Sunday May 22nd, 2016 was a great day for Out There Music Bristol. It was the third year in a row and our fourth performance at St George’s Bristol and it marked, what was without doubt, our best performance yet. And not just by a little way but by quite some distance. I was sure of this as I left the stage at the end of the night and this was only confirmed to me further as I spoke to people afterwards.
“The best one yet…..and actually Tom, by a long, long way!”
There’s no denying there is a certain element of Groundhog Day here, as I have heard this after each of our performances for the past six years or so and each time I think the same thing….”How are we going to keep topping these shows?!” Last year we had a lot of special effects with confetti, umbrellas and hats, extra drums, heart shaped helium balloons and glow sticks. This year was about the music, it didn’t need to be about anything else.
Sometimes from the podium it can be difficult to get an overall sense of the musical balance and what precisely the audience will hear from the back of the hall so during the afternoon rehearsal when we were rehearsing the Mozart Requiem, I took myself off to the balcony to have a brief listen and wow! was I blown away by what I heard. This was the same sound that opened the show and what a way to start. The assurance of the orchestra and the sheer quality and sound from the choir was something to hear, amazing!
Next the orchestra gracefully glided through Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance No.7 before bringing the house down with a smouldering and sizzling rendition of Ravel’s Bolero! And a special mention to Mr. James Everingham for inducting himself into the Percussionists Hall of Fame for people who have played the snare drum part in this timeless masterpiece! This was without doubt the best the orchestra have ever played in a performance in terms of confidence, sound quality, intonation and musical expression. A result I think of both excellent intensive short term practice leading up to the concert but also more sustained progress from the last few years of lots of hard work bearing fruit.
The Chamber Choir closed the first half as they have done previously with a dose of musical magic. After a wonderfully lucid version of Paul Patterson’s Salvum Fac Populum Tuum Domine, The blue bird by Stanford shimmered in light and shade, weaving a spell over the audience before a wonderfully contrasting performance of The Continental brought the curtain down on the opening half of the concert.
Whilst everyone else let their hair down in the interval – or at least that’s what I’ve been led to believe! – I sat calmly and quietly in my dressing room back stage looking forward to the second half.
The current OTM Bristol Children’s Choir is small right now, plus we were missing two of our wonderful members, but for those of you who saw them, you will know how brilliantly they did. Singing beautifully in tune and in 2 part harmony, When I Grow Up from ‘Matilda The Musical’ can’t have left a dry eye in the house. Following on from that and singing Roxette’s classic song, Listen To Your Heart this was a special 8 minutes of music and all the children should be very proud of themselves for rising to the occasion so magnificently. As with any great performers, when the moment came and the lights were shining on them, they didn’t shrink in the glare but they grew – just amazing!
Next came the combined OTM North and South Bristol Community Choirs and what a superb 20 minutes of music it was! A truly barnstorming version of Mumford and Son’s I Will Wait (FYI that’s 10/10 effort!) led us on to the utter contrast of A Case Of You by Joni Mitchell. This was in my opinion the choir’s finest moment to date. The openness of the sound quality, superb tuning, expression in the musical line and of the lyrics was like a 5 minute musical utopia and truly mesmeric. After this it was time to pay tribute to the great David Bowie and although we couldn’t afford to project a giant image of him up onto the wall behind the stage – or even raise one small cardboard cut-out – I think we did his memory proud with our renditions of Changes and Life On Mars.
The concert was in aid of the wonderful charity ‘Changing Tunes’ who we have been supporting for well over three years now and it was really good to have their (fairly) new CEO – Lizzie – present, so we could hear from her and also so she could experience what one of our big shows is all about for the first time. It’s obviously a charity our audience really believe in as I’m delighted to say that with the generous support of the audience we helped raise £420.85 so thank you to all who donated on the night.
Before the finale it was fun to do a selfie from the podium both ways with the audience and all the musicians on stage and it was totally spontaneous, honest!
And then the finale! Both community choirs, the children’s choir and the orchestra all on stage at the same time, singing and playing their hearts out for 9 minutes of electrifying musical performance. James Bay’s Hold Back The River gave way to iconic Defying Gravity from ‘Wicked The Musical’. Months of hard work all came together in that moment and it was an unbelievable end to a very memorable night!
Special thanks to Alison, my childhood piano teacher who was playing piano for the concert. It is always an inspiration to have her at these events and whether it is looking over from the podium, baton in hand and seeing her or having her page turn for me, I know I quite possibly wouldn’t be doing any of this if it wasn’t for her.
Also Gareth on bass and Andy on guitar from Changing Tunes, always a pleasure and I sometimes think they don’t realise just how much they add to the mix.
James I’ve already mentioned but I’ll say again how good it is to have him involved. An inversion of the situation with Alison really, I taught James music right back from 2007 when he was only 9 so to see him now all grown up and assured but still part of these events is great and there seems something very cyclical about it all.
One more special thanks to Dave and his wife Rita who worked tirelessly all day and whose help was invaluable in ensuring everything ran smoothly on the day, no mean feat when you have approximately 170 performers to co-ordinate in a space as small as the backstage area of St. George’s! Also Rob and Ian for running the stage crew, your experience and calm assuredness in the face of a fair amount of pressure is immensely valuable and never taken for granted.
So thanks again to everybody who was involved, performers, audience and everyone who helped out – you know who you are and it couldn’t have happened without you….to all those people, thanks for making this the best one yet. Watch this space to find out what happens next!…….
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