Tag Archives: gospel

May It Be

The Choir have been singing Enya’s May It Be since we did our Music from the Movies concert in 2013, and it is very much enjoyed by us all. We used it as part of our gospel rep on tour last summer, and a video of one of those performances is below. This was filmed on a very hot day, when a few plans of places to visit did not come together (due to traffic, mostly), and you cannot tell from the Choir’s performance how hot and tired we were. We gave our usual high standard of concert that evening, and very much enjoyed ourselves.

Down to the River to Pray

I’ve just uploaded a clip of the Choir singing Down to the River to Pray in Chamalieres-sur-Loire while on tour in summer. It seems a long time ago now. The odd thing about the night of this concert was that the heavens had opened and it was exceptionally wet, a merciful respite from the heat of the previous few days. I hope you enjoy the singing.

Choir Tour 2013 – The Retrospective

Last week was a hectic one, crammed with all kinds of singing and social events for the lucky 50 or so people on the Medina Community Choir tour bus. From what I can remember it went something like this:

Day 1

Or it could have been Day 0 (see this post for an explanation).

We departed Fishbourne on the 4am ferry and met up with our tour coach in Portsmouth and loaded it up with our bags and the music/sound equipment (which had been brought over in the car of the kind Gerry, husband of Avril, who returned back to the Island on the 5am ferry).

Nothing of note happened on the cross-channel ferry or on the journey from Caen to Angers, except for our first encounter with a roundabout near our hotel which proved to confuse our coach driver nearly every time he drove around it. This time he took us to the wrong part of the retail/industrial estate that our hotel was in.

That evening we had our first group meal, in the local Buffalo Grill, which surfaced some of the nerves frayed by the early start and long journey, with some complaints about how rare some of the burgers were and a few over-heated discussions about whether or not people should eat the paid-for breakfast.

Day 2

La BauleThis was a day of leisure with the choir being taken to La Baule for a day by the seaside. We did struggle to find coach parking in La Baule, which added some delay to folks launching themselves on the markets and beaches of one of France’s most prestigious resorts. Once released, there was a fair degree of hat buying, lunch consumption and even some brave souls going for a dip in the sea. One member of the choir spent 20 minutes talking, in broken French, to another member while they paddled in the sea without realising she was from the choir (‘I had sand in my eyes’ was the excuse). She only realised when she asked where her conversational partner was from, and when the answer was ‘Sandown’, she looked more closely and realised she had not been talking to a French stranger!

On return home, we picnicked on the grass outside the hotel and much wine, bread and potatoes were consumed.

Day 3

Troglodyte VillageThis was the day that we finally got down to the business of the tour, but not before a little tourism with a visit to the troglodytique village of Rochemenier, a medieval set of farms where the inhabitants chose to dig their houses in holes in the plain rather than to have regular homesteads. We sang here in the underground chapel, an event some found very moving, but an elderly Yorkshire couple visiting at the same time were overheard saying to one another “it’s alright, love, they’re coming out” as we left. Not a rave review!

Singing in the underground chapel

Singing in the underground chapel

From here we went directly to the Eglise Saint Nicolas in Nantes. The pictures we had seen beforehand made it look stunning and it totally lived up to expectation, and more. The church is vast and the acoustic great. We got the equipment setup and had a rehearsal before heading out to find dinner and quickly explore the environs of Nantes closeby.

On our last tour in 2010, the audiences we had at our concerts in churches were quite disappointing. I think the most we people we had was about 50. Therefore when we walked out to begin the concert we were all very chuffed to see around about 140 people filling the pews to listen to our wares. Throughout the night they clapped enthusiastically and, as happened at all three concerts, gave us a standing ovation at the end. Certainly from their reaction the concert was a success, and apart from amusing, verging on rude, mis-pronunciations of the French introductions to the songs, from the choir’s point-of-view, the concert went well too.

Day 4

Another day without a concert and this time we went west towards Tour. Our first stop was Amboise to visit Clos Luce, the final residence of Leonardo da Vinci. The search for a place to park on this occasion did create some fear, as we came close to the top of the slope above some allotments (but only because further back on a bus you cannot see where the front is, and the front wheels are set a long way back compared to a car, it was all about perspsective). Anyway, once settled into Amboise it turned out to be quite beautiful and ancient and Clos Luce a wonderfully laid out park honouring the inventions of da Vinci.

From here we went to what was probably the most anticipated stop of the tour – the wine cellars of Monmousseau. While folks were no doubt looking forward to wine bargains and free tasting, none of us were expecting the depth of the tunnels (many kilometres) or the very interesting tour we received (who can imagine having a job turning tens of thousands of wine bottles a day?). We also took the opportunity to sing here, although the only audience we had this time were the staff, as it was late in the afternoon. They enjoyed our short performance, and they had looked after us well, even though they did not normally handle coach parties.

