Entrance to The Royal Albert Hall on Saturday morning for our final rehearsal before the performance.
In common with many pre-concert run throughs it was not very encouraging. Fortunately the old saying ‘it’ll be alright on the night’ came to our aid.
See the mighty organ. A view from the audience seats at a break in rehearsal.
Our hotel was near Heathrow so a bus trip into London for the rehearsal began at 8am. The trip was uneventful and took 30 minutes. Return to the hotel was rather different as the traffic had built up and the coach was pointing the wrong way. We were forced to drive into London to Hyde Park before turning round (the driver giving us a guided commentary past the sights) and the homeward journey took 1 hour 45 minutes.
Just time for a bite to eat, a wash and brush up before donning uniform and we were back on the coach and in our seats by 6.30.
The Fochabers Fiddlers entertained us before the concert proper began and as the audience entered; a marvellous group of violinists got the feet tapping and hands clapping.
The concert began with Fanfare and National Anthem with the band, the choirs and the organ for a rousing opening.
The whole evening was a delight for everyone, performers and audience alike. Some of my highlights were; ‘Goin’ Home’ by male voices was very moving, ‘Another Day’ by the ladies was very entertaining and the bands interpretation of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was truly thrilling. The men, with organ accompaniment, sang’ By Babylon’s Wave’ a difficult piece, not, perhaps, to everyone’s taste but politely received. The first half closed with ‘ the Hallelujah Chorus’ (we just hope the audience didn’t notice the mistakes) after which we needed a breather.
The second half commenced with the bands playing ‘Strike Up The Band’, a stunning drum section making it a very memorable performance. The ladies sang ‘Hail Holy Queen’ (from Sister Act) and ‘Cross the Wide Missouri’ lightening the mood in preparation for ‘Pilgrim’s Chorus’ by the male section, a piece by Wagner, followed by the traditional song ‘Amen’. Twinklers were switched on for ‘Calm Is The Sea’ (worn on the left lapel, it flashes 2 quite bright lights) a 3 verse song; verse 1 was band and choir, verse 2 was organ and choir, verse 3 was choir alone; as these verses progressed, the lights were gradually dimmed until the last verse was accompanied by thousands of twinkling lights in almost total darkness. As the music ended, twinkling continued in complete silence for a further 20 seconds , a tremendously moving moment. A couple of pieces by the bands, another set by the Fochabers Fiddlers and it was time for some audience participation with ‘Rule Britannia’, ‘Morte Christe’ and ‘Land of Hope and Glory’: songs were sung lustily and flags waved enthusiastically to round off a magnificent experience.
Back to the hotel and we were entertained by Mick Mullarkey keeping us all singing along and having a great time until time for bed at about 1.45, after a long but ‘rewarding’ day.
Apart from us all having a wonderful time, we must remember what it is all about. Cancer Research UK has benefitted form the proceeds of these concerts, which have been performed every 3 years since 1987, and received around £500,000.00. As we sing ‘Goin’ Home’ and ‘Calm is the Sea’ in particular, we reflect on our loved one’s and friends who are afflicted with this dreadful disease. The last few years have seen tremendous improvements in diagnosis and treatments and survival rates have greatly improved. I am sure we all know someone who has made a great recovery as well as someone who has succumbed; Thanks to the efforts of a great number of dedicated people, the fight will continue.
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