Thursday, 24 December 2015

Last concert of 2015

Another special evening, this time at Kloster Eberbach at Eltville... and our last of 2015 (tho' we do have gigs on the 1st and the 2nd of January back in Germany!)

Kloster Eberbach is a fantastic monastery complex where they filmed The Name of the Rose with Sean Connery.

Here as the sun goes down:

...and later!

A beautiful place in which to sing, and a marvellous crowd were there to be very festive and enthusiastic!  Such a splendid way to end our concert year.

Just like Kings College just a few moments ago, we sang some David Willcocks (his delightful Infant Holy, Infant Lowly arrangement); and many other glories...
The audience also loved our singing Wenn ich vergnügt bin muss ich singen... which was a relief, as it is such a tongue-twister.
They adored Gaudete! from the Middle Ages as much as White Christmas from the 1950s...

A total pleasure, rounded off with an excellent meal, accompanied by the tremendous Kloster-beer before our early (slightly blurred) flight back home...

So here we are, seasonal jollity awaits....
Happy Christmas and hope to see you in a prosperous and fine 2016.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Brilliant Belgium Noel



Two splendid concerts in Belgium, two different programmes too!
Both accompanied by the incomparable Chris Hatt... (who also brought his adorable family over for the trip!)

Showtime at Overijse
Christmas at Oud-Turnhout

Here we all are, after both were done (photo taken by Sian Hatt!)

So it was songs from the shows and film firstly; Skyfall, Kiss from a Rose, Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, He's a Tramp, Laurel & Hardy, Guys & Dolls medley, Over the Rainbow & Happy... to name but a few!
Wonderful it was to do a full programme of theatre/film music.
There are more Showtime performances in the Spring in Holland and Belgium... have a look at our schedule!

As this concert was at 2PM, we had plenty of free time to get to the next place... & stayed at Turnhout (Christmas concert in a church in the Oud bit!)...
I did a great deal of Christmas shopping there!

AND, they had a real ass in the Nativity at the town square... tho' it looks blurred below:

But the concert was a pure delight - Christmas concerts so often are - but the church acoustics, and the clearly-joyful crowd made it all feel very special indeed...
We went of course from the sublime (Wexford Carol) to the ridiculous (See Amid... accompanied by attention-seeking pianist:- very funny!); from Elizabethan England to California via The Comedian Harmonists!
...and the packed church also was full of percussionists, as the Sleigh Bell (Keys) players were all terrific... and did excellent horse impressions in Sleigh Ride!
Chris Hatt's young family were terrifically amused to see Daddy wearing the Turkey carcass hat.... he does look quite spiffing thus!

It was great to see our Dutch friends Gertie & 'Riet too - a bonus!

Thank you, as ever, Thomas (& his sister) and Eurotheater for all your hard work...   

Here's a quick photo of the excellently-lit church just by our hotel... this angle just felt right somehow!

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Massive Christmas gala for Bloodwise

Wonderful evening at the Royal Albert Hall - Christmas with the Stars in aid of Bloodwise (formerly Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research).

RAH looking great in the December sun!

Such fun to sing with Frank Renton and the excellent band once more... and to sing to a full house along with so many great people...

with Lee

Lee Mead gave wonderful renditions of Feeling Good & Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Margaret Keys sang the beautiful O Holy Night, Tom Lister sang I'll be Home for Christmas & the lovely Anne Reid sang The Christmas Song.

Along with Disney Voices (a new choir of Disney employees) and the girls choir from Sydenham High (conductor Caroline Lenton-Ward), we sang in Patrick Doyle's exciting anthem Ring Out the Bells, written especially for Bloodwise.

with Danny

Other singers/speakers/readers included:
Danny John Jules, X factor's Che Chesterman & Nick Grimshaw, Sonna Rele, Arlene Phillips, John Michie, John Sergeant & Debra Stephenson who introduced us...(using many, many different voices!)...

It was great to contribute Strangers in the Night & A Festival of Carols in Two Minutes; and later to join with the band for Sleigh Ride... the audience were magnificent on their keys-jingle-bells & with their loud neigh at the end!

