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Modern choirs for people who love to sing

Everyday Magic on the Bluebell Line​

Thank you everyone for such a wonderful morning, and for Brian Patman (Our resident guest blogger!) for his lovely write up of our time at the Bluebell Railway. 

Everyday Magic on the Bluebell Line

Mr Brown goes off to town on the 8.21 . . .”

Standing on the platform of Sheffield Park Station it’s easy to conjure up the image of Mr Brown. There he is at the platform’s edge in his business suit and trilby, briefcase in hand, this morning’s Daily Sketch under his arm, and gas-mask over his shoulder.

What makes it so easy to bring him to mind is not just the location – redolent though it is of the days of steam and slam-door trains.  It’s the influence of the Dad’s Army theme song that brought Mr Brown into our lives.  

Who do you think you are kidding Mr Hitler?” brings together Jimmy Perry’s witty lyrics, Derek Taverner’saffectionate pastiche of wartime dance-band recordings and Bud Flanagan’s warm cockney tones to evoke perfectly the spirit of wartime Britain (even though it was recorded in 1968).

That song’s running through your head right now, isn’t it?  For me, born post-war, it first conjures up images from Dad’s Army. Then, a reflection on the many Mr Browns who made up the Home Guard.  Then I think of those who went to war – and the impact on those left behind; of people I have loved and lost whose lives were transformed utterly during and after the conflict . . .

That’s the everyday magic of words, music and human voiceblending together in song – stirring thoughts and emotions more profoundly than any other art form.  

The mission of the BBC’s annual Music Day is to “. . . bring the nation together to celebrate the power of music to change lives.”  Music Day 2018 (28 September) included Platform to Perform – an initiative that posted choirs on station platforms around the country, to bring a little joy into the lives of travellers.  

It was inChoir’s privilege to entertain passengers and staff on the Bluebell Line at Sheffield Park Station.

Fleeces were the order of the day as we arrived.  Passengers milled around the ticket hall.  Schoolchildren in wartime clothes were shepherded from platform to platform by their teachers before boarding the 10.45. Several rail enthusiasts perched atop the bridge, cameras ready for the arrival of the next train.

We were ushered by Mark, Karen, Jude and Sally to a corner of platform 1, by the café (handy for coffees in the short break between sings).  Amp and mikes were in place.  Mark led an impromptu Asimbonanga.  

Then the man who would shape our next hour turned up.

The thing about being recorded to appear on the regional news coverage of BBC Music Day is that a man with a singlecamera needs to have a variety of shots of the choir from different angles.  But to make the edited piece seamless, we have to be singing the same song in each shot . . . 

Mark has been keen for us to learn the chorus of Make Your Own Kind of Music by heart so that we can look up and sing out.  When you have sung the whole song ten times in a row, you, along with your die-hard audience, the station master, the café staff and even the station pigeons are all word perfect!

Curiously, however, it wasn’t a chore.  Partly because we were each happy and excited to be there.  Partly because we might see ourselves on telly.  Partly because the clouds had broken and we were standing in sunshine under blue skies.  Partly because we were in the company of friends.  

But, mainly, because we were there to sing.

Once all the shots were “in the can”, a brief break.  Very brief, because a new crowd had turned up for the Tea Party train journey raising money for MacMillan Cancer Care.

So we sang through our pre-arranged set to a very receptive audience.  Hard to say when you are in the middle of the choir, but I believe we sounded rather good.  Our audience’s train arrived as we sang Make Your Own Kind of Music for the very last time.  

As the song ended, the train pulled out and we waved the passengers on their way.  As the steam swirled around us, I swear that I saw, leaning out of a window in the end carriage, smiling and waving to us, a man wearing a business suit and trilby . . . 

Photo credit : BBC South East