Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Endings and Aftermath now available on Amazon

For all followers of WW1 history
Toms' third book, commemorating 100 years after the armistice
What happened to people from the Holme Valley when peace broke out?

An ideal Christmas present

Now available on Amazon - clic the link to order

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Abide with Me

                                                                                 Posted by Dave Walker 14th November 2018

Robert Coombs' (tenor) and Alan Brierley's (musical director) mums have just passed on. Alan's mum wants Abide with Me at her funeral. This was my mum's favourite hymn. She died in 1994 after a long illness and I found great comfort in singing with the choir.

Here is an audiovisual of my thoughts and feelings about the hymn and its connection to my family.

Abide with Me

Here are the images - I didn't add titles to the movie as I didn't know how at the time

Edward Addy, coalman

Hillhouse sidings and coal schutes

5 Willow Lane

Engine Tavern

Main stand Fartown

me and older brother

               New College

  mum and dad

3 generations of Fartown supporters

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Monday, 29 October 2018

Singing and laughing against the grain

Posted by David Walker

  Our choir has its share of funny moments. When we go away on workshop weekends (Llandudno, Scarborough) and tours (Italy, Czech Republic, Barcelona, Poland) there are many opportunities to raise a smile. What follows is a collection of anecdotes. You may regard them as a series of in-jokes. We would prefer them to be seen as a celebration of our humanity and fellowship. 
  Moments of wonder, like arriving in a foreign land - the sights are familiar but the signs are in Chinese. Many of us are not musically literate; insecurity we can share in fun with Rupert Wilson, our bemused baritone. Surprise, when going over a choir favourite, that we haven’t been singing the right notes for several years. Geoff Gill, bass, advised us not to worry “you’ll be singing somebody’s notes.” Meeting someone we don’t know. The face, from another section, is recogniseable, but “What’s your name again?”
  Llandudno, I ate breakfast with Graham Dawson, second tenor and Chairman. He finished and set off for his room. Five minutes later, I followed and bumped into him on one of the corridors, lost and puzzled. Same hotel, different year, some of us pitched up to the rehearsal room. Not nearly enough, not even Musical Director or pianist. Graham went in search and found them in the ballroom which was for our break-out sectional practice. We broke later, tenors to the ballroom. Basses and baritone stayed put. Who sat in the bass front row? John Mallinson, first tenor.
  Sheila Asquith, a pal of Elizabeth Hambleton, a previous Musical Director, deputised when our pianist, Ann Levitt, went shopping to New York. Sheila had keyboard button failure. We were never sure what sort of piano, organ, harpsicord, banjo or whatever was coming next. It was a relief to get the metronome.
  Poland, six of us sat out in Krakow Square. Big Dave from Edinburgh rubbed his hands together “I could just eat a biscuit.” We ordered. The serving wench only understood coffee however. Big Dave thought he mimed eating a biscuit. A huge slab of chocolate cake soon arrived. “Can we have five more spoons please?” 
  Time away is escape, from home and from the ‘tyranny of logic’. Permission to be faintly ridiculous; a zany view of the world that makes you smile. Jack Bex, first tenor, was run over by a car in front of New Mill Club before we’d even set off. It was said he was ‘trying to inspect the tyres on a moving vehicle. He was unbalanced, deflated and tyred. Radial pulse was measured. Cross, he was plyed with a cup of tea and soothed by middle-of-the-road music.
  John Rotchell, bass, and I at the Llandudno hotel early Friday night. Escorted to our room by the hall porter who carried our bags. Hadn’t shaved and those trainers didn’t really go. Later in the bar we discovered he was the landlord. Just twelve of us and he bought us all a drink. The bus then arrived and suddenly the round got a lot bigger.
  John, my room buddy, likes detail, things as small as Brian Cox atomic particles. Guess what his bedtime reading is? The Home Guard Manual 1941.
  Peter Kennedy, who died recently, thought the world of the choir. His room buddy, John Ibbotson aka Ibbo, retired early after the Scarborough Saturday night Highlander ‘afterglow’. He’d leave the door ajar. Rod Gooch and Dave Haigh followed and shut the door for security. Pete couldn’t get in and Ibbo was not for rousing. Rod and Dave were and spotted the problem, “We’ve a spare bed.” Pete was undressed and in bed before the bedroom door was closed and locked. They’re just good friends.
  Many opportunities to be a clot. Ibbo is our expert. Dressing up in various costumes, like in khaki, shorts and all, for Mad Dogs and Englishmen. Goes on too long and forgets his words - brilliant. Always tempted to overstep the bounds of propriety - hands over eyes and ears if we are out in public.
  And there are things that just make you smile. Brian Higginbottom, a former bass, sang a classical piece beautifully, a twinkle in his eye as he acknowledged the applause. More than one fellow bass decided not to audition for future similar roles.
  Some guys are intending to be funny, some are not. Some want to perform, some don’t. The choir interpretation makes it funny; a communal funny bone that celebrates the individual whatever their background and temperament.    
  The choir has three aims. Learn to sing, learn to perform and enjoy both within a diverse and cohesive community. Singing and performing are guided by our professionals, pianist Emma and Musical Director, Alan. We already know how to enjoy each other in singing. Workshop weekends (Llandudno, Scarborough) and tours (Italy, Czech Republic, Barcelona, Poland) contain all of the above.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Hats and watches - New Mill and Llandudno 2018

