Saturday 17 July 2010 : 12.00 - 6.00 pm : Musical Picnic, Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability, Putney
End of term! No, we don’t have school terms but this year the maestro decided that we all needed a summer break – 3 weeks, but only 3 weeks, and then it’s all go for Christmas! ....
It seemed like the end of term as everything was going on in this last week – Cliff was interviewed on Radio Wey on Monday, rehearsal on Monday, rehearsal on Tuesday, Cliff interviewed on Radio Brooklands FM on Wednesday – I must say that I had never heard of those 2 radio stations so that was an education for me in itself. However, I have my radio permanently tuned to BBC Radio Surrey and on Saturday at 8.30 a.m. whose dulcet tones were filling the air-waves? but those of the Ladies Choir beautifully singing about their favourite things and their guys (one and the same thing?). This was a prelude to their appearance at Molesey Regatta on the following day, Sunday.
At 12 noon on Saturday, 17 July we were due at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability, Putney to provide the entertainment for their major annual fund raising event – a Musical Picnic. We had been so well received at last year’s similar event working a near miracle in inspiring one of their patients who had not stood up for many years to do so during our concert that a return invite was a must. We will have to await feedback to hear whether we managed to work any miracles this time. 2 free coaches were laid on to transport Elmbridge Music members to and from Putney departing from Cobham and Esher- and thereby hang a few tales – coach drivers taking back routes and getting lost in the process and parking tickets - an over-zealous parking warden had a field day in Esher – say no more!
The weather last year had been sweltering, this year it was a bit iffy – pleasantly warm, tantalising bursts of bright sunshine interspersed with threatening-looking black clouds but the rain held off and there was a very peaceful scene of patients, carers and families, including dogs, enjoying their very English summer’s afternoon picnics whilst savouring a wide variety of quality music from the Mixed Choir, Young Musicians and the Big Band. The staging, complete with red canopy as contingency for all weathers, was great from our point of view – we could see Cliff and the picnickers but I wonder how well the audience could see and hear us – we seemed a long way away from them and performing in the open air is renowned for being difficult with the sounds floating away on the breeze. There were plenty of other distractions for them too – Pimms, crepes, plant stalls, face painting etc. However, the main object of the exercise was to help the Hospital on their way to raising the £2 million they need each year to keep funding their unique multidisciplinary approach so vital in helping their residents.
Just after 12.30 pm the Mixed Choir marched (well, sauntered!) on to the stage to the strains of the Radetsky March, all wearing white tops and black bottoms (figuratively speaking!), the men looking dapper with scarves of sparkly silver and the ladies with prickly pink scarves (prickly to those without collars to tuck them under).
As this concert was to be shared between the Mixed Choir, the Young Musicians and the Big Band, the music was arranged in Sets and the Mixed Choir began the Build Up with Buttercup (some picnickers may have even been sitting on some!), we then smilingly lilted our way through a rousing Irish medley and, too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ra, they could hear we angels sing. So far so good, Cliff was smiling too – we could smile every smile for the man who conducted us now but who was it that forgot to count, pause and watch the guy who gave us the cues incurring his wrath and wiping the smiles off everyone’s faces?!
What could the audience have been thinking when Cliff invited them to join in with us, be sexy and roll their stockings down!? It must have been a relief (or maybe not!) to them when they heard those words in the next song and that it wasn’t a command after all. And why was it that the continual stream of aeroplanes were flying so low in the stratosphere? I guess it was the pilots wondering how low they could go to lend an ear to All That Jazz!
There were more instances of watch and wait, wait, wait and Cliff’s blood pressure was obviously going Up, up, up and he said that he would shoot the next person who didn’t watch him – bom, bom bom – that was ‘bout as bad as it could be! Even with something as simple as forgetting to come in on time there ain’t no excuse why things like that can make him cry he’s just gotta learn to have a laugh – oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Other musicians were originally due to perform at this concert but when they dropped out and Cliff was asked if we could sing a lot more numbers Cliff decided that he’d got a good reason for taking the easy way out and spread the load by bringing along the Young Musicians and the Big Band. So at this point we were able to sit back and let the afternoon go with Elmbridge Young Musicians, Elmbridge Young Musicians, Elmbridge Young Musicians’ very talented band. I hope the audience were Beatles fans as not only did the Mixed Choir finish Set 1 with the Beatles (with words) but the Young Musicians began Set 2 also with a Beatles medley (without words) – so they had a basinful of beatles. By this time choir members had joined the picnicking audience and couldn’t resist joining in and adding some words! Strawberries were on sale with the cream brought round in a Little Brown Jug. Their Set was rounded off with a dash of Amarillo when the audience was encouraged to show them the way by joining in and clapping.
