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Jon 6th February 2013

The more observant of you may notice that this is my first blog of 2013, so you might ask what have I been up to since the New Year?

Well, aside from ridding myself of the hiccups (thanks for sharing that Guy), perfecting my Martini and the usual health drive I did make a rather different New Year's Resolution - and that was to try something new on a regular basis.

With that in mind this weekend I watched the Superbowl! Now, I'm not really a massive sports fan, I follow F1 and enjoy watching an occasional game of rugby or football (primarily to benefit my fantasy football team) so this is quite a departure from my normal viewing habits and therefore in my mind counts as 'something new'.

The other evening I settled down, knowing very little about American Football and was truly amazed by the spectacle that followed - the fireworks, the athletes, the power cut that almost resulted in a record breaking comeback by the 49ers and of course I mustn't forget Beyonce's half time show… It was all fantastic and I loved every minute of it and I'm now a Superbowl convert. So, if in the future you wonder why for one Monday a year I'm looking really rather tired, you will know why!

However, while it is fun to try something new now and again there is something really very pleasant about the familiar and it was a lovely feeling to return to Redditch on Saturday to perform to a fantastic audience who, as always, made us feel very welcome. This Saturday we return to another wonderful venue in Macclesfield and if you're in the area why not come along?

For those of you waiting with baited breath for further details of our forthcoming A Cappella Masterclass in Italy all I can say is watch this space as soon it will all be revealed, I promise. The final concert venue is being confirmed as I type and we're getting very excited about it but, although I would love to tell you, I have been sworn to secrecy (at least for the time being…)

Also, our New CD "A Sacred Place" is now with the manufacturers and will be soon be available for order and you will be pleased to know, I have heard mention of a few 'taster' tracks appearing on this website in the next few weeks.

Take care

Jon x

 

Rob 30th January 2013

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 we're looking forward to heading back for another outing this Saturday (and of course doing some Poulenc songs!)

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…

Rob x

 

Chris 23rd January 2013

As it’s technically still January, let me wish you all a Happy New Year. And it is a happy start to 2013 as I have, at last, some very exciting news to share. I am delighted to be the one to reveal our early plans for the first-ever Songmen A Cappella Masterclass event that we will be hosting in late-August 2013 in the stunning Umbrian town of Todi, Italy.

We are inviting all musical a cappella groups across Europe – and further abroad if they would like to join us! – to come to Todi on Monday 26th August for five days of hard-but-musically-rewarding work. Groups will have public masterclasses led by members of The Songmen, as well as plenty of rehearsal time and private time with a dedicated Songman tutor, leading up to a final massed-group concert on Friday 30th August. The specific timetable will be tailored to the final list of groups taking part – they could be small groups of 4 or 5, through to larger vocal ensembles, young or not-so-much. All we ask is that any groups interested in applying love music and wants to sing a cappella!

We will be based in the Palazzo Vignola, just off the main town square in Todi, where there is plenty of room for public masterclasses and additional rehearsal space. There will be a small cafe/bar in the Palazzo as well as wifi and the event office. The Palazzo Vignola is literally 30 seconds from the main piazza, where there are all the amenities of what a report from Kentucky University, USA in 1992 called “the world's most liveable city”! If that isn't a recommendation, I don't know what is!

There will be a small fee for the week which we are working hard to keep to under 450 euro per person (to be confirmed!), which will not only include the masterclasses, a final concert performance and a great opportunity to network with like-minded musicians from across Europe, but also includes accommodation with morning and evening meals for all participants too! Bargain!

Full details are still being worked through (it’s a pretty long list of jobs to get done) and we will share some formal documentation on our website in due course, with full details on the event, eligibility rules, how to apply, terms and conditions etc. etc. We also hope to be able to invite singers to take-part individually without needing to be part of an existing group, but we simply had to start shouting about this great event now before every single detail is nailed down. We truly and utterly believe this will be an exciting and cosmopolitan event for all singers (at an affordable price!).

Todi is about 30 minutes away from Perugia where there is an international airport for anyone who does not want to take the car or train with regular flights from RyanAir. If you live anywhere in mainland Europe or the UK, there are almost no reasons not to come and join-in.

This event is something we have been working towards for some time with our friend, Annarita Sellari, the Event Director. Annarita has organised masterclasses and musical tours before, in particular as Coordinator for Vivae Vocis Concentus of Perugia (amongst other groups) and we were delighted to work with her when we performed at a concert following a masterclass led by Philip Lawson in Perugia last year.

Applications are not open yet, but if you are interested and want to be the first to be notified when we have more details to share and are ready to receive applications, please email Annarita or us, and we will keep you up to date as best we can!

Phew! I know that’s a lot to take in. It’s a lot to organise! But it will be an awesome and rewarding week for anyone taking part.

