, the Easter Hymn where we were joined by Sarah (Ogden), it was obvious that we had taken part in a very special event indeed. You can see the Huddersfield Examiner's review here and more images in our photo album here.
Elsecar Heritage Centre with Strata Brass
This venue holds fond memories for the Choir as it was here that we won the Don Valley Festival for the first time in 2009. Indeed, it was that victory that prompted this invitation. The Choir hired a bus for the short ride to Elsecar where we enjoyed this joint concert with Strata Brass. This venue is noted for its enthusiastic audiences and smooth organisation. Its perhaps worth a mention here that I achieved a remarkable winning streak of FIVE successive winning tickets on the tombola, much to the astonishment of our empty handed Chairman. Better luck next time John. The evening continued in the Milton Arms with an impromptu sing and dripping sandwiches, a South Yorkshire delicacy that merits a wider following. A particularly fine rendition of Londenderry Air went down well with the regulars and the concert organiser who appreciated our 'second concert' enormously.
Meltham Parish Church
The Choir made it's first ever appearance at this excellent venue. Simon (Ball) performed a multitude of tasks from organiser to organist and was instrumental in bringing the Choir to the Church. He provided one of the highlights of the evening with a horn pipe organ solo that Les Dawson would have been proud of. So many wrong notes in just the right place. Wife Stephanie backed him up with a series of fine vocal performances and ended the night by joining the Choir in the Easter Hymn from Cavelleria Rusticana. The Choir's quartet ensemble made it's debut with Linden Lea and Eli Jenkin's Prayer , both well received by the audience. The evening ended with a visit to Adam's ancestral home, Durkar Roods, where we, hopefully, entertained the guests of a ninety year old Welsh gentleman with an impromptu version of Myfanwy and the Welsh National Anthem (in Welsh).
The Christmas season began with the Choir's annual BASF Christmas Concert at Low Moor church. The concert was dedicated to the memory of Len Williams, the Choir's first Musical Director, who has died after a long illness. After an opening sequence by the Choir we were entertained by two choirs from the local school who epitomised the spirit of Christmas with their singing and enthusiasm. An irresistable mixture for Mums, Dads and audience alike.
This concert is always well received and has obviously become a traditional part of Christmas for many people in the Low Moor area. It has been in the Choir's calendar of concerts since the Choir's formation and we are always well received. Rudolph is rapidly becoming an integral part of the repertoire and delighted the vicar as she conceded that the Choir is becoming more adept at concealing a staggering array of battery operated headgear inside our standard concert uniform. It's amazing how much you can get down the backs of trousers, inside shirts and threaded down the sleeves of green jackets! See you all again next year.
Choir Christmas Concert, Christ Church, New Mill.
Elizabeth's final concert as Musical Director.
Emotions ran high for everyone, both Choir and audience, particularly as the spectre of a snow affected evening threatened the preparations right up to the day of the concert. Fortune smiled, however, the snow arriving in every corner of the UK except New Mill.
A packed church was treated to a concert that featured items chosen by Elizabeth and took the Choir and audience on a musical review of her 10 years with New Mill MVC. We revisited foreign tours, family weddings and anniversaries, big name concerts, competition successes and poignant moments all illustrated through the medium of Choir music. Throughout it all Elizabeth carried the proceedings with the consummate professionalism that we have come to value, only rarely showing the emotion that the evening entailed.
Stephanie performed a number of solos and, with husband Simon on the organ, joined the Choir in a rousing version of the Easter Hymn.
Our annual Christmas Raffle was more rewarding than the Lottery: twenty seven prizes take time to distribute, as Geoff and Ibbo found out. Next year we'll have a Tombola!
After the concert, we enjoyed a magnificent buffet in New Mill Club followed by a series of presentations to Elizabeth to mark her tenure as Musical Director. Anne, accompanied by Rod, performed a musical tribute: You've got a Friend.
Elizabeth took the stage and produced a succession of mementos that reminded her of the wonderful times she has had with the Choir - the small bear anonymously left on the music stand in Llandudno, the signed Julian Lloyd Webber programme, our CD's and the 'Hambleton (M)Ales' beer mat - all symbolic of shared concerts and events during the last 10 years.