An exhilarating, life-enhancing evening full of joy; promoting and advancing such a good cause...

Sunday, 6 December 2015

an evening of Champs Hill cheer

Joyful evening in aid of the excellent Sussex Snowdrop Trust at Champs Hill...

This being the home of, verily, Champs Hill Records... we were in the very room where we recorded Songs of Love and War...
So this room which is attached to David and Mary Bowerman's lovely home is a recording studio, a concert hall and indeed an art gallery!
Here we are rehearsing... (amidst the art):-

You probably cannot recognise Chris Hatt at the piano, as he has lost loads of weight (not that this was a desperate need), and now looks like a teenager again!
His very svelteness puts us to shame (well, speaking on behalf of the male department of the group... well, perhaps, just myself!)

The audience were warm and splendid from the very start; Diana Levantine, Chairman & co-founder of the charity made sure that everyone was sure that this was to be a happy evening.... and so it was!

We performed some Christmas, some of our film/musical show, some classical music and a fair sprinkling of silliness...
Good to sing the Pavane - Belle qui tiens ma vie captive dans tes yeux by Thoinot Arbeau in the same place we recorded it for the album...
We are singing Infant Holy, Infant Lowly this Christmas as a tribute to the wonderful talents of Sir David Willcocks, who died recently after such a glittering career. Its simple beauty has such a great effect.
Excellent to once again have Chris Hatt around, so we could do some great piano numbers... Skyfall, Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, Laurel and Hardy (Way Out West songs and dance), He's a Tramp and White Christmas (the full Bing, courtesy of Mike - other browsers are available)... 
Also we gave our Sleigh Ride, with the crowd supplying both jingle bells (using car keys for the most part) and the horses' neighs!

The audience appeared mesmerised by the end of the evening... and Chris Hatt's tour-de-force accompaniment to See Amid the Winter's Snow (arranged gloriously by Jonathan Rathbone) was a great part of that!
Lovely to meet/see everyone afterwards... including Chris (O'Gorman this time)'s parents.

Thank you to Diana, David and Mary for making this whole experience such fun!
....and royally entertaining us too!

The guy below is in the garden... he commemorates the huge storm of 1987 !

Marvellous also to see this great George Rowlett painting with such thick daubing of the Thames at Greenwich...

Next stop, the Royal Albert Hall, for a gala evening - Christmas with the Stars - in aid of Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Grand Night in Grantham

Excellent evening with the Grantham Music Society at Guildhall Arts Centre;

Amazingly the building kept changing colour - here's one:

...and another (I won't show you the full rainbow!):

...and all this under the watchful eye of local hero, Sir Isaac Newton!

The audience came with us on our conventional journey from Henry VIII to Richard Rodney Bennett, from Bach to the Beatles, and of course there was Christmas too!

There was a great excitement before the concert when Sarah-Ann locked herself in her dressing room (not incompetance:- it has a dodgy lock); luckily technician Laura was on hand to deal with this... altho' it did take about 10 minutes!
...but she was .... free at last! 

This is our third concert for the Society & it was as splendid as ever... lovely receptive audience... and excellent to sing in the Guildhall Arts Centre for the first time.
Thanks to Bob and Maryan for looking after us so well...

We also got to serenade Sarah-Ann's parents... a joy!

It was possible to get home on the same day by train, so brilliance all round.
A super day in Grantham!

Off to Champs Hill, near Pulborough, where we recorded our last album, Songs of Love and War, for a charity evening on Friday...

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Montabaur - Folk & Fools Day

Folk & Fools?
...which were we? (perhaps both!)

We shared a Folk and Fools evening at the Mons Tabor Stadhalle in Montabaur, Germany with the hilarious French duo... Duel; and the Irish folk band Caladh Nua....

Another terrific German audience embraced us all... they came in the hall before 7PM and left after midnight!

