Click on the event below for the whole story
|Thursday, 12 April||International Bomber Command Centre Official Opening|
|Tuesday, 8 May||Mayor of Lincoln Farewell Concert|
|Tuesday, 11 September||Annual General Meeting|
|Sunday, 11 November||Remembrance Day Service at the IBCC|
The choir were last here on 2 October 2015 for the initial opening of the IBCC spire and commemorative wall. Back then, there had been little else on the site. In the intervening years the IBCC had received Lottery funding plus other fund-raising to enable them to complete the whole site. This now included the Roy Chadwick Centre, a place of archival memories, testimonies and an education centre for schools and those engaged in research on the role Bomber Command played in WW2. We were very honoured to have been asked back to participate in this official opening of the whole Centre on what proved to be a very cold and foggy, but rain-free day.
In 2015 we had been joined by the Louth and Orpheus Male Voice Choirs. On this occasion we had both the latter choirs again plus the Caistor Male Voice Choir, making some 100 voices in all. Our role was to perform a 35-minute 'set', as Crauford likes to call it, of songs that all 4 choirs knew. During rehearsals we soon discovered that our version of Lincolnshire Poacher was totally different to that sung by the other three choirs so, being outvoted and outvoiced, we obtained copies of their version. The jury is still out whether we like it or not. After about a one-hour break we would be back on stage, joined by the RAF Cranwell Band, to participate in the official opening ceremony during which we would be singing the anthem 'Strike Hard, Strike Sure' the motto of Bomber Command that we had sung in 2015.
In this 35-minute set, the plan was that we would sing:
'Gwahoddiad' and 'Speed Your Journey' both conducted by the Louth MD
'Rhythm of Life' and 'When the Saints' both conducted by the Orpheus MD
'In Flanders Fields' (with Julian singing the opening tenor solo) and 'Sailing' both conducted by Crauford
'The Lincolnshire Poacher' and 'The Dambusters March' both conducted by the Caistor MD
The persistantly foggy weather meant that an early decision was made to cancel the planned fly-pasts, This created gaps in a very tight media-driven programme schedule, so we were warned to expect last-minute changes to what we would be singing. The first change came very soon after when we were told that there was a need to fill the gaps left by the absent flypasts so we would not be singing either of the pieces that Crauford was conducting until we were back on stage for the official opening ceremony.
The so-called 'Green Room' where performers dumped their bags and prepared to go on stage, was a lovely warm marquee with plentiful tea/coffee, biccies and fruit. Most of us arrived with hats, scarves, gloves and overcoats and were reluctant to disrobe until the very last second before going on stage.
At last it was time for us to go on stage. We reluctantly left the warmth of the Green Room for the bitter wind and damp foggy stage area. On arrival we discovered that someone had plonked a huge grand piano just where most of the 1st tenors were to be sitting, so we all had to make adjustments and ended up sitting wherever we could find chairs. Heather did a brilliant job in keeping our own choir members vaguely together.
The stage itself dominated the open area between the Roy Chadwick Centre and the spire and we could enjoy reasonable cover from the general weather, although not from the bitter wind that blasted in through the many gaps in the structure. Many of the guests and general public had to suffer sitting out in the raw open such that the organisers had provided silver 'space blankets', like you see for runners after the London Marathon, for the many veterans most of whom were in their 90s.
We began our set at 0950 before an audience of about 60, but by the time we had ended 35 minutes later the audience had swelled to 1000 or more. We worked our way through the pieces conducted by the other three MDs and just as we finished Crauford rushed onto the stage no longer wearing his hi-viz dayglo yellow official stage manager jacket, but in his MD suit and announced that we would now sing 'In Flanders Fields'. Julian, who had been expecting a reprieve until later, rose to the occasion magnificently and sang the very best opening tenor solo that we had yet heard. After that it was back to the Green Room for a warm drink and a defrosting of the fingers and toes.
I should have mentioned before that Crauford was having a tussle with the RAF Band over where they were to be located, either them on stage and us on the grass outside and in front of the stage or vice versa. The decision was now announced that both choirs and band would be on stage. However, there would be room for only about 50 choir members. Crauford had decided that both Lincoln-based choirs - us and the Orpheus - would participate in the official opening ceremony and that the Louth and Caistor choirs would sadly have to forego their participation. This was a very unfortunate and much-regretted outcome, but a decision had to be made. It had been a very valuable experience for us all to have rehearsed and sung with the other choirs; perhaps we will have another opportunity in the future.
Time passed all too quickly when we were called once again to leave the comfort of the Green Room and brave the elements. Some folks very wisely kept their outer garments on until the very last minute even when in the queue outside to go on stage.
Back on stage once again we were greeted with a very different arrangement with the RAF Band located in front of us and just three rows of chairs all squashed together at the back. Heather did her usual job of organising us fitting quarts into pints pots and she even kindly kept my seat warm for me!
