A singer’s blog: Both sides now

8 May 2018

How strange to be in the audience waiting for the choir to enter instead of lining up backstage with a dozen or more songs ear-worming their way through my head. This was the first Inspiration Southampton concert I’d not sung in and, as the orchestra tuned up, I took my place a few rows back from the front of an expectant Guildhall.

As familiar faces filed into their places on the stage, I was definitely missing that edge of nerves that sharpens just before a performance. However, I had a strong feeling of anticipation for what was to come and was not disappointed! The programme was rich and varied allowing both choir and orchestra to show their range and virtuosity. I know from the past how the BSO rehearse just once with the choir on the morning of the concert but, as Helen (Hodrien) put it, “to think that this time last week we hadn’t sung it through from memory!”.

I’d only had a spoonful of Inspiration sugar before I was thinking, just like Mary (Curry) who was also watching this time, “I knew we were good, but I didn’t realise we were this good!”. Characteristic choral Cockney came flooding back in ‘It’s a jolly ‘olliday’ and ‘Chim Chim Cheree’ and the auditorium was buzzing. Roger (Toye), who picked this up from onstage, said, “…we saw the audience lift noticeably probably even as soon as ‘Pure Imagination’. And then it went up another notch, “When we nailed ‘Make them hear you’”.

If the fourth wall of a stage is the one between the performers and their audience, then you sent in the Roman cavalry and ‘blew down the doors (and the rest of the wall) to let me in’!

The late-lamented Ken Dodd would say he never did a one man show: he viewed his act as a dialogue between him and his audience and, if there were goosebumps and throat lumps rising on stage then I was coming out in symphonic sympathy with each successive number.

Kim (Brown) remarked, “It’s a shame we never get to hear ourselves as a group,” and I won’t recommend a mass exodus from the stage to the auditorium but, I hugely enjoyed the enforced lay-off from where I was sitting! I was trying to make notes as the programme progressed but, between not wanting to miss anything, finding myself joining in with numbers I knew and having tear-splintered vision I was restricted to mostly one-word comments: Wow! (several times); lush – ‘Pure Imagination’; powerful and stirringly emotional - ‘Make them hear you’) and just Oooh! for ‘You’ll never walk alone’.

I love Pete’s pre- and post-piece patter but I couldn’t believe it when he said, “We’re getting near to the end of our concert today…” time really does fly when you’re “havin’ a good time”.

The penultimate finale of the afternoon, when the BSO launched into the ‘Carousel Waltz’ took me back, as music often does, to my childhood lounge with the stereogram playing at 33 rpm and my Mum and Dad dancing from settee to fireplace and back again.

And, come the new term, I’ll be back again, along with lots of new faces, looking forward to the heatwave weather report concert (Another Day of Sun) and another bad attack of ear worms!

Words and photographs
Alan Matlock
Inspiration Southampton

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