This great evening's journey was started by us taking the crowd from Henry VIII (and his Pastime with Good Companye) to Cricket Tea Towel - The Rules of Cricket; from a 16th-century Pavane (Belle qui tiens ma vie...) to the Tiger Rag... With a Little Help from My Friends...
From the off, they were a splendid crowd and they continued supporting all three acts that evening!
Splendid warmth emanated from the hall & it was an excellent experience!

Duel are a quite hilarious and inexhaustible pair of brilliant french guys... a cellist and a pianist who can really play... and can really mess about too... splendid... with a fine line in crazy percussion & props! They brought to mind both our old friends, the English duo, The Cambridge Buskers & the excellent French act, Le Quatuor... but these chaps are wonderful in their very own way! (Just realised that the two acts I just mention and TLQ were all born within a few years of one another:- what a fecund time for comedic classical acts!)

The evening ended with the vibrant full-folk Irish sounds of Caladh Nua...

Local photographer Gregor Eisenhuth took wonderful photos of the evening... and they can be found here.

Now it is beginning to look (and sound) a lot like Christmas....

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Heilbronn Heights

Another excellent shared a cappella gig with other wonderful groups... this time: the beautiful Medlz & the terrific mundARTmonika...

A lovely evening, once again introduced and organised by our friend, Peter Martin Jacob...

I know it sounds strange but this took place in an arts space in a bank!  No, really... it was an excellent place to sing, and the big audience loved it all... We were in Unter der Pyramide within Kreissparkasse (yes, that's the bank)... all glorious!
This is a great tradition in Germany... we did a Christmas concert in a bank last year; rather than having art in them, our large UK banks are being turned into pubs and estate agents (one of those seems more useful than the other!)

The Medlz were their glamorous and musically strong selves as ever & mundARTmonika sang with fire and fun...
We went down well too... a great evening of AHA a cappella!  The audience joined in excellently with angry percussion in Rolling in the Deep and beauty in The Lion Sleeps Tonight!

All three groups joined together at the end to sing an improvised version of Stand By Me... and the audience (or lots of them) did!

Here we are summoning up the energy to give it to them! (Bunny ears from Sabine!)

Tonight in Montabaur, we perform in a Folk and Fools evening (which are we?)... with Irish folk band, Caladh Nua, & a terrific pair of French fools, Duel... all shall be fantastic!

Monday, 16 November 2015

Friday the 13th joys in Scunthorpe...

We did indeed have a splendid time in sunny (well a bit windy and rainy too) Scunthorpe...

There was even a world-première...
We gave the first ever performance of our a cappella arrangement of Quia Respexit Humilitatem from the Bach Magnificat; clearly Sarah-Ann had done this before & sung it beautifully, but our vocal noodling behind her had never previously been heard in public!

Scunthorpe Concert Society had been very brave and invited us back after only an interval of 15 years...
...and we sang in an excellent Performing Arts School, with great rehearsal facilities etc and a very good hall in which to sing.
We took the audience on the journey from Madrigal to McCartney, from Henry VIII (his Pastime with Good Companye) to Richard Rodney Bennett (his glorious A Good-Night from A Garland for Linda).

A delightful evening, with audience not only of people of a certain age; it was very good to see some young faces in the crowd too... But all of them, whatever age, were terrific and enthusiastic.
They also loved Chris's and our singing of California Dreamin' and When You say Nothing At All...

We hope Scunthorpe Concert Society goes from strength to strength...

The evening was only blighted by the disastrous news that started appearing at the end of the night of the appalling debacles in our beloved Paris... horrendous; what barbarity.

We are back in Lincolnshire on Wednesday the 2nd of December at Grantham....details here.

I wandered past the North Lincolnshire Museum on the way home... and found this old lady...

...and perhaps one of her mosaics!

Out to Germany at the end of this week.... Heilbronn & Montabaur;- all info on site...

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Fabulous vocal glory in Germany!

Brilliant time in Germany... not only lovely gigs and audiences, but more opportunities to meet others singers/groups & enjoy their excellence!

These last few days we have met/shared stages with a wonderful array of talent.

