Monday, 16 November 2015

WOAPA at Blenheim Palace.

Since becoming a part of WOAPA Adult Singing Group, my life has become quite exciting at times. So far we've performed at music festivals, made a couple of Cd's and videos, including the Diggy, Diggy Hole video for Oxfam, and helped raise a lot of money for charity. We've even been awarded a couple of distinctions at the Chipping Norton music festival and, this year had the honour of being asked to close the festival.

A few weeks ago, Brian announced that we had been asked to sing in the Great Hall at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, as part of their run up to Christmas celebrations. Normally I'm not a great fan of singing Christmas songs before December, but I was very happy to make an exception in this instance.

Great Hall at Blenheim Palace.
On Saturday, 14th November, around 12.30pm, I, along with around 70 others of the WOAPA Adult Singing Group, began to gather in the Great Hall for the first of two performances. The hall had been decorated for Christmas and it took my breath away when I entered and saw the two Christmas trees, each standing about 40 feet tall, that flanked the area where we would be performing. Any nerves I had grew even more intense at the sight, and I'm sure that I wasn't the only one.

WOAPA Adult Singing Group
At 12.50pm, we began to take our places ready for the first performance. There was a lot of shuffling and murmuring, but finally Louise signalled us that it was time to begin and we gave her our full attention. We started with a Jingle Bell Rock/White Christmas medley. The acoustics in the Great Hall are amazing and the sound of the choir singing resonated along the corridors and up into the rafters. One of the palace staff who was working in an office along the corridor told us that she could even hear us in there. When we finished singing, we were enthusiastically applauded by the crowd that had gathered to listen.

Feelimg a bit less nervous , we waited for the intro to the next song to begin. It should have been, Somewhere Only We Know. Instead the unmistakable opening chords of Let It Go started to play. There then followed a lot of frantic page turning, as we all tried to find the right song. Fortunately, it's one we're all familiar with and we managed to sing it without a hitch. Being a bit unnerved by this, we waited with bated breath to see what song would come next. It turned out that the ipod had inadvertently been put on shuffle and instead of playing the songs in the order that we'd rehearsed, the rest of the songs appeared at random. But, being the consummate professionals we are, we managed to complete the rest of the performance, without any further mishap, It was quite a challenge trying to identify which song was coming next, and find the words in time to start singing. I was very thankful that I knew most of the songs by heart. But I don't think it affected our performance too much. The audience still seemed to enjoy it.

The ipod having been taken off shuffle, the second performance went according to plan,  I had goosebumps at times, especially when we sang, Real Love, and Somewhere Only We Know, and at the end of Let It Go, I observed one lady with her hands clasped in front of her mouth, with tears in her eyes and a huge smile on her face. After we'd finished, a couple of ladies asked me at what time we'd be singing again. They were very disappointed to find out that we wouldn't be. I would quite happily have done it all again.

After the performances, I decided to have a wander around the palace, and quite a few people stopped me to say how much they'd enjoyed our singing. One German gentleman, actually stopped my friend and said, "You have a beautiful voice." then in typical German soldier fashion, clicked his heels together, bowed and said,'Perfect singing'. Says it all really.

WOAPA afternoon school
The next day it was the turn of the WOAPA school children. I decided to go along and support them. They were also performing twice but what I hadn't realised was, they were splitting into two, with the morning school singing at 1pm and the afternoon school at 2pm and I only managed to catch the second performance.

The children were actually better behaved than the the adults. They sat quietly on the floor until Sian, their tutor, signalled them to stand up and didn't talk between songs. They started by singing a couple of songs that the adults had sung the day before, including Let It Go, although they sang a different arrangement of the songs. The children were amazing. They put on a very polished performance and someone remarked to me that they sounded like angels. Looking around at the crowd I saw a sea of smiling faces and proud parents.

The only little hiccough was when one of the youngster's passed out towards the end of the second last song. But Sian acted quickly and managed to catch him before he hit the floor. The others again showed their professionalism by going on to sing the final song, as if nothing untoward had happened. The youngster soon recovered and Louise said to the audience that this had happened to her in the past. One of the joys of show business.

It was a wonderful experience.We couldn't have asked for a more stunning setting and, as I've already mentioned, the acoustics were fantastic, which enhanced the sound of our singing. I'm eternally thankful that I found WOAPA and really appreciate all the hard work put into by Brian, Louise and the WOAPA tutors, making it the success it has become. Who knows what WOAPA will be asked to do next. but it'll have to be pretty special to top this.

Here are a couple of video clips:

 Photographs courtesey of Isabel and Diane Iverson Mullinger.

Photograph of Sian courtesey of WOAPA.

Videos Isabel's own.

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