Finally, keeping to the theme of the underground and les caves (wine cellars) our evening meal was at Restaurant La Cave in Montlouis-sur-Loire. We had a very fine meal here, swiftly delivered with an amazing flambeed desert which contained ice cream. Again we sang here, as we left, energised by a few glasses of wine and the manageress was very impressed, and generously gave us a case of wine she was so overcome with emotion. Of all of our busking events of the tour, this was the one that Hannah, our musical director, picked out as her highlight.

Day 5

A much more simple day – Nantes. This time we had the day to spend visiting the sites of this city as people wanted, from the impressive chateau to the amazing Machines de L’Ile to the wealth of shopping opportunities.

We did busk again, in the Place Royal, handing out leaflets for our concert. The priest at the church was of the opinion that our concert on this day (Thursday) would have a much smaller audience as the locals would already be heading away to their seaside houses for the weekend, so we knew we had to drum up custom. That meant when we walked out to our ‘stage’ in the evening we were even more pleased than on Tuesday to see an even bigger audience, some of whom we had captured through our leafleting. The audience probably numbered around 200.

Singing in Saint Nicolas

Singing in Saint Nicolas

The concert went well again, with improved introductions to the songs in French, and the audience was great, with much swaying during the Gospel Medley.

Day 6

St JosephThis was the first of two days staying local in Angers. After the short trip into the town from the hotel, some of the choir headed from the drop-off to the church of St Joseph where we were to perform to check it out. Our reconnaissance was held up, as a funeral was finishing up in the church, and twenty boisterous Brits blundering in would have been something of a faux pas. Once inside we were impressed by the acoustic here. Internally it is a much more straightfoward church compared to Saint Nicolas, but the echo was immense, so much so that Sally, our wonderful pianist for the week, debated whether or not she should bother using the sustain pedal on the piano.

Our busking in Angers that evening was a different experience to Nantes, where we had gathered in a random square. This time members of the choir had discovered a piano in the central square of Nantes, Place du Ralliement, in front of the Grand Theatre, with a sign encouraging people to use it. So we did, and produced a lovely sound that echoed around the square.

The audience for our last concert of the tour was a lot less than those of Nantes, but no less enthusiastic. They got to see Ella, our youngest soloist at six years old, high five Ben, our cameraman for the week, on her walk back down the church aisle after her solo. One audience member, who leads a gospel choir in Angers, remarked to Hannah that our singing had surpassed those of her choir and she now felt very embarrassed for all of the weddings and events her choir had sung the same songs at. Praise indeed.

On return to the hotel (B&B Anger 2), we may have been a little noisy in the salle du petit dejeuner as we ate the last of the potatoes and drank some wine and beer and reminisced about the events of the tour until the small hours of the morning.

Days 6 & 7

Our last full day in France was a free day and most folks headed into Angers by local bus to further explore the town, its castle, museums, bars, shops and restaurants. There is a lot of history and art to be found in Angers and we had a great time there. Your writer can recommend the Terra Botanica on the outskirts of Angers. I would not have expected a plant-based theme park to be an enjoyable experience, either for me or a six year old or a sixty year old, but all three of us thoroughly enjoyed six hours there, and arrived slightly late for the final group meal of the tour.

The final meal was in the same venue as the first, the Buffalo Grill of Angers. Due to some prior organisation, it was a much more slick experience and after our hearty meals we had the prize giving for the tour. Everyone got a medal, with awards such as ‘Colours of the Wind’ and ‘Don Juan’ bringing much merriment to the members of the tour.

The return home once again started very early in the morning, with a 3:30am departure from the hotel. We made good progress to Caen and the crossing back to Blightly was as uneventful as the trip over the week before.

Singing on WightlinkOur last singing engagement was on the Wightlink ferry back over the Solent, in return for Wightlink’s generous support through their community programmes of our tour. Our fellow passengers were regaled with May It Be and Circle of Life for the last time of the tour, and a shock inclusion of My Heart Will Go On from Titanic, its only performance of our busking events.


So the tour of 2013 is now complete. All that remains is for the 40Gb of video to be edited and played back to the choir at a future social event. We all had great fun, made many new friends, learnt a lot about each other and about France, sang in some amazing and varied venues and created some aural pleasure for our audiences.


Today is the Day (Or Is It?)

With the Choir’s departure from the Island being on a 4am ferry on Sunday morning, the dilemma for the folks going on tour is whether that means having a sleep before leaving (making it tomorrow) or staying up through the night (making the first day of tour today!).