Firstly as part of SangesLust - a four day vocal Festival in Bayreuth (October 1st - 4th)...
Thanks to Manuel and Nadia of the Bayreuth marketing team... good to see you again.

We sang in the street with the other groups in the afternoon - Bayreuth was alive with singing for 4 days (perhaps it always is - singing of one kind or another!)...
Then in the evening, we and Jazzation (from Hungary), Ringmasters (from Sweden), Sebastian Fuchs (German beatboxer) & Singers (from Denmark) went to five different restaurants doing 20 minutes in each... so the audience heard all five acts in one night... quite tiring, but excellent!
It is certainly interesting that performing the same 20 minutes 5 times is much more exhausting than doing 100 minutes in one place!
Audiences were fabulously receptive, and clearly enjoyed the different styles of the five acts...
Sadly the continuing gig in the last bar/restaurant was curtailed by our feeling the need to sleep having been up since 5AM... The Ringmasters were still pinging away at 3.30AM, we were told, before going to a club - ah, youth! They have recently been Barbershop World Champions and sound utterly terrific - however much sleep they get!
We only heard one song from these people, as we were always in different restaurants, but in the introductory serenade from ein balkon in the city, we heard:

Sebastian Fuchs' excellent beatboxing:

Jazzation's beautiful rendition of Fly Me to the Moon:
Singers' wonderful version of Stevie Wonder's As:
...and Ringmasters' spell-binding performance of Tonight from West Side Story - it just went up and up and up...
We performed Penny Lane... and here is most of us, watching Sebastian do his thing!
A long but very rewarding evening...

The next day was the first in our Mitsing concerts... our mitsing debut.
This is a very big thing in Germany; along the lines of Messiah from scratch concerts and singalong Sound of Music showings in the UK... Germany has gone mitsing-mad... in all manner of styles, classical, folk, schlager & pop.
...and loads of keen singers turned out at then Bayreuth Stadhalle to join with us!
We sang lots of new things too.... including Rolling in the Deep (Adele), When You Say Nothing at All (Ronan Keating), Another Day in Paradise (Phil Collins), California Dreamin' (The Mamas & the Papas) & Happy (Pharrell Williams... but a cappella!) to name but a few...
But they sang anything with us... Killing Me Softly, Beatles, Abba and even Ich war noch niemals in New York...
It was a really great experience for us all; gliding along on a sea of huge singing from the audience... (when we remembered to change the screen with the words on!   Thanks to Chris this was pretty slick! He has a younger brain than the rest of us)...
Sarah-Ann was especially excellent at getting the crowd to a fever-pitch of participation and we had a thoroughly delightful evening... (even including torch waving) ... do seek out film of this on facebook and/or twitter! 
S-A's flute solo in California Dreamin' a particular highlight...

After the delights of Bayreuth, we went to Blieskastel, where we have been many times before... for an a cappella nacht... sharing the stage once more and seeing old friends. 
We re-met Delta Q, who we invited to Romania two years ago... another brilliant quartet; and met the splendid OnAir for the first time... who are as much sound sculpture as vocal group...
The audience seemed to agree; another evening of varied vocal styles, but great entertainment...
Good to hear the other groups in such good form.
Here we all are.... once we had finished (14 happy singers...)!

Thanks, Peter Martin Jacob, Hamed, Bettina, Nicole and all the Magenta team for making these last few days happen.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

New line-up flourishes

Great times in Germany...
Germany welcomed Chris O'Gorman as the new 1st tenor!
Firstly to the beautiful town of Walldorf, which looked like this, in the excellent September sun...
Blue skies!

