Yeovil High Street was looking suitably festive and full of Christmas shoppers on the morning of 10th December, as the few of us who could come braved the cold and headed for the Emporium on Princes Street.
There was a slight snag in that Kris had tested positive for Covid, but we kept calm and carried on like the Phoenixes we are, helped by the expert organisation and technical skills of Laura, Fiona and Gail, who quickly located backing tracks for our songs. (At one point, Gail referred to these as ‘tracking backs’ – well, regrettably, we had no tracking backs available. A good thing too, as they conjured up an image of a railway track running up my spine!)
We positioned ourselves in the Emporium’s café, which was full of families sheltering from the cold and enjoying a hot drink or lunch. We had been set a benchmark, as there were Christmas songs playing on the stereo when we arrived. We started with our set of Christmas carols, which led to joyful sense of community and celebratory ritual which singing carols always provides each year. As we were lacking any men today, a quite simply brilliant surprise awaited most of us, when we got to ‘Good King Wenceslas’. It turns out that Sally and Fiona, two of our first sopranos, who can reach a higher stratosphere with their voices, are also very capable of quickly switching down a few octaves in order to sound like men! (And, I mean, really sound like men!) So, singing “Bring me flesh and bring me wine,/Bring me pine logs hither etc.” was no challenge for them. This sent several of us into a fit of giggles, meaning we lost our professional choir demeanour for a minute…
Well, the upshot of this is we know who can fill in for the tenors and basses, should a concert come where none are available!
We were grappling with one or two temperamental backing tracks, it should be said. For example, when we were singing ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas’, the track gave up the ghost while we were singing “For we all like figgy pudding, so bring some out here.” It was apparently telling us, in no uncertain terms, that it wasn’t feeling in the festive mood yet and anyway, it personally didn’t like figgy pudding…
Time to move on, I think. Having finished at the Emporium, we headed round the corner to a packed Tesco.
In the lull before we started singing again, we discussed our various techniques for staying warm in the bleak midwinter; these included putting hot water bottles in our beds to warm up our beds, and putting on as many jumpers as we can get away with when we go outside. (This, of course, is more of a pressing matter this year, thanks to Putin and the energy crisis.)
Soon we were greeted by the cheery Jan, who, inspiringly, has had all her hair shaved off in honour of Macmillans. She had found us a new venue in Tesco, by the old entrance, at the other end of the store from usual. This worked out very well, as it was by the checkouts, so the Tesco staff and customers had more of a chance to stop and watch us. This resulted in a lot of generous donations, and a lovely, appreciative audience. Thank you!
A few highlights were:
*Seeing so many families dressed in their Christmas jumpers
*When a little girl in a pink jacket dragged her mum back a few metres in order to watch us in awe. She and her mum were such a sweet picture!
*At one point, when we were pausing between songs in order to locate a backing track a man passed by and joked “What are you doing? You’re supposed to be singing, aren’t you?”
*Numerous people, old and young, who came up to us and either clapped or said thank you
*A very jolly lady who stood by us and sang along to ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’.
Thank you, as always to Jan, to everyone in Tesco that day and the lovely staff at the Emporium. It was a such a fun, memorable afternoon, singing these songs in the local community and really getting in the festive mood. It was also a very handy rehearsal in the run-up to our Christmas Concert on Saturday 17th.