There are a number of exquisite public art wooden carvings based on 'Alice in Wonderland'. The Mad Hatter was opposite the Queens Hotel on the promenade. Inland, there were March Hare, Queen of Hearts and a caterpillar. Queenie had rotting toes. Graham Evans suggested she was incontinent.

The Mad Hatter has a famous attribute, a feature shared by Rod Gooch and myself. We don't have the same hairdresser, but we do go in for the same style of headgear for the follicularly challenged. 'Peaky Blinder' is my current favourite. Rod was concerned about the button on the crown. Caps without are inferior apparently. My other touring cap is a match with my 'Harris Tweed' jacket and is buttonless. It's a personal blow.

The fund-raiser for the children's hospice caught me without cash. Unintended - the childbride is a similar volunteer. Rod met him when in full regalia - multicoloured T-shirt as well as trousers, red jacket and wait for it ... red top hat. Splendid, less so when I came later. Did Rod put in a bid for the hat?

Great to see Anne and Jim. Anne is one of Colwyn's pianists. We had a much better experience in 'Dylans' restaurant than they did.

I admit to being a child again with a new toy. It's a comfort thing. Second-hand pocket watch from the repair shop at Elsecar Heritage centre and chain from Beaverbrooks. I was cooling off from the Gt Orme ascent.

Up the Great Orme - New Mill and Llandudno 2018

Wiki tells us this is GB's only remaining cable-operated street tramway. The cars are permanently fixed to the cable. In San Francisco the cable is always running and the cars attach and detach.   Opened in 1902/03, the winding gear was steam powered, changing to electric in 1958.

The first section is a steep walk and then it levels off. Or you could go by tram. It's a must do thing and most people did.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Llandudno and New Mill Choir 2018

A concert with a male voice choir from Colwyn Bay. A mix of travel and accomodation, resolved for the concert, held in St John’s Methodist Church, Llandudno. Usual high standard of Welsh singing; disciplined, enthusiastic, technically spot on and great for the hard of hearing. Their serious Welsh Language repertoire was a good foil for our more light-hearted fare. The audience was appreciative. 
  It wasn’t quite deja vu, but nevertheless a reminder of our workshop weekends from the past. We would hire a bus and go down on the Friday, back Sunday. Just the guys in the Queens Hotel. Did we rehearse in the ballroom? I had a different room buddy every year - four in total before we moved to Scarborough in 2008. Our music guides were Len and Elizabeth and Anne and, on one occasion, Sheila Asquith.
  On Saturday night, a dozen of us would go to the Snowdon before joining the rest of the choir in the Kings Head. The current Snowdon, I discovered this weekend, must have had a makeover. It certainly didn’t resemble the one in which we used to play ‘bunnies’. A strange game where guys put their hands up to their ears (https://h2g2.com/entry/A697999) according to a set of rules. There was a chairman who’s word was law and lots of ways to make mistakes and get punished. Barry Garside was as brilliant as he was clueless - a more uncoordinated bloke I have yet to meet. 
  One night they had a turn; guitar, amp, voice and long hair. He had a Liverpool accent and kept referring to the times he’d met ‘John’. We stood and sang Myvanwy and brought the house down.
  The Kings Head would but a barrel on; was it Tram Driver? The pub was next to the Great Orme terminus. The regulars knew we were coming and we did a proper choir sing.
  Our free time was spent walking on the prom and the pier, dodging the lethal dive-bombing gulls. The locals recommended we ate our sandwiches under cover in one of the slot arcades.
  Back then we also had contacts with a North Wales Choir; Cantorion Colin Jones, an elite selection of singers from many choirs, under Colin’s direction - Colin was a close friend of Elizabeth. During our Llandudno weekends we would stop off in Bettws on the Sunday afternoon to listen to their rehearsal and perhaps do a joint item. They were impressive. We sang with them in Bettws and Wrexham and they came up to Huddersfield Town Hall. Colin also travelled to us in New Mill as a singing coach. Elizabeth recalls the contact with Colin and his men resulting in a step change in our performance quality.
  It was not our first time in St Johns either. We once did a Sunday morning set during regular morning worship.
  Llandudno today is the jewel. Long curving bay, wide promenade, pebble beach, lively seas and pale clean fronted hotels and boarding houses. Plenty to do, including a visit to Venue Cymru, the original site of the Arcadia Theatre, founded by Scarborough’s Will Catlin in 1915. Pierrots are making a Llandudno come-back this coming Saturday, 29th September. Lots of shopping opportunities and coffee. Plenty of accessible walking. The Great Orme is a challenge, but worthwhile. Dylan's is an excellent restaurant. Earlier in the year, we visited here and Menai on our wedding gig visit for Charlie’s daughter over in Anglesey. Lifeboat station as well. The Albert has quaffable real ales. 
  Is there anything to conclude from the then and now comparison? It’s a great place, with and without our ladies. They do influence the style of the weekend. Meeting fellow singers who you rarely see is great too. 
  I’m not really qualified to comment as to whether our singing will improve. 

