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inChoir entertains the masses at Gatwick

“I am much, much too familiar with the departure gates at Gatwick Airport North Terminal.  In the last two months I have passed through them eight times.

As I approach them I’m already walking at a clip, unfastening my belt in preparation for speeding through security, running the gamut of Duty Free, dodging wheelie bags and the outstretched limbs of recumbent tourists as I hasten to the oasis of the lounge.  There, I reflect and draw breathbefore flying off to some unlovely corner of Europe or the Middle East to live out of a suitcase for a week.

The departure gates in Gatwick Airport North Terminal are part of my commute to work, to earning my living.  But it’s work away from family and friends.  Away from a familiar environment.  Away from my weekly opportunity to sing with inChoir.  

Emily Dickinson captures it perfectly: “Parting is all we know of Heaven and all we need of Hell.

And then, out of the blue . . . this week, tens of thousands of people anticipating the heaven of a Christmas holiday or a return to their home far away, had to endure the hell of a lockdown of Gatwick Airport.  Sitting on planes for hours and going nowhere.  Sleeping on floors amongst strangers.  Feeling frustration and anger and disappointment while police and army tried to track down the “drone” menace.

So I had mixed feelings today, returning to Departures.  

The scare was over.  Planes departing and arriving.  People on the move at last.  For me – I had no bag to drop.  No rush.  No patting of pockets for keys and coins that might stall my trajectory. And I was joining friends from Crawley, Haywards Heath, Burgess Hill, Oxted, Redhill, East Grinstead . . . to sing uplifting Christmas songs.  So all was good.

But what situation would we be facing?  Would we be singing amidst a press of tired, angry people still awaiting delayed flights?  Would we be regarded as some stunt by the airport – a palliative to put a cheery mask on a fraught situation.

And would Mark’s amplifier (which needed running repairs at both Hays Galleria and Polesden Lacey in the last few days) work?

Well, if you have performed in public with inChoir, you already know the answers.  While you are warming up your vocal chords a crowd forms – initially bemused and curious.  They politely applaud your warm-up routine.  

Then you launch into your first number (today, Do You Hear What I Hear?).  The crowd grows.  You are singing to people with smiling faces.  Some moving to the music.  Many with phones or tablets raised to capture enjoyable moments before their departure.  

Right now, somebody in Edinburgh, or Berlin, or Durban is sharing a shaky video of our choir.  Sharing an experience of relief, happiness and simple pleasure with a friend or loved one they feared they might not be with this Christmas.

Now doesn’t that make you feel proud?  

It’s exactly two weeks until my next bag drop at Gatwick.  I just know that, instead of rushing to the gate, I will linger for a while, remembering today.  Remembering happy faces of all hues singing and clapping along with us.  Remembering the delight of parents as their children formed the front row of the choir to sing Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.  Remembering that those moments, captured on camera or in one’s own memory, should be treasured – not allowed to pass in a blur.

To all my friends – in fourteen choirs in twelve locations across three counties – with whom I have been privileged to share many such moments in 2018, I wish you a joyous Christmas and a peaceful, rewarding New Year!”

A huge thank you to Brian Patman for this lovely post following our sing at Gatwick Airport yesterday.