Choir’s first concert a huge success – especially with the 16-month-old

CHESTER GUESTS: Norm Collie of New Plymouth (centre) and fellow basses during a concert at a Hoole church. Choir members were guests of City of Chester Male Voice Choir at All Saints Church.

See slide shows of Rob’s pictures at Flickr photo website: HERE>

I haven’t yet talked about the breakfast available here at the Ramada Chester and it’s just worth mentioning in case any of you are worried about the choir’s stamina.

They weren’t kidding when they called it a ‘full’ breakfast and I am happy to report that in the  small waistline versus stamina dilemma, stamina is doing well.

After the feast, the men had another rehearsal in preparation for the all important competition on Saturday, but listening to the guys talking about how difficult it is to sing after drinking coffee with milk in it, I daren’t suggest it may also be because of the scrambled egg, the sausage, the fried egg, the bacon, the sausage, the toast or maybe the black pudding that followed the cereal, fruit and pastries.

Back to the rehearsal and after two hours the men seemed to come out wide eyed like possums in a headlight mumbling ‘there is so much to remember’ or trying to hum harmonies to check they are doing the right thing. They do seem to be enjoying themselves though (I think).

Following the rehearsal, the tour party meeting was held with a great sense of urgency. ‘Focus is on tonights concert, but attention must be paid to Eisteddfod’.

The WASP’s (wives and supporters and partners – I can’t bear being a WAG (wives and girlfriends), far too canine in nature) were informed by Camp Father that the men need to focus (really?..) and that ‘From tomorrow, the men belong to Robert and me’. Was this a sacrifice to the WASP’s? Actually, they seemed quite relieved and sang them a ditty to cheer them on their way.

The biggest surprise seemed to be that on a Male Choir Tour, women could hold a note! They haven’t seen us shopping where we have had to deal with many a tricky note (£10 or £20 – equally tricky).

After lunch there was an all black invasion of Chester where a sea of black choir t-shirts massed in the centre of town.

We were honoured with a Mayoral reception in the Town Hall by the Lord Mayor Neil Ritchie and the Lady Mayoress. The reception was complete with wine and finger food although some found the french wine so different from the red stuff back home, they were looking for chips to sprinkle the stuff on – heathens!

In the midst of the reception we met the former Lady Mayoress Raewyn Bailey nee Tippett. I mention this because she is a former New Plymouth girl and has done most of her musical training at Auckland University before emigrating to further her opportunities. She has a high profile as a composer and has just won the International Music Prize for Composition so is definitely a local celeb.

The most amusing aspect though was the fact that our tour photographer (no name needed) spent an animated time swapping juicy stories of who they knew back when, who went out with who, who is married to who as he went to NP Boys High when she was at NP Girls High. Kiwi’s maybe flightless but they certainly seem to get around.

Following the Mayoral Reception, some went to The Pied Bull, a pub that dates back to the 1200’s and met Britain’s original hobbit. He was jealously  guarding a chair that purportedly dated back to 1642 and continued to guard it ferociously until his mate arrived (another hobbit) and sat down. History seems somewhat conveniently moulded to suit the occasion.

Later we all piled back into the buses and went off to All Saints Church in Hoole, a suburb of Chester. We were hosted by the City of Chester Male Choir and shared each half of the concert with them. There were many similarities, but it was pleasing to know our youngest member was younger than their youngest and our oldest was also younger than their oldest so take heart guys, youth is on our side.

The men had an energetic warm up in the church as usual and were keen to impress. The Chester Choir started each half and set their territorial authority.

However, the Kiwis totally overwhelmed the audience with a fantastic rendition of Whakarongo Ake Au. The audience didn’t understand a word but understood the intention and were suitably tamed. Well…most were subdued.

A little 16-month-old girl was thrilled with the sounds of the men, thrilled to screaming point and enthusiastically clapping. Unfortunately some didn’t appreciate it.

Again the Kiwi’s showed versatility  and offered a baby amusement service to avoid the headline ‘Kiwi conductor dis-chords English Baby’. However after a prolonged play in the gardens outside, the babe was returned in true New Zealand fashion – all black.

The concert was a huge success and many bought the CD’s so they could take home all 70 men and enjoy them in the comfort of their own sitting room. It was stated that 70 men in your own lounge was something, but the fact you could shut them up when you wanted was a real crowd pleaser. Good old on/off button eh!

Back to the hotel and to the bar for a nightcap (or seven) seemed to cap off a really successful day. One more day to practice until the biggie at Eisteddfod – sweet dreams everyone.

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