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Project Dance Concert at the Octagon Theatre

The day of the concert dawned, and I, for one, was glad it wasn’t as hot a day as what we’ve been having recently, for the dress code was black choir shirts over black bottom halves. Those of us who could met in the theatre lobby at 1:30 for our tech run. The concert was all in aid of the charity Project Dance; James Bamford, one of its members, took us through the rehearsal process.

Project Dance has a simply brilliant ethos – its goal is to make performing, of all kinds, but especially dancing, more accessible to people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds. It was wonderful to take part in a concert to support this cause. The arts are a great uniting force, and they help bring joy and meaning to the lives of so many, regardless of their background or identity. And that is what is needed now in this post-pandemic time of uncertainty. As James said, it means the Octagon is now ‘entering an exciting and progressive new era.’

After we had rehearsed our songs, we all had a three-hour break, before returning to the auditorium, at which point the last group, Forest School, were rehearsing their dance. It was quite moving watching these young people, many of whom had limited motor skills, express themselves in this way, supported by a great group of teachers and musicians.

We were then shown to our room backstage, as we were performing in the first half of the concert. Had we been so inclined, we could have set up our very own Phoenix Beauty Salon in this room. There were two rows of chairs in front of long mirrors, a shower and, in the centre of the room, railings to hang clothes on. Regrettably, there wasn’t time to do this, as soon the concert was due to start.

While we waited for our time to perform, we were treated to a few of Kris’s side-splitting jokes, for example: ‘Why are pirates called pirates?’ – ‘Because they aahre!’ Fiona said that Kris should supply a large quantity of cheese as his punishment. We also warmed up our voices; this included an impromptu sing-along of Somewhere Over the Rainbow, which Sally initiated, and the tongue-working ‘Chicken Tikka Starter’, which earnt us a few odd looks from other performers backstage.

Soon, however, we escaped out underground salon, and our ‘guards’ led us to the wings. The three songs we performed were: first, ‘Also Sprach Zarathrusta’, which Kris had arranged, basing it on the Star Wars theme tune. (This title translates as ‘So Spoke Zarathrusta. Having Googled him, Hannah told us Zarathrusta is regarded as the founder of Zaroastrianism, a pre-Islamic religion founded in Persia in the 6th century. So, there you go then!) ‘The Sound of Silence’ then provided a good contrast as our second piece – my mum, who was in the audience, highly approved of this song featuring, and its message of the need to express oneself more was nicely in keeping with the concert’s message. Our third piece was a ‘Best of Bond’ medley, which our lovely appreciative audience received with great enthusiasm.

We then did a group photo out in the fresh air of a gorgeous summer evening. I hid nicely at the back – it was suggested that my face should be cropped into the shot in front of the rest of the choir. I’m not sure a photo that creepy would quite achieve the vibe that we’re after here!

In the second half of the concert, we were treated to a great variety of dance acts: everything from tap and ballet to hip-hop and contemporary. It was great to see evidence of so much talent on our doorstep showcased on this stage, which James described as his home when performing – I’m guessing this struck a chord with many, both backstage and in the audience. It was a delight and a privilege to take part in a concert supporting this cause. All of Phoenix now headed home, tired yet proud.

Phoenix Voices always welcome new members, no matter what experience you’ve had of singing. Feel free to come along to rehearsal any Tuesday evening, at 7:30pm. We rehearse for an hour and a half every week at:

Holy Trinity Church,

Lysander Road,

Yeovil BA20 2BU

Hope to see you soon! Liv

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