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Jon 18 April 2012

Well, it's been a while since my last blog but I hope everyone has had a super Easter break.

Our Holy week concerts in Tewkesbury Abbey and Gloucester Cathedral were absolutely fantastic.  It was amazing to perform a truly moving selection of pieces (expertly selected by Rob) in such wonderful surroundings, I can almost still hear the echo now ...

However, although they were great concerts they were also a little emotional ... you see, they were Coops' last UK gigs with the group.  So, to all of Coops' UK fans, I'm sorry it's the end of an era.  But to all of Coops' Italian fans, you'll get the chance to hear him one more time you lucky things!

But wait, I hear you say, if Coops has finished his UK gigs, that must mean that we are nearing Nick's first gig ... and you would be right ...

In fact, it may be closer than you thought ... it's this Saturday! And with it being our first public performance with Nick, we'll be taking it easy, right?

Err ... no ... that's not really the Songmen way!

What we've actually done is throw Nick in at the deep end with a full concert including all of the Songmen favourites ... luckily Nick is a natural born swimmer (or Songman ...) and he's taken it all in his stride!

So, if you would like to be among the very first to hear the new line up, why not join us at Dymock parish church at 19.30 this Saturday ... we can't guarantee anything except a great night!

Oh, and if you're wondering, yes, we have included La Guerre in the programme - watch out for those arrows Nick!

Take care.

Jon xx

 

Ben 28th March 2012

Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the death of composer Francis Poulenc. Poulenc's varied yet distinctive style has made him a Songmen favourite — both for his sacred music and his secular settings of poetry and folksongs, both of which we've dipped into in past and present programmes.

I'm looking forward to using his anniversary as an excuse to crowbar yet more Poulenc into our repertoire later this year. I only recently came across his evocative chamber cantata Un soir de neige and had the pleasure of starting to rework it for our voices whilst looking out over my snow-covered garden in Gloucester. Sadly I didn't get around to finishing it off before the snow all melted.


I'm quite a fan of anniversaries, and have picked up on a couple of more recent ones too. With the Tewkesbury Winter Ales Festival starting tomorrow, I'm reminded that it was the venue for my very first Songmen gig — which means it's two whole years since I joined the group. I originally thought it must only have been a year — it's just flown by!

We weren't miked and were sharing the Watson Hall with a few hundred rambunctious real ale fans, and so my first performance in which anybody actually heard us was Redditch Music Society a couple of weeks later. We had an altogether more appreciative audience there and I'm looking forward to heading back there this Saturday.

It's also a year this week since we signed with Ikon Arts Management, who have been simply fantastic as our agents. Nicola and Costa have been a pleasure to work with and have a great series of concerts lined up for us over the coming year, across three continents no less. We're still working on the southern hemisphere…

 

Chris 14th March 2012

Well, unless this is the first time that you have come across The Songmen, you must know we recently announced Nick Ashby as our new member to join us in the Spring. Nick will be filling the big shoes of Ben Cooper, who is soon to be moving to Winchester to take a layclerkship in the very fine Cathedral choir.

On a completely different topic, looking ahead, for the past several months I have been in contact with John, a recent friend of the group, who has invited us to sing in Ireland next year. I have a little Irish in me (going back a few generations) and I am getting genuinely excited as the Cork International Choral Festival is not that far away from where a small part of my family come from. I am hoping that I might get a day or so to explore the region while we are visiting and perhaps reconnect with a part of my family history.

With that in mind, and with it being St Patrick's day this weekend, I raise my glass of Irish whiskey to you and wish you sláinte!

 

Guy 7th March 2012

Hey!

It's been a very exciting week. Now you might not agree, and I would understand if you didn't, but I am a bit of an admin freak so forgive me if this bores you, but one of the things I really enjoy about our group is getting our admin in order.

With a new member now well into his rehearsal handover period it's been all my hands on deck producing the relevant updated documents like biogs, media packs, and of course the website.... Gosh I'm in my element! The fact of the matter is that once this admin stuff is in place (and it very nearly is) we'll be able to make the big announcement and introduce to you our new member. Needless to say we are all very excited about this and it's likely that it's only a few days away.

We've now had two big rehearsals with the new Songman and despite Coop's shoes being hugely gigantic to fill, our new member is, well, fantastic; the overall sound we're making as a group already sounds like we've been singing together for a LOT longer than we have. He's bright, and keen, and the consummate professional (oh, and he's got a voice to die for) so I for one cannot wait for our new sound to be unleashed at our first concert with him in April.