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Suffering 1: A Bike Ride with the choir

One year, New Mill Male Voice Choir cycling section asked me to join them for The Yorkshire Rider Mountain Bike Challenge. How difficult could that be? And it was for charity. Maybe I was knocking on, but not that old.
We’ll need to try out the route they said. The chain on my road bike broke within five minutes, followed by long walk home and a trip to buy a chain repair kit. Next practice, on a mildly undulating strip of mud and rocks, I lost my grip, fell off, hurt my elbow and bust a toestrap. Remounting, the rear mech rattled and scraped against the wheel spokes.
I told my wife I wasn’t doing it. But she’d baked a cake. Have a piece and sponsor this idiot she’d asked her workmates. ‘I’ve got you £30 and they’ll want to know if you’ve done it.’
I’m still not doing it. I’ll give the money back. No, I’ll do half and give half back. Oh, shoot, I’ll do it.
A friendly bass offered me a bike, ‘I’ve borrowed one from a mate so you have my old one. The rear brake’s a bit sticky and the chain slips.’
‘Well if you’re not riding it, neither am I.’
I gave the hire shop a ring. Collect it Saturday. £20 to hire, £50 deposit, add on £12 to enter the race, £7.50 for a chain kit, cost unknown for the mech. Over three times the sponsorshop. They told me how to take the wheels off, use tyre levers and replace an inner tube. Then I had a test ride. Easy. Gears here, the brakes work, seat was a bit low, needs adjusting. Five minutes and I’d got it? Ha ha.
I didn’t look out of place at the start. ‘Where’s your front brake?’ a baritone asked. ‘I’m sure I had one yesterday,’ I replied. But I couldn’t see the cantilevers. ‘You’ve discs,’ said a bass. ‘Oh good.’
We started in the second row. The third row was past me before I’d got to the end of the village. Right on the first track and the saddle dropped. I got off and tightened it. The gear was too low to get going again and until I got on I could’t change gear. By the time I was riding again, all the women and children, veterans and wheelchairs had gone passed.
Every few miles, small groups bunched round upended bikes, tools and grease everywhere, and guys walked sadly holding broken chains. All my downhill were fights. With the bike, the stones, the steepness, and the brakes. My forearms were on fire.
Then a break on Holme Moss, lovely dry sunny and windy. My saddle suddenly lurched forward, really loose like a sea-saw. Second tenor Barry fixed it with a spanner from his large rucksack of tools. He had a fan club, which lurked round corners unseen. ‘Come on Barry,’ they shouted. Then their faces would pop up over a wall.
The first fourteen were the easiest. Regular chocolate bar and water stations, encouragement from the marshals as they gave me a tick. At sixteen I ran out of gas and the last ten were a blur. Walking up the hills, in fear of my life down, wobbling up and down on the saddle, legs and arms aching, bum sore. I was speechless at the finish, except when some pencil neck tried to blame me for losing a checkpoint tick.
The winner was over fifty and did it in two hours, eight minutes. If he’d’ve gone round again, he’d’ve lapped me.
There were two fliers under the windscreen wipers inviting us to take part in races the following month. I tore them up. A bass came across, ‘Can I put you down for next year?’
‘Ooo, let me think . . . ‘  Even the most irrepressible of do-gooders would have known to give it a rest and quietly walk away.
The bike shop returned my £50.  One of them engaged me in friendly banter, ‘My mate did it last year, came seventh and in fixed gear. Takes some doing that.’ I bet it did.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Steve Flynn - baritone, cyclist, computer expert