Now finally, this Friday is Burns Night - one of my favorite nights of the year - and I will be hosting my annual Burns Supper for a few friends and a small selection of fine whiskys. If you have the opportunity to raise a toast and read a verse or two of Rabbie, then do.

Slaandjivaa!

C x

 

Guy 16th January 2013

Hello everybody,

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and a great New Year's Eve party.

I did.

My brother and his friend Jon had a joint 30th birthday/New Year's Eve fancy dress party. The theme was 'Best of British'. There were some amazing costumes ranging from William Shakespeare and Mary Poppins to a full English fry up and my very own effort - Robin Hood. (Songman Jon was there too dressed as one of the Avengers - the one in the bowler hat, I forget his name, and he had to leave early - just after midnight. He blamed having hiccups but I've got a sneaking suspicion that it was either because he was about to turn into a pumpkin or he had a bit of work to do on the Songmen Accounts).

As we were dancing away towards the end of the party I suddenly realised that 'Best of British' would make a great Songmen programme - I'll put it to the guys to see what they think.

We've got some cool concerts coming up. Southend on Friday and in the period following, Redditch and Macclesfield. We've sung at all three of these music societies before and were welcomed warmly last time. I hope we get the same warm reception this time around bearing in mind we may be three feet deep in snow by Friday.

Take care.

Guy
x

 

Nick 9th January 2013

And so another year gets off to a flying start.

Sunday night saw us performing as part of the Brandenburg Festival in the beautiful 2 month old St James' Studio in Victoria. Though this is presumably the closest venue to Buckingham Palace, HM The Queen couldn't manage the commute, even for our much coveted 'Midnight' programme.

There was a great feel to the gig, as the Studio's cabaret-style seating lent the perfect atmosphere for some of our lighter repertoire. I was glad to dust off some songs I had learnt during my first few months in the group but only performed once or twice. Gimme that Wine certainly had the feeling of desperation it requires!

We have a selection of concerts up and down the country over the next few weeks. Southend, Redditch, and Macclesfield. So if you're nearby do pop along! Check out the website for more details.


The culture continues for me as I head off to watch the Life of Pi at the cinema - my reward for having finished my tax return.

Have a great new year,
N x

 

Ben 2nd January 2013

With pleasure it falls to me to wish all our readers a very Happy New Year! I've had a family-oriented Christmas, though I've still done the usual round of carol services and Messiahs; I was pleased with my gift-buying efforts which were not as last minute as they usually are; I've eaten plenty and any thirst I once had has now been well and truly quenched.
 
2013 looks to be the best year yet for The Songmen (though I'm sure 2014 will follow the trend of being our 'best year yet'). We embark on our first visit to America in March, our first tour to Asia in August and the dear old Songbus will be racking up the miles around Britain, Ireland and across Europe. 'A Sacred Place', our new album, will be out before you know it on whichever medium you can think of, and there will be the first Songmen wedding (mine!) in April.
 
Having said all that, one thing I am particularly looking forward to this year (I will have to watch what I say here - see above!) is the Ashes double header. The Aussies have looked pretty good in their recent series, despite losing to a very strong South African side. However, the current England outfit is so well organised and confident, I am fairly confident that we will once again come out on top. My New Year's Day was tinged with sadness at the new of Christopher Martin-Jenkins's untimely death. His voice, along with Richie Benaud, was the very epitome of the English summer for me (and no, it did not sound like the consistent falling of rain). It will be an odd feeling listening to TMS this summer and not hearing him eloquently and poetically describing the action whilst travelling to our next concert destination.
 
Finally, I once again wish you all the very best for an enjoyable and prosperous New Year. I have yet to set any resolutions but I do hope that I will have the opportunity to meet you at some point over the year. Your first opportunity to come and hear us sing is this Sunday, 6th January when we perform at St James Studio in London as part of the Brandenburg Choral Festival and you know where to find details of other forthcoming concerts!
 
In the meantime, have fun and see you soon.
 
Ben x

 

Rob 20th December 2012

It will not have escaped fans of either eschatology or pretty patterns that today is 20/12/2012. However, I'm rather hoping the world doesn't end tomorrow, as it would mean missing out on an awful lot of Songmen excitement scheduled for 2013.

We've hung up our suits for 2012 – but not for long, as our first gig of the new year is on 6th January, at the brand new St James Theatre in central London. Following that, a few repeat visits to familiar venues around the country, before our first trip to the States in March — most of us have already blogged our excitement about this one! Then later in the year, a return to Germany, our first concerts in the Emerald Isle, and a mystery Songmen destination that hasn't been revealed yet (watch this space…!)

