NYCGB plus alumni at the Royal Albert Hall

Panoramic photograph of the interior of the Royal Albert Hall
Royal Albert Hall—as people were arriving before the concert

This past weekend I’ve been in London with some old friends (some going back nearly 28 years!) to sing with the NYCGB alumni choir at the Royal Albert Hall.

This was the first official outing of the alumni choir — obviously made up of former members of the various National Youth Choirs of Great Britain. Around 110 people turned up, including one alumnus and his son who is now also an alumnus!

We were made to feel so welcome and were included immediately as part of the family. It felt like coming home!

A few of our friends turned up to sing with us...
A few of our friends turned up to sing with us…

In all there were around 800 people singing, from boys’ and girls’ choirs, Cambiata Voices (boys whose voices are changing), training choir, main choir, chamber choir, fellowship octet and, of course, us.

Alone, we sang Five Negro Spirituals from ‘A Child of Our Time’ by Michael Tippett (1905–1998) with solos provided by fellow alumnae Kitty Whately (mezzo-soprano), Rachael Lloyd (mezzo-soprano), Paul Hopwood (tenor) and Roland Wood (baritone).

Having had about half a proper rehearsal of this five part piece I think we did not too bad, to be honest.

With the rest of the choir we sang two songs. The first was If I Ruled the World by Bricusse / Ornadel / Cullum, arranged Sam Coates. It’s the Sir Harry Secombe song arranged for choirs in a jazz style. Nice! What was really nice is that Sir Harry’s grandson was singing as he is also in NYCGB.

The final song of the evening was the gorgeous Lay a Garland by Robert Lucas de Pearsall (1795–1856).

And that was that. I bowed and left the stage, grinning from ear to ear. There is nothing in this world like singing with NYCGB. The sound is unique. The discipline is… well, okay, let’s not talk about our discipline. And the banter is heart-warming and side-splitting.

As many know, this year hasn’t been easy for me, but as I sat on the back row during the first half (and enjoyed my little snooze!) I realised that I was surrounded by friends whom I love and trust, and amongst whom I feel loved and supported. I phoned my mum this evening and thanked her for encouraging me to audition and supporting me through my time in NYC even though my dad had lost his job and money was really tight.

So, I want to say a massive thank you to NYCGB for including us as part of the family once again. And an equally enormous thank you to all the alumni who turned up and sang—seemingly they were turning alumni away on Thursday as we’d simply run out of space to seat everyone!

Beautiful piano playing by Rich Batsford

Rich Batsford—In the Moment (2014)
Rich Batsford—In the Moment (2014)

A friend of mine from National Youth Choir of Great Britain days, Rich Batsford, has released a new album called In the Moment, which is really quite beautiful.

The album consists of ten improvisational pieces on piano which are gentle, thoughtful and meditative. Exactly what I need on this emotional day of voting.

You can listen for free on Bandcamp before committing to paying for it. It’s only AUD $7.00 (approx GBP £3.90).

Luxembourg … and back again

On Friday I took the train down to Manchester, caught up with my good friend from my National Youth Choir of Great Britain days Danny Curtis and the following morning at pointlessly-early-o’clock (I got up at 04:15 BST) we caught a KLM flight to Luxembourg via Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam.

We were en route to Luxembourg to celebrate our former NYCGB colleague Jonny Grocock’s 40th birthday and the baptism of his daughter at the Anglican Church of Luxembourg.

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Luxembourg

Having done my homework online before we flew out I knew that we needed to get the number 16 bus from Luxembourg airport into the city of Luxembourg, alighting at Royal Boulevard, and that it would cost a very reasonable €1.50 (approx. £1.30).

We arrived in Luxembourg around 11:00, and thanks to Google Maps and my GPS-enabled mobile phone (HTC HD2) we were able to find the Anglican Church of Luxembourg very easily.

Venue found we went in search of lunch.

And demonstrating just how cosmopolitan and European we are we ended up at McDonalds Place d’Armes. My first McDonalds in about six or seven years.

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We returned to the Anglican Church of Luxembourg in time and Jonny’s daughter was duly baptised … by the wife of one of my former tutors at TISEC (theological college), as it turned out.

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And we then retired to the Mercure Kikuoka Golf Club for drinks, dinner and … of course, karaoke.

What fun! Danny, Jonny and his brother Richard and I enjoyed renditions of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and a song by Take That!

…and back again

Getting up pointlessly-early was becoming a habit. We closed our eyes around 23:30 (CET) and my alarm made me literally leap out of bed at 03:15 CET / 02:15 BST.

Having been in Luxembourg for only about 20 hours we caught the 06:20 plane back to Schiphol and then back to Manchester.

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I then caught trains back to Cupar in Fife, via changes at York and Edinburgh. And despite having seats booked on the Manchester-York and York-Edinburgh trains I had to stand all the way back because the trains were either too overcrowded and I couldn’t actually reach my seat or because someone was already sitting in my seat.

The first seat was occupied by a man holding a baby and I didn’t have the heart to turf him out of it. The second seat was at first unreachable but by the time the carriage had cleared sufficiently the temperature in the carriage was so unbearable that it was preferable to stand in the area between carriages next to an open window.

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All in all that was a great weekend with three great friends. Such a shame it couldn’t have been longer.