Diary of how I came to join the choir

January 2007 - It’s not every day you retire. After 39 years I’m just waking up to the fact that my daily bike commute to Leeds
Road is over. What now? I’ve worked in IT since the age of 19 so maybe provide a service to anyone in difficulties with home PC’s
or who wants to know a bit more about software, particularly Microsoft Office. Broadband is a minefield for some so there’s work
there too. Have you seen how much PC World charge for these services? Must be an opportunity to undercut those guys. So let’s
March 2007 - Remember when you were in work and that smug retiree told you how busy he was? You didn’t believe it. Well it’s
true. There’s lots of things to do, often unpaid and time consuming but nontheless rewarding. Social life expands into daylight
hours. Is this the transition into ‘The Third Age’?
May 2007 - Met Graham in Holmfirth. Still banging on at me to come along to New Mill Choir. Some of the guys play bowls on a
Tuesday afternoon. Come along. Sounds a nice change to bashing bike pedals. Although I can see through his cunning plan, I have
to admit to an interest. But it’s raining.
June 2007 - Still raining.
July 2007 - More rain.
September 2007 - Met Graham in Holmfirth again. The seed he planted in May must have germinated somewhere. I provisionally
agree to go along to a choir concert at St Paul’s in October. My resistance is weakening.
October 2007 - The concert is good fun and enjoyable, but can I sing like these guys? Three pints in the Star and it’s agreed I’m a
baritone and I’m going to the next rehearsal at New Mill club.
Three days later - Hustle and bustle, smiling faces, lots of introductions and before I know it I have a thick book of music and
I’m invited to join in and sing. As 50 male voices rise to a crescendo, the hairs on the back of my neck rise. I must be part of this.
The music is hard at first but I quickly get the hang of the simpler stuff. Afterwards there’s a sociable gathering in the bar with
supper and a well-earned drink. This isn’t bad!
November 2007 - That first night sets the pattern for the following weeks. Raymond, my neighbour, puts aside his apprehension
and comes too. We sign up to go to the workshop in Scarborough.
Scarborough 2008 - Excellent way for any choir ‘newbie’ to broaden his experience. Energy levels are high and the concentrated
workshop sessions give me more confidence. Bags of opportunity to meet and chat with the people I sing with, even though I
wondered whether the invitation to go for a run at 7:00 am was a wind up. Most impressive is the Tadcaster concert. The choir
produce an emotional performance despite a full weekend of singing and, for some, long and deep drinking. I can only assume the
Spirit of Elvis is upon them – those at the ‘show’ on Saturday evening will know what I mean.
Spring Concert, St Paul’s - First sing in public. I’m pretty nervous. Take the words of some songs to Town v Tranmere. A quick
run through at half time and again in Sainsbury’s cafĂ© after the match. I sang in the massed choir event at the Town Hall but that
was relatively anonymous and we had the words. This time it’s from memory and I know it can suddenly go blank. Even though
I’ve appeared in amateur shows and performed simulated sex on stage at the LBT (yes, really!) the nerves drag at the stomach. We
begin with ‘The Heavens Proclaim’, a chance to open my lungs, have a good rant and settle down. I make a contribution to many
of the other pieces. In certain songs, I really should keep my mouth closed, but instead try to follow Elizabeth’s guidance and at
least do something. Note to self – make more effort to get these things learnt! The concert finishes and, with trepidation, I seek the
verdict of my partner and ex-choir accompanist, Sue. She judges it a success.

So it’s back to the Star to round off the evening with a beer or more. Which is where this started really.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

What do New Mill MVC members think about the choir?

I came late to singing by accident, looking for pastimes in a new community having had a late career move south. In common with a lot of choir members I find a lot of pleasure in working with an entirely new subject and I’m sure we all find it quite therapeutic. [Grew up in S Africa and W Indies. Scotland to complete his education and get a career].

Bob Carrick 2006

I have always loved music and enjoyed the rich sound of a male voice choir. For me, music is relaxing and healing and singing has a wonderful way of lifting the spirits. Thanks to Ed Turner, who brought me to a rehearsal. Despite little musical experience, the choir’s comradeship, picking up with old friends and making new ones, made me feel at home. Learning new skills has been a stretch, but very rewarding.