Closer to home, I'm especially looking forward to our debut at the Three Choirs Festival in Gloucester this coming summer. It couldn't be much closer to my home in particular! And of course there's the release of our long, long, long awaited sacred disc which will be out in very early 2013 (we promise!)

So until then, time to rattle off a few carols then relax with a mince pie and a cup/mug/jug of mulled wine (delete as applicable).

From all of us, wishing you a very merry Christmas and an Armageddon-free New Year.

Rob xx

 

Chris 12th December 2012

Its Wednesday afternoon and I am sitting at home, staring out on a frozen landscape just the other-side of my window. The weather has turned achingly cold this week (looking at the white and frozen fields and trees this morning, I thought I had been transported to Narnia). Dennis the cat has decided that outside really isn't for him any more and further decided that the only spaces he will venture near are either under or on a radiator; I can't blame him one bit.

Guy, Ben and I tried to escape the gloomy British weather over the weekend, grabbing a flying visit to Perugia to see our good friend Annarita and her family and a few members of Vivae Vocis Concentus. Though the sun kindly stayed out to keep our visit bright, the temperature was equally cold. We had an exceptionally productive visit (though my phone annoyingly did not work, meaning I had to suffer being shown a picture of the wonderfully newly decorated Christmas Tree in my front room that Mim had put up and shared on Facebook while I was away).

I am sure we will talk about our time in Italy again soon as we were not just there on a jolly. We hope to have an exciting announcement to make in the new year...

However, most pressingly at the mo, we are oh so very close to finalising our new album, "A Sacred Place". Whoever said men couldn't multitask has not seen me at work as I am enjoying proof-reading the album artwork and inlays while writing this blog (one task is immeasurably easier than the other - my broken English and bad grammar may give you a clue as to which is which). Guy has done a brilliant job with the CD artwork and Ben, Rob and Nick have all contributed to the sleeve notes, meaning I have an easy job giving it the once over. I think it looks fab and am sure you will all too.

It is great to think we will have new music to share (hopefully) in January. We had a fun time working with Philip Lawson and Andrew Mellor on the recording back in the summer and I think we have ended up with a wonderful selection of ancient and contemporary sacred music on the album. Ranging from Thomas Tallis, through Victoria, Parsons and Tavener, and a couple of beautful works by our very own Ben Sawyer and Rob Waters.

As its my last blog of the year (on International Sound Check Day, 12-12-12), I'll just end by wishing you all Happy Christmas and a relaxing holiday period. Get your rest - 2013 is going to be a busy one!

C x

 

Guy 5th December 2012

Hi everybody!

I've had a busy few days.

I've been:

1) Putting the final touches to the final edits before our new sacred disc is mastered. (I have finished and the engineer now has the final tracks to master).

2) Finalising the artwork for the new CD's sleeve. (I have nearly finished this - just got a few tweaks to do here and there before the group proof read it).

3) Planning the business details of our trip to Italy on Friday (we're running a masterclass week out there next year and there's much planning to do before then). More news on this soon!

I'm lucky to be given such enjoyable jobs by the group. To be honest I'd much rather be doing these things than dealing with travel itineraries or working on the business accounts (I'm reliably informed that Jon is currently working on these).

It's been particularly satisfying listening in so much detail to our recording and editing the fruits of our labours. We're managing to turn this project around in record time - we recorded in August and we're looking at a January release which we're all really pleased about.

Anyway, it's a busy day tomorrow and we also have a Songmen pre-Italy meeting in the evening leaving me zero time to pack so I should get on with it now.

It's not my turn for a blog until the new year so have a wonderful Christmas all! This is my first Christmas in many years where I'll not be taking part in a carol service. I'm a bit sad about that but with how busy the group is going to be in the new year maybe that's not such a bad thing.

Love,

G

x

 

Nick 28th November 2012

What a lucky coincidence that it's my turn to write a blog this week, as I am the only Songman not currently submerged in 10ft of water.

With so many weather warnings across the country on these dark, soggy, and all round miserable days, it's easy to miss the terribly important HEALTH WARNING that's being issued worldwide. December, apparently, holds the highest threat for an outbreak of ear-worm.

First discovered in Germany ("das Ohrwurm") this ailment is set to spread throughout most of Europe, America, and beyond. We are informed that carol services, shopping centres, and TV adverts are the most likely ways to catch an ear-worm, and your best protection is to wear industrial strength earplugs or failing that listen to an iPod or similar with soothing, non-denominational music.

The effects of ear-worm are very real indeed. Sleepless nights, zombified state, inability to make conversation without singing snippets of Christmas carols, sudden urge to buy lots of over-priced goods for friends and relatives, and in some cases hallucinations.

So do be safe when you leave the house to swim down to Tescos. Always carry earplugs.

Nx

 

 

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