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Modern choirs for people who love to sing

inChoir in Bath!

With huge thanks to Ian Robinson for this wonderful write up of a fantastic weekend away... 

"I’ve been asked to write this blog, something I have never done before and am firstly concerned that I won’t be able to match Mark’s humour, although it can’t be any worse!

Our weekend trip to Bath was our first “InChoir on tour” trip for me and my wife so we weren’t entirely sure what to expect but were reassured by the attention to detail in Sally’s informative emails leading up to the weekend. 

We arrived very promptly in East Grinstead, well prepared and looking like “newbies” in brand new uniform. We parked up in good time but when my wife got out of our car she trod in a heap of dog’s mess - we weren’t sure if that was a good or bad omen for the weekend to follow. We didn’t tell anyone in case she was banned from getting on the coach!  

We first saw Mark who had already lost a glove and was returning to his car to find it. Apparently it happens often so once in Bath, my wife and I were on a shopping mission to find a replacement pair with a long ribbon attached to thread through his sleeves but we had no success.

So, just as Sally was starting to pace up and down along the pavement on the look out for our coach, as if by magic it appeared on time with those who had boarded in Lancing and Haywards Heath.  When I got on the coach, I was greeted with the words, “Another man!!”  Only as I made my way to the back of the coach did I realise the significance of her greeting when I realised there weren't many men on the coach, which was rather daunting.  

We set off on the journey which was trouble free and a few even got some rehearsing in at the back of the coach courtesy of the Bluetooth speaker I had packed. We only hit traffic problems on the final approach from the M4 into Bath where it seemed as if everyone was trying to drive into the city.  As a result of the delay our driver Nick, kindly took us directly into the city centre so that we could walk straight to our first performance and he then carried on to our hotel to drop off our luggage for us.

The Christmas Market organisers had for the first time set up a stage for performers like ourselves and although small, it did provide a good focal point for passers by to stop, watch and listen. The baritones were joined by Mark who handed over the conductor’s role to Jude for the weekend. Not surprisingly Bath was very busy with cold, dry weather and we got a good audience on Saturday afternoon with Mark trying to encourage children to come and join in with Jingle Bells and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  Mark’s inducement of “an extra present on Christmas morning” may have helped!! Many choir members wore Christmas hats and other headgear together with Christmassy earrings and red scarves and gloves were in abundance. Our singing was brought to life by Jude’s and Mark’s re-enactment of the flying Snowman during the seven-bar breaks in Walking in The Air! We five baritones managed to hold our own sandwiched between the sopranos and the altos and as Mark commented, size isn’t everything!

After the first performance we had some time to explore the delights of what is now one of the biggest Christmas markets in the UK. Many of the streets in the city centre were closed to traffic and were lined with chalets all decked out in festive style selling everything you could want.  The air was filled with the aroma of mulled wine and Christmassy food and there were street performers and other choirs at various points around the city centre. There was even a fake snow machine to complete the atmosphere.

In the late afternoon we regrouped at the Abbey in readiness for our next performance. The atmosphere was very special and with our backs to the Abbey doors, we were looking at the magnificent Christmas tree in Abbey Churchyard. A collection of clip-on reading lights and head torches enabled us to see our music and we delivered another very well received performance following which, we all decamped to Browns Restaurant for our festive dinner.  Browns is housed in an historic listed building that was formerly a magistrates court and police station, with high ceilings and huge windows overlooking the Abbey. It was well decorated for Christmas complete with crackers on the tables. We arrived early which challenged the staff a bit but we were all seated quickly, occupying the entire mezzanine floor. We had preordered our three course meals so didn’t have to spend time deliberating over the menu and just got on with chatting and getting to know new faces from the various InChoir groups.  Mark and Sally were going around the tables making sure we were all content and being looked after.........their days’ work is clearly never done!  

After dinner we all made our way on foot or by taxi back to our hotel which was excellent with everything you needed. Some continued their evening at the hotel bar before retiring to bed.  We had a room overlooking a graveyard which strangely was very quiet and ensured a peaceful night’s sleep!

We all met up over breakfast on Sunday morning and fed ourselves well for the day ahead. Having checked out and placed our luggage back on the coach, it was then time to make our way back into the city which was just a fifteen minute walk or a short ride on the coach. We had plenty of time before our third and final performance at 1.00pm so it was back to exploring the shops and the Christmas market stalls.  I decided to take advantage of the “facilities” in Marks & Spencer and considering how busy Bath was, just happened to bump into Jude and Sally in the store on an identical mission. Sally was carrying her Great Ormond Street charity collection bucket but had second thoughts about taking a bucket into a public toilet so I was entrusted with said bucket into which someone put some money (I think they had found it on the floor).

We all met up again shortly before 1.00pm at the “stage” under a very ominous overcast sky.  We hadn’t long started singing when the rain came down. The weather did not dampen our enthusiasm at all and at one point Mark suggested cutting the programme short to be met with the response, “We’ve come all the way to Bath so let’s sing them all”.  Not surprisingly audience numbers were down but the rain did ease off towards the end and audience numbers quickly rose with children again being encouraged to come up to the stage to sing along with us. After the final rendition of White Christmas it was time for some well-deserved lunch (and certainly a warming drink).  We were all back at the meeting point in good time due to the rain and were feeling rather wet and without shelter. This enabled the coach to make a prompt departure but unsurprisingly, with all the weekend visitors making their way home, the roads out of Bath were very busy. Once we got up to the M4, the traffic was fine and we headed home with lots of conversations about the last 36 hours interspersed with some sleeping (and the odd snore or two if I’m not mistaken).  After a stop at Cobham services we were then nearly home.  Shortly before leaving the coach at East Grinstead and parting company with those with onward journeys, in typical Mark fashion he attempted to ruin anyone’s plans to watch “Strictly” on catch-up by announcing, “That Strictly result was a shocker then”. The coaches response was 100% despair judging by the loud chorus of “Ohhhh”. Then, home to dry out our music (and everything else for that matter) ready for our next performance.

A very enjoyable time was had by all I think.

Until the next time ........."