Robert Coombs 2011

Since schooldays I’ve enjoyed singing and performing. Harmonising with others is a great stress buster. I love the diversity of the choir membership and the warm, unforced, non-judgemental welcome that new members receive.
Graham Evans 2005

I joined the choir in 1994. Despite dad playing euphonium in a brass band and my Junior School head overdosing us on Paul Robeson and Andy Stewart, I suffer from that relatively common choir malady known as dissonance. I’m also a member of the elite deaf section, so I don’t have a lot musical going for me. Could it be that I appreciate our spine-tingling harmonies simply through friendship and camaraderie? Well maybe not since I sit between Clive and Andy.

Geoff Gill 2005

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Three choirs and a band triumph at Sheffield Cathedral

by Dave Walker, 10th June 2018Great audience and stunning venue for Mark Rotchell's memorial concert

informal moments as the choirs prepare for the rehearsal

Moments from the concert and afterwards

Traditional fare last night at Sheffield Cathedral, performed with control and passion in memory of Mark Rotchell, Chairman of Worrall MVC. The pick for many was Highland Cathedral by Loxley, its percussion section and three guest pipers. Pic of Alan and the choirs courtesy of Anne Lane.
  Happy memories of our previous appearance here as guests of Worrall. And what about the time we sang with Brighouse and Rastrict at Cutler's Hall? Tony Capstick compered, up until he was gently guided into his dressing room for being, frankly, blathered.
  The cathedral has been refurbished with new floor and pews. Magnificent acoustics. Inspiring occasion - best wishes to Mark's family.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Swinglo hosts Tom Ashworth again

My cement mixer stopped working the other day. Normally, this wouldn’t register as a calamity but seeing as how I was in the middle of pointing along, high wall, there was a distinct possibility of having to mix the mortar by hand - with my back! - if I wanted to finish the job sometime before winter.

Cost of a new one was out of the question; somehow, without me noticing, the price of cement mixers had ballooned out of all proportion and now equated to something like the National Debt. I’m sure I never paid anything like that ten years ago. Anyway, according to Geoff who holds a professorship in fixing things, the solution to the problem was to repair the old one and I phoned up the company that had manufactured my trusty machine. In the intervening years this company, subject to numerous take-overs, had blossomed into a multi-national, multi-million, all plastic and glass, megalith and the conversation went something like this.

Good morning, how can we help?
Hello, I’ve got a cement mixer. It’s ten years old and the electric motor has stopped working. It just hums when you switch it on but if you hit it with a stick it starts to spin.
I’ll put you through to Sales, sir, they’ll sort you out.
Good morning, Sales.
Hello, I’ve got a cement mixer. It’s ten years old and the electric motor has stopped working. It just hums when you switch it on but if you hit it with a stick it starts to spin.
You need Parts, sir, I’ll put you through.
Hello, Parts.
Hello, I’ve got a cement mixer. It’s ten years old and the electric motor has stopped working. It just hums when you switch it on but if you hit it with a stick it starts to spin.
Sounds like you need Spares, sir, I’ll transfer you.
Good morning, Spares department.
Hello, I’ve got a cement mixer. It’s ten years old and the electric motor has stopped working. It just hums when you switch it on but if you hit it with a stick it starts to spin.
Technical, sir, you need the Technical Department.
And he put me through to Technical.
As soon as ‘Technical’ answered in a strong Midland’s accent I had a picture of him in my mind. He was a man of a particular age, wearing a brown warehouse coat, possibly a flat cap, chewing the end of a pencil, leaning on a counter and staring at an unfathomable piece of machinery.
Hello, I’ve got a cement mixer…
I’ll bet it’s a CS300 series. Is it yellow?
Well it was originally.
How old is it?
Ten years.
Does it hum when you switch it on?
Have you tried hitting it with a stick?
Capacitor. It’s your capacitor, part number CS5900148.
And don’t let them overcharge you. They try to charge over the odds on these capacitors.
And there you have it. At the deepest heart of these shining beacons of 21st century industry is a man in a brown coat.

God bless him.

