The idea of a joint concert came about as a result of discussions between the two MD’s. Possibly something to do with the Essex Concert Orchestra’s MD being our accompanists’ brother! The fact that a venue was available at a very reasonable rate was attractive.
Meetings were conducted, ideas were exchanged, financial responsibilities and arrangements were agreed. The theme, ‘On the Water’ allowed both ECO and LOMVC to use items from their own repertoires and there were opportunities for joint pieces. LOMVC would commit to selling half the tickets and ECO the other half. Tickets were printed. Jan started us rehearsing potential joint pieces.
Then along came Covid and not only would a concert not be allowed because of restrictions, the venue was closed down anyway. The concert was off. And possibly dead in the water.
However, roll forward a couple of years and the concept was revisited. A date was set, ticket prices were agreed, and we got back to finalising and fine-tuning the planning. Jan with the repertoire and the necessary rehearsing. Neil with the logistics, publicity materials and tickets.
This concert provided us with new opportunities. Some new music for all of us, including our, hopefully, new members. And another opportunity for us to get them on stage with us. Again, we didn’t want them to stand out as different so we modified the uniform so that we were all ‘uniform’.
Lots of publicity through poster and flyers and posts on social media. Lots of rehearsing. Lots of note-bashing. Enthusiasm at the opportunity to sing some pieces with a full orchestra. Some uncertainty about how the joint pieces would be conducted.
The venue for this joint concert – The reprieved from ‘development’ Mill Hall Arts and Events Centre in Rayleigh.
Arrangements needed to be agreed about how fitting the Leigh Orpheus, the Essex Concert Orchestra and the South Essex Youth Symphony Orchestra into the venue while still having enough space for an audience. The Leigh Orpheus would be on the stage with the orchestras on the floor of the hall. Which would leave enough room for 200 audience members. But would the sound of the choir carry over the top of the orchestra or would the orchestra drown out the choir in joint pieces? (as it turned out it didn’t and all worked well!)
The scene was set and we met at 4pm on 8th April ready to rehearse with ECO. Thankfully, anticipating that our own LOMVC needs might not necessarily have been considered, last minute arrangements had been made for us to have chairs in the Upper Hall, our base and Green Room, so that we could sit down!
We rehearsed with ECO. A bit of clarification and agreement about how to deal with certain aspects and we then moved on to our own Leigh Orpheus rehearsal. No real problems and we were allowed time off for a couple of hours. Time to eat for some. Time to collect wives and partners for others.
Many of us never did get to see the full programme. However, here’s the Leigh Orpheus’s:
Wade in the Water
Calm is the Sea
Alexander’s Ragtime Band
With Cat-Like Tread (with Essex Concert Orchestra).
What Shall we do with the Drunken Sailor
Song of the Jolly Roger
Four Sea Songs (with Essex Concert Orchestra).
At 7.20 we got ready to go on stage. As we waited in the Foyer it was obvious that far too many tickets had been sold and walk-ins had been allowed. Our Front of House team, and Alan, had coped under pressure and worked hard dealing with ticket sales and making sure every single seat was filled. Extra seats (from our Green Room) had been brought down. Some potential audience members weren’t happy. They’d bought tickets, they’d arrived to find there were no seats left and they’d had to be given refunds. (now you know why we are so specific about ticket sales at our own concerts!)
Walking on stage should have been easy. But it wasn’t due to the extra seats and restricted access. But eventually we were on stage and almost ready to go.
ECO kicked off with several pieces, finishing with the easily-recognisable ‘Adagio and Dance of the Pirates’, best known to some as the music associated with BBC television drama the Onedin Line.
What was described as a splash of music from the young people from SEYSO and then it was our turn. This first set went well with Dave singing some of the verses of ‘Wellerman’ and us subsequently being complimented about that piece working well for us. ‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band’, which had many opportunities where it could have gone wrong, went right and had the audience moving.
Then, jointly, ‘The Policeman’s Song’ and ‘With Cat Like Tread’ from Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘Pirates of Penzance. We could have provided them with a good soloist for ‘The Policeman’s Song’ but ECO chose their own with us being allowed to join in the responses. But at least we then made a pretty good job of ‘With Cat Like Tread’.
Next, the interval. About 300 people all wanting refreshments. Again, our Front of House team did valiant work under considerable pressure.
Then the second half. ECO played highlights from ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ and we followed that with some drunken-swaying to ‘What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor’. Given the complexity of the piece and the pitfalls that had arisen in rehearsal we didn’t do at all badly! Our word perfect Māori singing of ‘Pokarekare Ana’ would have been even more greatly admired had there been any New Zealanders in the audience. Then our final solo piece, with even more piracy, ‘Song of the Jolly Roger’.
Finally, an opportunity for us to release our inner ‘Last Night Of The Proms’ along with ECO, with the Fantasia on British Sea Songs. An impressively speedy end to the Hornpipe and on to ‘Rule Britannia’. Didn’t those patriotic flags wave! The out-of-tune and out-of-time horn from the stage seemed to underline how authentic this Proms-style experience was!
It was felt to have been a very successful concert with the Leigh Orpheus playing its part well. The first outing for our new keyboard which worked well and proved to have been a good investment.
Hopefully a generous donation to the RNLI once all the finances have been reconciled.