We had an awesome photoshoot last Saturday under the expert eye and hand of my sister (who is an amazingly talented professional photogapher - check out her work here... http://digitalmazeydesign.blogspot.com) and the outcome is superb - I take my hat off to anyone who can get the best out of six camera shy chaps, make them feel comfortable in burning hot lights in a studio, AND make them look good... Keep your eyes peeled in the coming days for our announcement and to see the wonderful new photos. Of course we're hoping that they will inspire a new generation of attractive female fans... (not that our current fan base of ladies isn't wonderful you understand!) We'll have to wait and see...

Love,

Guy
X

 

Ben 29th February 2012

So we have reached the day that we only get once every four years.  I’ve actually done a little bit of research into the whole Leap Year thing and discovered some things I already knew and other things that were new to me: women are allowed propose to men today (apparently a custom started by St Bridget in Ireland in the 5th Century in a deal struck with St Patrick); for a while the British government did not recognise 29th February so any contracts or agreements made on that day were not legally binding – hence the name ‘Leap Year’.  I discovered, interestingly, that on Leap Day 1504, Christopher Columbus managed to pull a fast one on the Native American chiefs who were threatening to withhold his food supplies.  He checked his lunar chart, discovering that there was to be an eclipse that day and telling the chiefs that if he did not get his food supplies that ‘God would darken the moon’.  The eclipse happened on cue and Columbus got his food supplies back.  There are plenty of other stories of course – let us know if you have any interesting or amusing Leap Year stories!

We’ve now had our first rehearsal and (as you’ll have seen on Facebook) photoshoot with our new baritone.  To be honest, I don’t envy him.  Over the four or so years we’ve been together, we have gradually reduced the number of pieces we sing with music and increased the number we do from memory.  I personally find that singing from memory allows me to relax and communicate even more with the audience and I tend to sing better without that physical barrier of a music stand in front of me.  This Saturday in the beautiful village of Overbury, near Tewkesbury we do our first full length concert entirely from memory (Coops is doing this one).  So I reiterate – I don’t envy our new baritone, but from one rehearsal, I can say that we have one more reason to be very excited about our days ahead!

Till next time,
Ben x

 

Rob 22nd February 2012

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, and The Songmen are busy preparing our new programme Iuxta Crucem for Holy Week.

We have all sung regularly in churches and cathedrals in the past, and share a deep appreciation for their musical traditions. It's my view that much of the sublime sacred music was written for Lent, so it's been a privilege to put together this programme for the group. Iuxta Crucem is inspired by the image of Mary at the foot of the Cross, and includes music from across Europe and from the 15th century right through to the present day (including the first performances of a new piece of mine).

As we spend so much time touring overseas, we are glad to be bringing this programme to two of our spiritual homes, Tewkesbury Abbey and Gloucester Cathedral. There's an extra significance for us all as these will be our last UK performances with Coops.

I can't decide which I am looking forward to more: the concerts, or my next tasty ale on Easter day...

Rob x

 

Jon 15 February 2012

It has been an interesting period since my last blog…  

Coops went through a period of soul searching and at the end of last year advised us that he had taken the very difficult decision to retire from The Songmen.  Whilst this was a sad moment for the group as a whole, it is undoubtedly the right decision for Coops and it will give him the time to undertake a number of really exciting projects in the not too distant future.

However, as result of this we found ourselves in rather the strange situation of searching for the new Songman.
 

So, what makes a Songman? - this is something we asked ourselves many times in order to create a summary of the essential qualities and desirable attributes of a Songman.  It included the obvious items such as "an exceptional voice"  combined with those less specific items such as "being flexible to cover a wide genre of music" and "the ability to work in the group to make the trademark sound" - the Songmen blend if you will.


Well, needless to say, this list was not short and we realised that this was not going to be an easy task!


With the assistance of our good friends in the choral world we set to work identifying a select group of singers who potentially could be the next Songman. 


Invitations were sent, arrangements made and the auditions took the form of a rehearsal.  The music being carefully selected both to give the candidates an idea of what it is like to be a Songman whilst at the same time as allowing us to get to know them and see if they would "fit".