The weather looks good for next week in Angers and Nantes. We’ll be blogging on here while we are away to keep you all up-to-date on happenings.

On Thursday we gave our warm-up concert at Cowes Baptist Church, which was a great occasion. The audience joined in well and gave us very warm applause, almost as warm as the church was! The collection for charities raised over £200 for Frontline and the Isle of Wight Foodbank.

Some Downloads for Tour

A small number of files are available for the Choir to download for rehearsal and practice of the music for the tour. Note that Shenandoah only has the upper parts (sorry basses). Only registered members can access these pages.

The Tour Approaches

It is nearly 10 days until we depart (not at a pleasant time, instead a 4am Wightlink ferry from Fishbourne), and just a week until we do a pre-tour concert at Cowes Baptist Church at 7pm (not 7:30pm, as this post said before). Anyone is welcome, tickets are free, with retiring collection for charity. It will be a great and uplifting concert. Do not fear to come in case we are a little rusty before tour, we’ll be totally on form. We hope to see many folks there.

On mention of the ferry, many thanks to Wightlink who are supporting out travel on tour with their community sponsorship scheme.

The Tour 2013

With Thursday’s concert done, which from all comments we’ve seen was excellently received, if rather hot in the theatre, we now move to concentrating on the tour. It’s not long until it starts, on 4th August, so the short time we have will be really intense. Before the serious rehearsals begin, logistics need sorting, such as the all important schedule (three concerts are planned and several trips), the selection of songs and the organisation of the ‘roadies’ to lug the equipment we use and set it up for each concert.

To set the scene of the tour, this is the set of music we will be singing, some is pure gospel, and some more gospel-ish.
1. Joyful, Joyful!
2. He ain’t heavy
3. Down to the River to Pray
4. Steal Away
5. Standing in the need of Prayer
6. Joshua fit the battle of Jerricho
7. A moment like this
8. Go Down, Moses
9. Rule the World
10. Down by the Riverside
11. O Happy Day!
12. Shadowland
13. Gospel Medley
14. Let it be
15. Deep River
16. Bridge Over Troubled Water
17. Something Inside so strong
18. The Prayer
19. Angels
20. His Eye is on the Sparrow
21. May it be
22. Rhythm of Life
23. The Circle of Life
Only two songs on that list are solos, so the tour choir have 21 songs to learn off by heart. We hope our audiences in France appreciate our effort!

Singathon for Lottie Rann Trust

In a week’s time the Choir will be holding a sing-a-thon, by now a regular fixture in our calendar. This time we are looking for members of the Choir who are taking part in this mammoth 6 hours of singing to be sponsored for the Lottie Rann Trust. Members of the public are welcome to pop by and hear what we are up to, and tea/coffee and cakes will be on sale, also in aid of the Lottie Rann Trust.

This will also be the first time we rehearse for our upcoming tour to the Loire region in France, so it is doubly exciting for members of the Choir. Most of the music we practice will be gospel, as that forms the basis for the concerts we will be giving on tour, but we do have a rather loose definition of gospel, so there will be something for everyone.

If you are near Cowes Baptist Church on Saturday 20th April between 10am and 4pm and fancy a hot drink, a cake, to hear some lovely music being put together and give something to a worthy cause, then do drop in!

Wedding Singing

Today a section of the Choir sang at a wedding in the historic St Mildred’s Church in Whippingham, which is etched in Choir members’ minds for having been the scene of a particularly chilly charol concert last Christmas. The weather today was not much better, continuing the rainy theme of this summer. The Choir were engaged to sing some songs as people were arriving, some during a ‘reflection’ period of the service (there was no signing of the register, as the couple were already married, and this was a blessing), and most interestingly at the very end of the service. The songs were a mixture of Motown and gospel, and Hannah, our Director, sang a duet with first-time (with our Choir) soloist Olwen Keats (from the Sopranos). Together they sang Lloyd-Webber’s Pie Jesu, and brought a tear or two to the bride’s eye.

The unique element to our appearance was a flash-mob at the end. The bride requested this, and wanted us to sing Son of a Preacher Man, as the groom is indeed the son of a preacher man. As the organist played the recessional, he crashed a load of duff notes, and our pianist cut in with Son of a Preacher Man, and Paul Smith, of our bass section, sang out the opening line of the song from within the congregation , and then was joined by others from the Choir who were seeded in the congregation, along with a couple of the bride’s friends. The Choir all joined in after a few lines, and the congregation definitely found it amusing, and the groom was taken by surprise and looked really happy.

And so this was the Choir’s first flash-mob.


Photos from Cowes Methodist Gospel Concert

An audience member took some photos of the Choir during our recent concert at Cowes Methodist Church. It gives a flavour of us in action.