The Big Band provided a big noise in Set 3 and got some of us In The Mood with Music to Watch Girls By whilst the plane spotters probably wished they could Go Fly With B(A) (cant think of an airline to rhyme with ‘Me’!) up into Birdland and on to Broadway! They blew, played and whistled through their planned 8 numbers so quickly that they were just getting into the swing of things that they didn’t want to leave the stage so stayed to play a further 4 numbers left off the official programme in error finally making way for the 4th Set from the Mixed Choir.
Suitably refreshed with Pimms (don’t tell Cliff!) we sung it and we danced it with Cheza Ngoma and then sang sweetly (not pub style!) about Caroline – good sounds never seemed so good even though Cliff had been inclined to believe they never would – doo doo do doo doo doo da doo. After 2 watery numbers we had a pause in the proceedings for various reasons but mainly to announce competition and raffle prize winners which had already raised over £1000 alone. With strict instructions that the audience were not to leave yet, we then soldiered on with the rousing Battle Hymn of the Republic raising us up to Believe that We Could Fly and finally asking the audience if we come back again to give a future concert Will You Be There? Judging by the applause and kind words offered by the organisers, I think that was a ‘Yes’!
It would have been so easy to leave then with the mem’ry of the day in the sun and go, go, go then, go, go, go then but, no, there was a surprise for us all – Cliff announced that he had had a request from an appreciative member of the audience to sing ‘When Irish Eyes Are Smiling’ again so that was what we were now going to do! Problem – that music was, for most of us, in our Set 1 files in the Dressing Room – yes, I know that if we had learnt the words that would not have been a problem! However, that not being the case, we grouped ourselves around the few available copies and let rip and we had a rousing singalong and all our hearts were happy all the world seemed bright and gay and when all our eyes were smiling surely we stole their hearts away!
I don’t know whether I am allowed to write my personal views here but as I am writing this, I guess it is I who makes the rules so here goes anyway! I got good vibes from that last informal rendering so think it would be fun to try to involve future audiences more, not with just suggesting they join in if they know our songs but giving them song sheets for us all to sing along in jolly informal unison. What do you all think?
But, I digress – back to this concert – believe it or not, we had still not finished! We shuffled around a bit and made enough room for the Big Band to join us in a very right royal Tribute to Queen and, judging by the applause, we were once again justified in patting ourselves on the back and believing that we are the champions!
Cliff invited us all to join him in a celebratory glass of fizz and then we all went our separate ways, some on the coaches, some in private cars, but surely all feeling we had given our time for a very worthy cause as well as ourselves having had a very enjoyable congenial day.
Now the question remains - what are we all going to do for the next 3 Tuesdays, will we have withdrawal symptoms or will we tackle our Tax Returns, reply to long overdue emails or even go away on exotic holidays? Back on 10 August and we are told ‘Christmas is coming’ so it will be all go for our next major concert at Leatherhead Theatre on 11 December – where perhaps we might get the audience to join in too!
We sang: Build Me Up Buttercup; When Irish Eyes are Smiling; Save the Last Dance for Me; And All That Jazz; Up; Sixties With a Twist; Beatles in Revue; Cheza Ngoma; Sweet Caroline; Peace Like a River; Let The River Run; Battle Hymn of The Republic; You Raise Me Up; Andrew Lloyd Webber Concert Celebration; I Believe I Can Fly; Will You Be There
Elmbridge Young Musicians played: Beatles Medley; Little Brown Jug; My Heart Will Go On; Blue Moon; Kids Go Rock Medley; When the Saints Go Marchin’ In’ Amarillo
Elmbridge Big Band played: Soul Bossa Nova; In the Mood; Lil Darlin’; Music to Watch Girls By; Come Fly with Me; Birdland; On Broadway; Car Wash, Livin La Vida Loca,
What a Wonderful World, Mack The Knife and Signed Sealed Delivered - a Stevie Wonder Medley
Elmbridge Mixed Choir and Big Band sang and played together: Tribute to Queen