We had a final practice on Monday, before the concert on the Wednesday. Everything went really well in rehearsal – we practiced the JLS song in the Red Room as we had been doing for the past 2 weeks. The guys had been practicing at home, and it showed! Joe and Jack (our lead singers) had improved so much! Then we went into the hall and ran through the whole concert. This also went really well – the signed songs looked and sounded great. Jed read his poem in front of an audience for the first time and did really well. The JLS band performed exceptionally well. We all left feeling really excited about the concert, which was only two days away!
On Wednesday morning I arrived at the cathedral in my old Skoda. The seats were down, because in the back I had managed to squeeze the school Soundbeam 2, speakers, keyboards, mics and all the other equipment we needed. Oh and the Soundbeam trolley! In fact it wasn’t a great start to the day, as it was pouring with rain and the market was on, which meant that I couldn”t park where I had planned. After getting some fairly complex directions from Becks I set off in search of the school carpark. I never found it (and am therefore unconvinced that it really exists). Instead I found a complicated one way system and after orbiting it a few times, leaving Wells altogether and then re-entering the stratosphere I found the Co-Op. With my wheels parked in a suitably auspicious setting, I ran through the rain to the cathedral.
Luckily I am what is known as a seasoned DM pro (don’t laugh!), so I had factored in ample contingency time. By the time I had set up the Soundbeam and the mics etc, the students from Avalon School were starting to arrive. We managed a few run-throughs during the morning. Everything ran smoothly despite the fact that Jill who was set to run the concert had unfortunately been taken ill, so we had to rally around and make things happen. If you’re reading this Jill – I hope you’re feeling better now and that you enjoy watching the film.
After a quick lunch break over in the Cathedral Museum conference room (very nice!) and two short hops over rain sodden cobbled streets (much fun for our wheelchair users and their support staff!) it was almost time to start the concert.
The cathedral filled up quickly, and the sense of anticipation grew amongst our students and staff. Many of our singers and musicians had family and friends in the audience, which made it all the more exciting.
We began with A Keelie, a call & response song from Africa. The song was started off by Charlotte, a student from Avalon. She used a Big Mack switch to sing the first call. The sound of the VOCA ringing out in that ancient building was just amazing. A new, 21st century voice was being heard in a structure on which building work had started over 800 years ago, way back in 1175. All the children from all the schools sang the response. The call was then repeated by groups of students from the other 3 primary schools who were in attendance – Butleigh, Coxley and Kilmersdon.
Next came an African round called Nanuma. The mainstream students had been practicing this in a 3 part round, and the harmonies sounded wonderful. Jack S and Hannah joined in to lead the singing in the breakdown, with the other singers responding to the calls they triggered on Big Macks.
After the primary students had shown us the breadth of their repertoire with excellent renditions of Drunken Sailor and Be Still, For The Presence Of The Lord, it was time for Wonderful World, sung and signed by Avalon School. This looked and sounded brilliant – the signing and the singing had progressed so much, even in the four weeks since we started rehearsing. Next, Avalon student Jed Parfitt took to the alter (or was that the pulpit?) to read a poem called ‘Keep Smiling’. He did a great job and received a well deserved round of applause.
It was now the turn of the Avalon JLS band. Lorna, a teacher from Avalon School introduced our players which comprised of our switch DJ Martina, switch percussionist Rachael, singer and tuned percussionist Chantelle, keyboard player Dom, co-lead singer Joe and co-lead singer / Soundbeam player Jack N. She also dedicated the song to Harriet, a student from Avalon who would have ben a part of our group, but who sadly died the day before the project began. Harriet was a music lover, and her favourite band was JLS, so it was fitting that our performance was dedicated to her. We had practiced the song with me conducting the group by signing instructions to them in Makaton. DJ Martina played a really important role – she was controlling the whole song with her pads and faders. Everyone knew their job really well, and we had excellent solos from Jack & Dom, with support from percussionists Rachael and Chantelle. The singing had really come on since week 1, and I even got the order right! The group were rightly proud of themselves at the end, and there was a huge round of applause. I think I even heard a whistle or two!
The primary students then sang This Little Light of Mine and Ain’t No Mountain High Enough with much aplomb. We then heard You Raise Me Up by the Cathedral Junior Choir. Such amazing voices from such young singers! We had an introduction to life as a chorister next – understanding how hard they have to work for their music made listening to them sing Lord of the Dance even more moving.
Hey Mr Miller was a wonderfully rousing crescendo for the concert, Jan managed to get the whole cathedral joining in with the singing and actions. To finish, we sang and signed Believe, which really was a fitting way to end the concert as the lyrics (“I can do anything I want, if I just believe in me”) really felt apt for such an inclusive musical celebration.
cheers for now, Alex
ps film coming soon