Monday, 28 May 2018

Swinglo sings with massed male voice choir at Huddersfield Town Hall

Concert in aid of Alzheimer's disease organised by Norman Mellor at Huddersfield Town Hall

Thankfully our supporters loved the concert. I was drenched with sweat at the end and felt like a sardine. Colne Valley were in Loyds TSB suits - goodness knows how they felt. 
Black Dyke are amazing technically. The James Bond sequence was great and their final piece truly brilliant though I couldn't hear the title as their MD was facing the audience. The percussion section was enchanting.
Our two conductors were good (Tom Meredith, Steven Roberts) as were the pianists.
Sadly we also couldn't hear Sarah Ogden, but from behind she looked great. 
Our changing room was up amongst the rafters. 
Concert organised by Norman Mellor who was as imposing and larger than life as ever.
The massed choir repertoire was old-fashioned male voice which made a refreshing change from some of New Mill's more modern stuff.
Tom Ashworth, fresh from his blog success with Shallilo, has sneaked into a couple of the pics - very relaxed with his hands in his pockets. Roger from Honley is prominent, as our tenors in the far corner. Thanks to Ann with an 'e' Lane for the full frontal view.
I forgot my white shirt and had to forgo some of the rehearsal whilst I went to Next for a replacement. It was, after all, a concert for Alzheimer's disease research.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Dave Walker's pics on swinglo-viewfromthebackrow

A very small choir visit to Lockwood Park, home of Huddersfield RUFC.

Tom and Dave Walker didn't make it to the pic.

Also featuring the exceedingly smart U14s and a bemused David Talboys.

We won the game, but apparently it didn't make any difference to anything. 

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

New Mill MVC are guests of 'Sing Your Rocks Off' at King's Hall, Ilkley

New Mill MVC joined ilkley's latest choir, 'Sing Your Rocks Off'

Going north, we are more used to travelling to Wensleydale and Swaledale, but Wharfedale is good too. Bound for Ilkley, a lovely small town, home of the King's Hall, which was opened in 1908 as town hall, library and theatre. The Winter Garden was added in 1914.
  Ged Faricy used to be a tenor with New Mill MVC, a soloist no less. He now lives in Ilkley and has started a men’s choir known as ‘Sing Your Rocks Off’. He and his choir kindly invited us to sing with them at the King’s Hall last Saturday night. A charity fund-raiser for Spinal Research. And enjoyable it was.
  In my view New Mill was competent and workmanlike under the guidance of Elizabeth and Sue.
  Roger Davies was great.
  ‘Sing Your Rocks Off’ was a revelation. Some of their singing was raw, some smooth and accomplished, and there were the inevitable sketchy moments. Entertaining, amusing and moving nevertheless. Especially moving when the unaccompanied voices soared and whispered in turn, catching the mood of the pieces. I don’t know what their longer term aim is, but they could become much more than a bunch of blokes having a sing, as long as they don’t lose that raw edge.
  Thanks to Rob Shelton, who sponsored the concert and who suffers from spinal injury. He is an active trustee of the Spinal Research charity,

Clic on the links to hear how they perform

New Mill MVC and 'Sing Your Rocks Off' audiovisual 1

New Mill MVC and 'Sing Your Rocks Off' audiovisual 2

New Mill MVC celebrate at rehearsal

Happy anniversary to Ed, baritone and much loved former MD, Elizabeth

New Mill MVC celebrate the Happy Couple's wedding anniversary, Ed, baritone and Elizabeth, much loved former MD.

Oops - the first one was deleted by accident

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Bass Tom Ashworth has a couple of stories

Tom is an accomplished WW1 author and speakerTom is an accomplished WW1 author and speaker. He also keeps us amused with personal stories. And he can sing. It's a pleasure to invite him to contribute to the website.

Seen on the back of a Chimney Sweep’s white van recently:

Are you aged six years or under?
Have you ever considered an apprenticeship in the exciting world of chimney-sweeping?
Free gruel and a chance to meet Dick van Dyke!


My mother died just before Christmas, 94 years old, bright as a button but her body had let her down.
A few weeks before she died she had a dreadful fall in the care home where she was living. She had toppled forward striking her head onto the edge of a metal radiator, completely splitting her forehead almost down to the bone and, before the staff could reach her, had crawled under her bed, somehow cutting her back on a protrusion and badly bruising her elbows and arms. She was rushed to hospital and by the time I got there her forehead was being glued back together and the nursing staff had started to clean the blood which covered her almost completely. They never fully managed to get the blood from her white hair and she remained red, and then brunette, for the next few days. After a morning doing a series of health checks on her the medic declared that apart from being 94, the existing bowel cancer and the split - now glued - forehead, there was basically nothing wrong with her and, thankfully, she could be discharged. The ambulance got her back to the home and she returned to her own bed where I helped put her teeth back in and then I asked: ‘Can I get you anything now before I go back to Yorkshire?’. And she said: ‘Yes, I’d like a cheese and onion pasty’. Accordingly, one of the carers was despatched directly to Greggs in the High Street and my mother ate every morsel.

