Leaving my ukulele at home, I journeyed to London’s Southbank to enjoy a day of singing by the Thames on the opening day of the Chorus Festival, the start of this year’s Festival of Neighbourhood.
After some fun vocal warm-up exercises, we adjourned to the Queen Elizabeth Hall to practice three songs to sing en masse down on the Riverside Terrace to launch the Festival: Purcell’s Come, Ye Sons of Art; Jerusalem (Blake/Parry) & the Kinks’ Waterloo Sunset. We were accompanied by a brass band on the upper stage & it was very moving being part of such a large group. The rain managed to hold off until the final few bars of the last song & you may spot people’s hoods going up in the video!
Various events were dotted in & around the Royal Festival & Queen Elizabeth Halls for the remainder of the day.There were around twenty separate choirs giving free performances. Additionally, various choirs ran Trading Station sessions, where you could drop in & learn a few songs with them.
The London Forest Choir, were up in St Paul’s Roof Pavilion, where I enjoyed sight-singing some of musical director Jonathan Rathbone’s arrangements of classical music & old standards (thanks to the woman who kindly shared her music with me!).
I then delved down to the RFH basement, where the echoey acoustics were superb for an uplifting session with Trade Winds. We learnt intricate harmonies of African & Serbian songs by ear. Emerging upstairs to the Clore Ballroom, I was met with a blast of Mr Blue Sky from nearly two hundred dancing members of the Rock Choir, who performed several more excellent numbers. More vocal warm-ups to wake us all up, the audience then joined in with providing backing harmonies for the final Saturday Showcase of an ad-hoc choir brought together for the day.
In all, it was a really useful & entertaining day, giving good tips on the different techniques between singing formal classical numbers, pop & rock songs & musical theatre. I kept bumping into the same friendly participants, despite the large number of folk involved, so hello to them if they read this blog!.
I’d definitely recommend an event like this to anyone wanting to improve their vocal skills & confidence in singing in public.