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Phoenix Voices presents: A Songbook of Spaces by Lucy Callen

On this beautiful sunny afternoon in late May, Holy Trinity Church Hall was a hive of activity, as Phoenix Voices prepared for our first big concert since all those lockdowns. Considering how tough the last two and a bit years have been for so many, it seemed very apt that Kris had drawn up a running order that not only showcased Lucy Callen’s beautiful music, but also included lots of uplifting songs – ‘Stand By Me’ and ‘I Will Follow Him’ amongst others.

It is fair to say that most of the choir were pretty nervous in the build-up to this. But, as Linda said to me during the supper break, this is the first time these songs have been performed in front of an audience, so if we go slightly wrong, it doesn’t matter. And, as Kris said, it is a good thing that these songs have ‘stretched us, and taken us out of our comfort zone.’ Lucy, you have this wonderful gift of taking music as far as it can go whilst still being real and believable: for example, imitating walkers, wolves and birds in ‘Woods’.

As 7:30 approached, several of us were hurrying to complete the display Fiona had designed, showing the thoughts and ideas of various choir members during the creation of these pieces, as well as Karen’s stunning paintings of the ‘spaces’ we were singing about.

7:30 came and the concert was underway – (we’ll quickly skip past the bit where I dashed across the hall, stripping my jumper off!) It was wonderful to hear Lucy’s introductory speeches about the backstory of these songs: mastering choir rehearsals on Zoom; what it was about these spaces that made them so important to the choir; and the ideas members generated during lockdown. (It was a good move not to include the ritual suicides in the lyrics of ‘Lover’s Lane’!) On a personal note, I loved hearing about Kristi’s input to this and her upbringing in Ghana, as that is where my boyfriend Steve is from.

Huge congratulations to Lucy’s partner Sam for writing the lyrics of these songs. As someone who has loved writing myself since I was a kid, I found it inspiring how outlandish some words were: for example, ‘gloansome’, ‘skrimp and skitter through the glub’ and ‘crickles scrunting’ to name a few.

The concert came to an end with the choir’s anthem ‘Raise Me Up,’ and the choir each had a much deserved ice cream. Hats off to everyone for this memorable evening, the culmination of a brilliant collaboration with ‘Making Music’. My granny, who attended the concert, described it as ‘very special’ and ‘a spectacular venture.’ And believe me when I say, that is high praise indeed from my grandmother.

By the way, loving the hat you put on for ‘Steep Seas,’ Kris. Who knew that that pink, floral ensemble would suit you so well! On behalf of all the choir, thank you so much for all your guidance and encouragement during this whole process. Once again, in your words, the phoenixes have once again risen from the ashes.


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