After our Picnic in the Park Concert 28 July 2013

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Elmbridge Big Band were in demand this month – providing swing, jazz standards and sultry vocal numbers in “All That Jazz” on the Riverbank at Hurst Park to entertain the crowds at the Molesey Amateur Regatta on Saturday, 20 July 2013.

Then they were joined by Elmbridge Mixed Choir on Sunday, 28 July at Homewood Park, Chertsey for The Rotary Club of Chertsey in conjunction with Runnymede Council and Samsung ’s “Picnic in the Park”where they werebothbilled as the headline acts.   In the absence of the Mayor of Runnymede as well as her Deputy, the President of Chertsey Rotary Club, Paul Greenwood, did a stalwart job introducing this fund raising event and welcoming the picnickers and performers.   When they designed their publicity poster earlier in the year, I wonder - did they have some insight as to what the weather might be doing on that day?  

We had had about three weeks of more or less still, balmy days with glorious uninterrupted sunshine.   Their poster showed a row of empty stripey deckchairs blowing inside out!   And, yes, sure enough, it was a blustery day which brought with it a goodly selection of weather conditions – beautiful blue skies, lots of fluffy white clouds but being chased across the sky by angry looking black ones, cool breezes and, the inevitable short sharp downfall of rain.    But being British, the show must go on and, undaunted, the faithful few picnickers went on picnicking and the performers went on performing.   Everybody seemed prepared for all eventualities with sun hats, sun cream and sunglasses, through to multiple layers from short sleeves, long sleeves, raincoats and umbrellas!

The big band looked suave in their usual black outfits although I think most of the picnickers couldn’t really see how handsome they all were as they were rather tucked away in a small marquee at the top of a grassy bank.   Conducted and introduced by Lewis McGuinness, they were more or less up to their normal numbers with about 25 of them combining to make some glorious sounds which, hopefully, did not drift away too much in the wind.   They were joined by three soloists, Matthew, Camille and Victoria who emerged from the marquee every so often to add some vocal variety to the lively proceedings.

In their first set they played Birdland;  In The Midnight Hour;  The Lady Is A Tramp;  Harlem Nocturne;  How Sweet It Is;  Groovin Easy;  Girl From Ipanema;  Mack The Knife.

Then came the turn of the depleted Elmbridge Mixed Choir, dressed casually in white tops and jeans with colourful ties and scarves with bobbles on, we were down to about half of our usual numbers – Why?   Holidays?   The Weather?   Other commitments?   Whatever their reasons, they were sorely missed!   About 60 of us battled with the elements to make ourselves heard as our dulcet tones were wafted away on the wind in the opposite direction from the audience, our music was continually wanting to turn itself over or escape from our grasp altogether and those of us with hair were having it blown across our eyes and faces!   We were arranged on a grassy bank where Cliff, in his usual energetic way, did his utmost to engage the attention of both audience and choir alike – favourite phrase “watch me”!

In their first set they sang:  Two Too Wet;  Hallelujah;  Bring Him Home;  The Coming Of The Lord;  The Prayer;  I Walk The Line: The Music Of Johnny Cash;  Andrew Lloyd Webber A Concert Celebration.

Following a short interval where many people indulged themselves in a Mr Whippy or a 99, ate lots of pineapple in the vain hope of improving their vocal chords, whilst others removed some layers and even basked in the brief glimpse of sunshineand Mr McDonut entertained the children, and some choir members, with tricks and balloon modelling, the Big Band resumed for their second set in the marquee.   The audience numbers were considerably boosted by members of the choir and some even joined in (discreetly in a side tent where they thought they were not being noticed!) doing high kicks (well, low kicks!) à la Tiller Girls (for those few who are old enough to remember them!) to soloist, Matthew’s, rendering of ‘New York, New York’!

In their second set they played:  Livin La Vida Loca;  Don’t Know Why;  Beyond The Sea;  At Last;  Music To Watch Girls By;  Respect;  Hayburner;  Straighten Up And Fly Right;  New York New York.

As Homewood Park is a vast expanse of open grassland and woods dotted with wild flowers, it seemed appropriate that the choir’s second set should begin with ‘Build Me Up Buttercup’.   We then resumed the battle with the elements and, as the Big Band had beaten us to it, Cliff decided that we should not stop off in our scheduled ‘New York, New York’.   The ‘never fails to please’ old favourite, ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, rounded off the set but not quite the whole proceedings.   In a ‘first’, the Big Band and the Mixed Choir joined together to perform ‘Sway’, a 1953 very rhythmic marimba song more recently popularised by Michael Bublé.   It sounded very good to me – I think the audience thought so too!   

In their second set the choir sang:  Build Me Up Buttercup;  Save The Last Dance For Me;  Funiculi Funicula;  Finale From ‘The Gondoliers’;  Seventy Six Trombones;  Sweet Caroline;  Bohemian Rhapsody.

We all had a pleasant, fun afternoon and enjoyed doing our little bit to help the worthy causes.

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