Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Choir baby, that's really free!

*** Disclaimer (Everything in this entry is entirely fictitious and any similarity to any people living or dead is entirely coincidental so there! I wrote this blog whilst my mind was disturbed due to eating magic mushrooms, sniffing glue, and too many heavy breathing exercises)

This year’s main choral performance was (you may remember a choral piece penned by our choir master, based on the Grimm fairy tale of the fisherman and his wife).
I was lucky and only had to go to a few extra rehearsals. Many of the choir got more involved and ended up making 80 or so costumes including various wigs, for the children, and the two soloists to wear. A new portable stage had to be designed and built. Scenery and props also had to be made. Transferring everything from one performance to the next, plus interim storage also proved to be a logistical nightmare.
I doubt whether our beloved composer / chef de choeur had thought all this through. He had done his bit writing the scores and recording the demo CDs for the various sections of the choir. The rest was up to the choir committee.

We had two dress rehearsals at which we met the children from the two schools which were taking part, and the fisherman, his wife, and the narrator.
The first rehearsal was bedlam. We also met the theatrical director who had been responsible for “designing the set”. Mostly painted cardboard boxes.
One of the schools was providing a much reduced choir than anticipated, of 10 children.
Remember we have approximately 60 adult members. so 10 kids singing at the same time with their reedy little voices.........

The other primary school, which just has one classroom for all its pupils, provided the prop shifter come extras. They had 4 costume changes and were responsible for moving all the boxes and cubes around. 4 of the cubes were solid wood and therefore very heavy, the remaining 50 or so, were cardboard. It was evident to all that even the cardboard cubes were too large for most of the small children to move them around.
Also, when these kids were off stage, they talked and messed about, making more noise than the actors and narrator. The teachers / volunteers seemed unable to shut them up.By the end of this rehearsal, there was much discontent in the ranks. Certainly I was pissed off. We were kept waiting around for all but the last 20 minutes of the 2.5 hour rehearsal.

I shot off afterwards but I heard later that there was quite an argument between some of the choir committee and the artistic director. However, it came down to being too late to change the scenery etc etc.
I read a blurb written by the director all about how the cubes had a magical quality and how the different shadows that the different combinations of cubes....... She managed to fill an A4 sheet with similar sh#*e.
By the second dress rehearsal a week later, the cubes were still causing problems, the scene shifters were still chatting and running around when off stage..... Oh and we were complete rubbish too. The most difficult musical scene had been left untouched until 3 practices before the first rehearsal..... just don’t get me started.... The cubes moving problems had increased as one of the children had had an accident and would not be able to take part. So their boxes had to be divided up for the remaining children to move.
Photos of a typical cubist rehearsal used for illustrative purposes only and the subject matter of said photos is purely coincidental

Once again the choir was kept hanging around for well over an hour.
The first performance was in the theatre / cinema of a town 20 minutes away. The stage was not big enough for all the cubes, the raised staging, piano, choir, actors. We were squashed together so tightly that it was difficult to manoeuvre room to look at the musical scores.
The only good thing that I can say is that the theatre was full, mostly thanks to the families of the children in the show.
The second show was in our home town. Luxury. A stage big enough to fit all the boxes etc. Enough room for us to stand on our own two feet, instead of someone else’s. the director had a bit of a strop when we pointed out that at least 10 people at each end of the choir was in darkness and their scores were invisible. Something along the lines of “the lighting was set up this morning, it is not possible to make changes now!!!” Fortunately the lighting director (strangely enough a man) moved the lights a bit.
This performance went much better although the children’s choir was one boy down. Once again the theatre was full.
The third and final performance took place in a medieval town about 30 miles NW of my town. We were performing under the medieval halle (market place) at 9pm. This is a large stone building, with huge arches along 3 sides. Sheets of plywood had been fitted into the gaps up to about one third of the height of the gaps.

The stage was rather small, so the choir had to stand on benches to one side of the stage. Lighting was even more difficult than before. There were now also church bells to contend with. Also, if someone went to the toilet located behind the choir, a noisy ventilation fan sprang into action.
The audience were to be seated on plastic stacking chairs. I dread to think what the sound must have been like for them.
Oh and of course we had a storm before and during the performance. It was cold, the wind whistled into the building from our left side, the rain battered off the roof.

The children celebrated the last performance by throwing the wooden cubes off the stage at the audience during the penultimate scene.
The performance over, we adjourned to a small rectangular marquee, attached to the back of the halle. The marquee was where we were to celebrate our final performance by sharing the food that we had brought. The floor was an inch deep in water, thanks to the rain, but also it had been cunningly erected so that a drinking fountain was in the middle of the floor. Every so often, with no one touching it, it would gush water out onto the ground.

You might think that this would make my joy complete? Of course not! The men had been flattening the boxes, dismantling the staging etc etc. This took time, so when we finally made it to the food tent, the women had eaten most of it, except for the cakey type things........... I hung around for half an hour, then made my way out into the rainy night to find my car and GPS myself home in the dark.
(Some readers of my fictional world of blog may remember a tale of a choir master who announced at the end of a practice that he was going out with one of the alto members in the choir. It is strange that no similar (alleged) “dumping” announcement of the 13 year older than him chorister, for a 20 year old younger than him mademoiselle was made. Miaow! )

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