Lovely concert in a splendid tent, as part of their Zeltspektakel... with a gloriously enthusiastic audience... atmosphere (and food) equally tremendous!
Thank you to Jürgen for inviting us.... last time we saw him at a show, he missed our gig for the very good reason that his son Mika was being born... this time all the family met us!
Great to have lots of Magenta agency there too, Peter, Hamed & the lovely Bettina... (not that Peter and Hamed are not lovely too, of course)

Then there was a long drive to Dresden... it should have been 5-6 hours but a glorious traffic jam made it more like 9!
Wonderfully Martina Lange, who waited patiently for us to arrive, was indeed Job-like, and took our fine-cutting of it, in her stride!
We were helping to celebrate an anniversary of DREWAG (Stadtwerke Dresden GmbH)... & we performed in the quite glorious Schloss Albrechtsberg...
It looked like this (once it was dark!):

...and we performed in here:

I suppose this chap was our host, in a way!

Quite fantastic building in which to sing & a fine trip to Germany... and we'll be back next month, in Bayreuth and Blieskastel...
With a new Mitsing show in Bayreuth ... on October 3rd!

A couple of unmentioned things over the last few months... the end of CI tour gig at Jersey Arts Centre was splendid... and Jason and his team were very attentive and excellent... lovely tour in the CI all round!
...and thanks also to Jeffrey Wynn Davies & Fiona Clucas for inviting us to sing at the Cranleigh Choral Week... we had a most brilliant time, what a great and appreciative audience the singers were... & this is the largest choral course in the UK... wonderful... lots of CDs and songbooks flew off the table after!

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Channel Islands tour

Well, we have done Guernsey, Alderney & Sark on our CI tour...
Just as the last two times we have done the full tour, it has been a splendid experience... tho' a bit more time aboard boats than previously!

Summer weather has finally arrived...(this AM).

Starting on Guernsey at the marvellous St James Arts Centre and delightful large crowd there... we have been to Guernsey most often of the islands & it was great to see many old friends...
Thank you Kirstin for your support as ever & being a lynchpin in the organisation.
Very responsive in The Lion Sleeps Tonight... tremendous!

Then our only tiny plane of the trip, to Alderney... Ralph and his team as ever very organised and attentive to detail...
...I suspect the colour scheme is not up to them, alternative but traditional all at once!

This time we sang in St Anne's Church, rather than the Island Hall, which had a fine acoustic and an even finer crowd of enthusiastic people...

Despite this notice, I could not find The Sword in the Stone on my travels...

Clearly by travelling to Alderney we were in good company:

Then the planning had to change... we had only just got onto Alderney by plane; the fog covered just as we landed & so there was a huge backlog of flights the next morning (and wind and rain); so obviously... a BOAT to SARK was the very best option!
Oh yes...
My body achieved Sark... but my breakfast did not (that's quite enough detail on that I think...)
We were looked after very well (and very carefully) by Jane & Sarah, and had a great time... especially as the longer we stayed the better the weather got... till it was actually Summer this AM!

Above are some of the models representing the initial settlers on Sark in the 17th Century... (there is one real person... can you spot them!?)
The island is celebrating the 450th anniversary of its Royal Charter with many events & fun is being had by all who live on the island...

Excellent again to be welcomed into this small community, tho' its being Summer, there were also some tourists in the audience... and another surprise:- Carole (with her two friends, Christian & Ulrike) were also there... on holiday!

...and we saw a Perseid meteor (yes ONE, we did not want to overdo it... it was enough!); we might have seen more before, but the cloud did not lift till last night!
...and gardens were visited this AM too...

...and thank you for inviting us!

So our CI tour has been as splendid and eventful as ever was... and we look forward to Jersey tonight... we have already had a (very serene) boat crossing from Sark to Guernsey and now await the flight to Jersey...


Monday, 10 August 2015

Brilliant a cappella nacht

Three groups, a beautiful setting, a lovely summer evening... all glorious!

Schloss Moyland, Bedburg-Hau was looking terrific; both castle:

& gardens (with moat & art too!):

Great to see our old Dutch friends - iNtrmzzo - and to meet some guys from Berlin... YeoMen
A wonderful mix of a cappella... the audience were gracious enough to welcome us all!