I can’t help but feel that if I had had the same accident, I would have been in hospital for a week, off work for a month and probably receiving counselling for the rest of the year.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Concerts featuring classical music need to change says Royal Philharmonic Orchestra boss

Did you see the recent survey on classical music? Camilla Turner writes in The Telegraph.

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra boss wants to change its name to orchestral music. Classical is an old-fashioned word which puts off youngsters. There's a perception it is only for older people. Younger people paradoxically, in a recent survey, wanted to learn more about orchestral music, but primarily from film, West End productions and pop.

As a lifelong grump, can I also moan about elitism in opera, classical instrumental and choral music? That and the price of concerts may just be putting a few people off.

So change the name and diversify the repertoire - why not play video game music? And stop being so stuffy.


Holmfirth Choral turned out last Saturday despite the weather. More on stage than in the auditorium. The soloist couldn't get so Chris Pulleyn the pianist sang it all. What a guy? Selwyn, my informant, enjoyed himself. Chris played and sang for us at the Mrs Sunderland opera day.

All rounder singing and on the piano

Okay so I pinched the photo - I think there are more important people associated with Facebook who are pinching stuff and avoiding tax.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

From the Association of Yorkshire Choirs

(please bring £10 
deposit as part of £30 contribution)
Or contact the organisers:
Jane Hobson – MD to Skelmanthorpe Male Voice Choir & Penistone Ladies Choir jane.hobson@gmx.co.uk
Daniel Timmins – deputy MD to Bolsterstone MVC & Thurgoland Community Choir d_timmins@talk21.com

Monday, 19 March 2018

Choral music and Roderick Williams OBE (2)

Choral Music in Britain 2

Roderick Williams refers to this podcast as singing for solidarity. Singing with others for joy, to summon communities and to change the world. Roger Scruton tells us that singing with others for a common purpose is a national and european tradition, whether it be in a choir, at a football match or as part of a church service. He goes on to say that our place, from nationhood to where we are personally, is commonly expressed in singing. Identity, where we belong, music and singing all go together.

Singing together can produce something greater than the sum of its parts

  Professor Stephen Clift talks of singing as a basic part of human nature, common to all of our cultures and all historic periods. It is non-elitist and when in a group takes it to a level of harmony with others that we do not achieve in everyday life.
   Oskar Cox Jensen, historian and writer, expanding on the nationhood theme, describes how God Save the King originated as Jacobite support for the pretender, Bonnie Prince Charlie. It disappeared for 70 years and re-emerged as a folksong, popular in the music halls and eventually sung regularly at the end of theatre performances. An adopted National Anthem. It was associated with gang violence in Edinburgh in 1792 when Walter Scott fell out with Irish students and it has a number of different versions, not always complimentary to the monarchy, comparable to football team anthems. Hence music and singing together as expressions of dissent and revolution. Supporters of W. B. Albion agreed that intimidating the opposition was the purpose behind some of their singing.
  Anna Redding, during the Women's Peace Camp days of Greenham Common, recalls how singing together round the campfire helped them through some of their primitive living conditions and, when they really got going, it was like a collective ecstasy.
  The Birmingham Clarion Singers, according to Annie Banham and Jane Scott, began in 1940 when a doctor returned from the Spanish Civil War. Songs of fighting and learning the lessons of the past - the chartists of the 1830s. It is about working class singing - popular protest, a desire for representation.
  Workplaces encourage choirs and singing. Alexandria Winn is proud to be part of a Lawyer firm choir in Birmingham. Different floors and departments, not normally known to each other, come together and make a singing community.

It doesn't always have to be formal.

  In the previous blog we learned about the personal gain of enjoying and being inspired by singing and by the relationships we nurture as a result of the shared interest or passion. Singing is also good for your health and gives you a sense of achievement  - clic on link for Chris Rowbury's post Reasons for SingingToday contains examples of why people come together and sing - protest, sense of community, loyalty to place and football team or simply that sense of sharing in something which is much greater than the sum of its parts.
  It's not for everyone says Stephen Clift - we cannot generalise. Nearly everyone then.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Lent - can you give up music?

My pal Greg has given up alcohol for Lent and is still managing. I have stopped being grumpy, or that was the intention. Trevor Cox tried to give up music - listen to his podcast.

