150 singers, 1 conductor, 1 organ and piano accompanist, 3 brass players, 1 percussionist, mountains of hired sheet music, a large group of volunteers, plateloads of cake, months of organisation behind the scenes and a very friendly welcome equals one very successful and memorable Come & Sing Day.
We had some very positive feedback from singers and audience:
"excellent organisation very friendly atmosphere"
"Singing things I haven't sung for a long time! Cakes!"
"Singing. James's wonderful relaxed and humorous approach."
"The opportunity to sing with many like-minded people"
"The variety of music"
"The music, excellent conductor & accompanist & trumpets etc & organ"
"Love working with James. Camaraderie with all the singers"
"so good, conductor brilliant, organist brilliant, exhilerating!!"
"The banter! And the organ!"
Saturday 12 November was a bit damp outside but inside St Mary & St Giles church was a hive of activity from about 8:45am when the first volunteers arrived to prepare for handing out music to the early arrivals. The chairs had been turned and piano moved on Friday. Jane's meticulous planning with David's advance collation of all the music copies into labelled envelopes paid off as registration for 150 singers proceeded with little difficulty.
Jane Wolfson welcomed everyone to our first Come & Sing day with the restored Willis pipe organ.
She explained that this day was dedicated to the memory of Lesley Smart, co-founder of our Come & Sing days, who died earlier this year from cancer.
Lesley had helped with the early plans for this event.
James Wharton the conductor and Richard Heyes the organist conferred on the order of rehearsal and soon the singers sitting in their SATB places in the nave were being warmed up as the singing got under way with the 'Old Hundredth', 'Zadok the Priest', 'Cantique de Jean Racine' and the first attempt at 'Sing!' James has a wonderful way of getting people to sing their best and try something new, he was surprised how many people had never sung some of the very popular pieces included in the programme of choral music with organ or piano however there was safety in numbers for those of us who hadn't tackled some of the pieces before.
We gave the singers a tea and cake break after about 90 minutes of singing, serving in both the hall and the church. We continued with Sing! after the break, followed by 'Locus Iste' and 'How Lovely are thy dwellings'. During the lunch break at 1pm some people stayed to eat their sandwiches in the hall while others found lunch in the town. After lunch we learned 'I was glad' when we had to change positions because it has a two choir section, 'I do like to be beside the seaside' and reprised some of the pieces before rehearsing the 'Old Hundredth' with the trumpets and timpani.
The audience arrived in time for the tea and cake break at 4:00 pm. This year with the gallery available again after the organ restoration completion the audience mostly occupied the gallery though also sat in the seats beside the font. The programme order as sung was:
I was Glad - Hubert Parry (organ and choir)
Nimrod by Edward Elgar - played on the organ by James Wharton and dedicated to the memory of Lesley Smart
How lovely are Thy dwellings Fair (from German Requiem) by Johannes Brahms (piano and choir) and dedicated to the memory of Lesley Smart
Cantique de Jean Racine by Gabriel Faure (organ and choir)
Locus Iste by Anton Bruckner (unaccompanied)
Fiddle Faddle by Leroy Anderson - played on the organ by Richard Heyes
I do like to be beside the seaside arranged by Andrew Carter (Reginald Dixon's theme tune at the Tower Ballroom, Blackpool) (piano and choir)
Zadok the Priest - G F Handel (organ and choir)
The Old Hundredth (All people that on earth do dwell) arranged by Ralph Vaughan Williams (organ, choir, trumpets and timpani)
Sing! by David Willcocks (setting of Widor's Toccata from Symphony No. 5) (choir and organ)
We launched the 2017 date (11 November) and took a poll of which piece to sing, the result of which will be announced in the spring.
I would like to thank James Wharton, Richard Heyes, Jane Wolfson, David Scrutton and Lesley Salter in particular for all they did before the day to make it such fun, the trumpet players Ian Facer, Malcolm Highfield, Jamie Crompton and Timpani player Sheridan Burns for enhancing The Old Hundredth and all the cake makers and volunteers who helped on the day.
More photos can be found at Come & Sing Day 2016 on Flickr.
Words by Anna Page, photos by John and Anna Page