I'm pleased to say that we were not disappointed - there was an exceptional standard of singing and this allowed us to focus on some of the more subtle areas of our performances and establish the real strengths of the individual.


From this initial group those who impressed us most were subject to further scrutiny, and as we progressed through the rounds we constantly upped the requirements - including the testing of their mettle with La Guerre as part of the final round!


Well, we heard some truly excellent singing during the auditions and I can honestly say it was our privilege to work with such a great bunch of guys, but I know the question you are all asking ...


Have we found the new Songman? - Yes


Will I tell you his name? - No … sorry, I mean … not yet … 


I promised the boys I wouldn't … but what I can tell you is that the new Songman is brilliant and is going to be a great appointment for the group.


For those desperate to know, might I suggest keeping an eye on our website ...


Exciting times!


Take care


Jon xx  

 

Ben C 8th February 2012

I am writing this whilst journeying back home after a very successful day at Bedford Modern Junior School.  It was the second time we've been to see them, for their annual House Singing Competition.  Jon and I teamed up to work with Kaye House on their House Song, 'Somewhere over the rainbow' and Soundscape on the poem 'Windy Nights'.  We had a great time working on developing the way they were singing and communicating the music. And all of their hard work paid off when we won Best Song and Best Overall.  What a great bunch! Well done to you all!  We finished off the day sharing a concert with some of their choirs, which was a fantastic way to end the day.

I now have some sad news to share with you.  After two fantastic years with The Songmen, I have come to the difficult decision that it is time for me to move on to new projects in my life.  I am very much looking forward to my last few months with the group, especially as my last concert is going to be with our fabulous friends 'Vivae Vocis Concentus' in Perugia on 6th May.  I still have a few gigs in the UK and hope to see you there.  I know the group have been working really hard to find my successor - we're all really delighted with our choice and the guys will share this news with you in the next few weeks.

I hope I get the chance to see as many of you as possible before May.

Good luck to you all.

Coops x

 

Chris 1st February 2012

I struggled with what to write for this blog. Not because there is nothing to say - quite the reverse. 2012 is shaping up to be our busiest ever and our new relationship with Ikon Arts Management is proving to be really exciting. Guy and I visited our new management team last week and it was great to discuss our future with Nicola and Costa and find how naturally well in sync we all are. Of course, after our meeting, the second highlight of the day was taking the advantage of being in London, one of the most vibrant and cosmopolitan cities in the world and heading to the famous Covent Garden and partaking of a basement Pizza Hut all-you-can-eat buffet...

I was going to talk about today our exciting new concert programme for Lent called "Iuxta Crucem" - a meditation on the image of Mary at the cross - which we will be performing in special late night events at Tewkesbury Abbey and Gloucester Cathedral during Holy Week. A collection of some simply stunning music where everything has a deep and meaningful association with the mother of Jesus and the period leading to his Passion.

However, all that got thrown to the side today when it was announced that our first full album "Midnight" has been nominated for "Best Jazz Album" at the Contemporary A Cappella Awards 2012!!! Anyone who knows us, knows how proud of "Midnight" we are and the amazing experience we had working with Grammy-award winning producer Bill Hare. The period of judging begins this week and we won't hear the result for a few months, but we are pretty pleased right now and are keeping our fingers crossed! Also nominated in the best classical song category, were fellow Ikon-represented group, The Swingle Singers, so a good day all round for UK a cappella music!

Got to run now - when I am not soaking up the glamour of being part of an international award winning vocal group, my wife and I are doing up our Victorian home in the Cotswolds and I have been reminded I have a loft needing insulating. Oh, the high life! Till next time... x

 

Guy 27th January 2012

It's been a busy week for the group. We signed with Ikon Arts Management who now represent us as our worldwide Managment and Booking Agents which is a great step forward for the group. Nicola, Costa and the team at Ikon have already made us feel very welcome and we're looking forward to a fruitful and exciting relationship developing.

We've been rehearsing a couple of new programmes over the last few weeks and adding some great new pieces to our repertoire including some spirituals arranged by Ben and Rob, and some pop songs too.

The first edit of our new disc 'A Sacred Place' is coming along nicely. This is a lovely collection of Sacred Masterpieces ranging from the Renaissance period to modern choral music two of which are original commissions for the group. We're looking forward to this being released later in the year.

Keep your ears open for release dates (and for Midnight - our jazz and pop disc) soon!

Guy

x

 

 

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