What might be the ups and downs of not having music in our lives?
  A strong benefit is not being influenced by background music in pubs, restaurants and clothing shops. Professor Charles Spence describes how, for example, so-called background music (French, German) in a restaurant influences our food and wine choices. Similarly, fast and slow tempo music can speed us up when they are busy or slow us down when they are slack. Apparently we have no recollection of this as we leave.
  There may be costs such as not appreciating or even getting the point of TV and film drama. Composer Debbie Wiseman tells us we can often get the drift of things purely with the music. And not the Hollywood variety - better music that creates mood and emotion - space to take in what is not being shown on the screen. If you have the habit of watching these programmes with others, then that social time would also suffer.
  Another cost is the lack of brain arousal. Switched on at a low level. According to Dr. Victoria Williamson it would be quicker to list what brain structures don't light up when listening to music. Even basic reward centres that deal with our survival as a species - like the need for food, water and sex. These centres lie between memory and emotion, so it's all quite a light bulb. We may need to seek substitutes - drugs, sex and rock'n roll (no, I really mean chocolate).
  There are medical connotations, not directly related to the absence of music, more a consequence of other factors. Anhedonia is a mental symptom when we are unable to enjoy what would normally turn us on. If, over a long time, we stop listening to our favourite music along with other things we normally take pleasure in, our friends and relatives might need to think about depression.

togetherness and the joy of singing would be missed if we gave music up for lent  Amusia is the technical term for tone deafness. It effects 4% of the population from birth and can be a side effect of brain injury in later life. Again there is no pleasure in music. Tone deaf people cannot make sense of music and cannot recognise a familiar tune says Lauren Stewart. Sadly they can avoid normal everyday interactions involving music and can be social hermits.

To summarise Trevor Cox's exploration of not having music in our lives, we lose the personal gain of enjoying and being inspired by something and also the relationships we nurture as a result of the shared interest or passion. This surely resonates with New Mill MVC, who gain from both simultaneously.

The question remains 'what is music?' Tom Service from the BBC talks about music as sound which we interpret as meaningful. Otherwise it is simply a sound. Take a baby crying - there is pitch, tempo and timbre with a large number of interpretations. There can't be many sounds that don't arouse personal meaning. According to composer Edgard Varese however we need to organise the quality and quantity of sounds before we would call it music.

If music is simply a meaningful sound, it would be rather hard to give it up for Lent. It's all around us. Easier if it were organised sound.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Choral Music and Roderick Williams OBE

Choral music in Great Britain 1

Roderick Williams OBE, with guests, talks about choral music. On the one hand he says there are over 40000 choirs ranging from pop to classical - on the other he wonders if singing in Britain will survive. There has never been a better time for new writing by composers for specific choirs as commissions. There are two very popular current choral recordings: (1) Tallis - Spem in Allium - (clic here for Utube) which features on the soundtrack of 50 Shades of Grey and (2) Mealor - Ubi Caritas - (clic here for Utube) from the Catherine and William wedding (Mealor wrote Wherever You Are for Military Wives).

Yet, Rod says, singing is on the decline. In a 1927 recording of Abide With Me from the Soccer Cup final, 92000 fans knew the words and music and just sang. A good proportion of the crowd today would not know the words. TV, Radio, Records, CDs and all the other ways of listening to music have expanded at the expense of personal singing. Weddings and funerals have less hymns and attendance at church generally is falling. If a singer is needed, he/she/them is brought in - just like New Mill.

In pre-industrial Britain, people sang at work - spinners, weavers, waggoners, farm labourers, sailors and so on. The musical rhythms fitted the work tasks and helped get the work done. This spilt into leisure, down the pub and in the music hall. When factory discipline came in, singing was banned and those that tried were fined. Some establishments even had no talking. Anyway the machines were very noisy, sidestepped by the lip-readers of the Dundee Jute Mills.

Class and snootiness have also had a role. Since the nineteenth century, voices of the ordinary people have been looked down upon by the gentry and those who would like to be gentry. Crude, unlettered and vulgar are some of the words used. An attitude that transferred to education. Personal singing down the pub and in the music hall was raw and edgy and frowned upon.

Rod introduces two organisations that simply sing - Natural Voice Network and the London Bulgarian Choir. They encourage people, whether they think they can sing or not, to connect with others and share the joy of making musical sounds together. The London choir, with many English speakers, cannot understand the words, so it's all about making great sound. Like us or me singing in latin - maybe not the great sound bit. Ged is conducting us in Ilkley for just this sort of piece.

Informal personal singing is in decline. Choirs are thriving, with choral music in the charts.