Thanks to Bruno for organising the day... lovely to get the invitation... a very delightful evening was had by all.


iNtrmzzo (moving to avoid moths!):

Special thanks to iNtrmezzo for doing the last third, meaning that they were the group who had to deal with the (enormous) moths who were drawn to the stage lights... and even into their mouths.... gloriously funny; they dealt with it excellently!

As ever on a cappella nachts we were looked after very well, and enjoyed our trip to NW Germany... we were just up the road from Kleve... which we have subsequently found was, as some of us suspected, where Henry VIII's wife, Anne of Cleves came from!
...and it is very near The Netherlands...
... therefore lovely to see our very loyal friend and fan Gertie, who came to say goodbye to Steve at one of his last gigs! (Steve's last on the European mainland.)

Here is Steve (miraculously blurred) with the other speakers of that Low Countries' language... Dutch / Flemish (*delete as applicable):-

Well, we're off on Wednesday to 'finish Steve off' on four of the Channel Islands...
Island hopping off we go...

Friday, 10 July 2015

Wine and Voices Festival, Chateau Roubine

An evening in the sun in a vineyard in the South of France...
How marvellous!

Our stage beyond the dinner alfresco...

Delightful to be invited via our old friend Jean-Marie Gardon, to Chateau Roubine, Lorgues/Draguignan.... a splendid vineyard - excellent rosé wines, natch - half the audience were a large group from AccorHotels & the rest, members of the public & friends of the vineyard from all over Europe... Denmark, Belgium, The Netherlands etc...

...and what a terrific evening; could be said it was a mite hot in white tuxedo/dress gear... but all was well... Thank goodness the show began at 9.00PM, so it was cooler by the end!
We premièred our tea-instruction song in French... and it went very well!  Now we can lecture people in English, French & German on the way to make tea!

We were all given a feast too... all the fun of the fair!
Thank you to La Chatelaine, Valérie Rousselle and George too; wonderful hosts you were.

There was a great deal of lovely art around the place including this fine metallic swordsman!

En Gardon!

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Dinner by the Tower

We were honoured to be invited by Sir Tim Rice to entertain him & his colleagues at their summer dinner for the Society of Distinguished Songwriters...

This year the man himself is 'King Sod' as they put it in 'SODS'... and so this evening was all his fault! (Naturally it was sublime.)

View arriving at Friday night's venue... (no-one was sent to the Tower)!

We were performing here (below)... & as you can see, it has quite a history!

I am afraid I cannot tell you who else was there (Apart from Sir TR) otherwise we might have to kill you...
...but suffice to say, it was remarkable to be singing Penny Lane to such a room of celebrated muzos and have them singalong!
The assembled company were gracious in their appreciation.

Delightful evening in the glorious heat of a London Summer (8 days long, as you all know!)

Onwards to the South of France...

Monday, 29 June 2015

Glorious Midsummer (no murders)

No need for Inspector Barnaby in leafy middle England last night, as we performed in the beautiful Chapel at Sarsden House, Oxfordshire, as part of the Dean and Chadlington Festival...

We were invited by the Festival director, guitarist, Craig Ogden, who we have known for several years. Delighted with the invite; what a splendid chap he is!
You may have noticed his new CD is already top of the Classical Charts...

We were very well looked after at Lord and Lady Chadlington's house... with its quite stunning gardens; many of our audience for the evening were enjoying tea and cakes there when we arrived (this was part of their ticket:- glorious).


oh, and bee heaven...

So having eaten like royalty... (Mike helped get some things out of the oven...) was off to Sarsden House... with more spectacular and wonderful views...

The Festival puts on the same concert twice on these evenings, as they are so popular, and it was no different for us.... two packed houses of enthusiastic and excellent jolliness...

Splendid to have Carole Sterckx & Tim Newton sharing the evening with us too...
Excellent to chat to so many of the audience after the shows.

A thoroughly enjoyable time, and such a shame to have to leave... but as we could get to our own beds.... well, why not!?

The Chadlington's dogs were also very welcoming...

...and then one fell in love with Carole...

...but eventually...

Trip away,
Make no stay,
Meet me all by break of day...