The official opening ceremony was compèred by John Sergeant, the journalist and TV personality. It included speeches, a couple of pieces from the band and a blessing from the Bishop of Lincoln. The opening itself was a clever arrangement whereby many of the veterens were given a short length of red ribbon and all were invited to cut it so all could say they had opened the centre. By now, the audience had swelled to a capacity of over 2000 with the veterans in pride of place on the front row, many sporting their space blankets.
So what happened to the anthem 'Strike Hard, Strike Sure'?. The programme for the ceremony was obviously severely disrupted by the poor weather and lack of fly-pasts. In addition, there was concern that the vetereans should not be kept out in such cold conditions for longer than necessary. After the Last Post, 2-minute silence and reveille, a decision had been taken that the ceremony was effectively over and the whole audience started to leave. With a rueful smile, the band leader decided we would sing the anthem anyway as we had worked so hard to perfect it. What an amazing experience it was to sing accompanied by a military band. We all put heart and soul into it despite the rapidly diminishing audience and felt that we had done ourselves proud.
This is the time to recognise the amazing hard work, dedication and determination of Crauford, ably assisted where needed by Heather. He it was who got us this 'gig' as he likes to call such events; he it was who had all the insider technical knowledge of formal stage productions; he it was who had to organise and plan all the rehearsals, music, timings, security, participation, logistics and admin for all four choirs; he it was who had to liaise with all the organisers, the RAF band, the publicity, the media demands; he it was who pulled it off with great humour despite many frustrations, uncertainties and setbacks. Thank you, Crauford, and Heather, for a very demanding and difficult job very well done.
So there we are. Another wonderful experience for the choir, another valuable addition to the choir's 'CV', another opportunity to take part in a special event outside the normal run of concerts. But most importantly, we had been blessed with the chance to pay homage to the many who died in Bomber Command during WW2 and to celebrate and to honour those present who had survived. There are not many choirs who can say that.
The choir was especially honoured to have been asked to give a farewell concert for the current Mayor of Lincoln, Councillor Chris Burke. This took place in the Guildhall before an invited audience. The Mayor has been a very good friend to the choir. He has been an enthusiastic supporter who, depite his hugely busy diary, has managed to attend two choir concerts during his term of office. This was a very special event indeed in the history of the choir.
From what we can gather, an added fact that made this concert so special was that it was the first time in the very long and illustrious history of the Guildhall that a choir concert has been held in its historic Council Chamber.
The choir were located at the end of the Council Chamber where the public and Press normally sit. No doubt we were seen as far more well behaved than the usual suspects who sit here.
Heather, on the other hand, had no choice but to be well behaved, located as she was under the stern and slightly disapproving gaze of Queen Victoria.
Following the success of the recent concert at St Michael's Church, Waddington, Crauford chose to use the same programme again the only change being that Julian sang the voice solo in the first half and for this farewell concert very appropriately chose 'Time to Say Goodbye' which he sang magnificently in Italian.
The first half of the concert was:
Speed Your Journey
Lullaby of Birdland
Lullaby of Broadway
'Con te partirò (Time To Say Goodbye)(Julian's Solo)
What Would I Do Without My Music
My Love Is Like A Red, Red Rose
After a short interval, during which Crauford said we should not eat any of the choccie biccies on offer, and then went and scoffed almost all of them himself, the second half programme was:
Somebody's Calling My Name
The Way We Were
Softly As I Leave You
When The Saints
Rhythm Of Life
You Raised Me Up
The Dambusters' March
The audience comprised guests invited by the Mayor. Not only did we see the Civic Party and the Mayor's staff, but there were other dignitaries with chains of office as well. They all sat round the historic and ancient Council table that was wide enough to prevent sword fights. Councillor Burke sat, of course, in the mayorial high chair at the head of the room.
At the end the Mayor gave a short but very gracious and heartfelt speech to thank us all for making his farewell so memorable. How nice it would be if this could become an annual event in our programme calendar.
Seventeen members attended the AGM with apologies from six. The Chairman, in his annual report, said how well the choir had performed over the past 12 months with a particular emphasis on developing new material. He thanked the committee, Musical Director and Accompanist for the collective support he had received from them. Finally, he mentioned that Howard Gannaway,Terry Nolan and Dennis Smith had all left the choir in the past 12 months, the latter two through declining health.
In his report, the Music Director thanked the choir for their continued trust in him and Heather. He highlighted the renewed experience of singing with the RAF Band at the International Bomber Centre albeit in bitterly cold weather. He further felt that the choir had performed particularly well in the final few concerts of last season, but that there were two major areas that needed attention. The first was that we needed to welcome new members more kindly and enable tham to feel integrated into the choir rather than stuck out on a limb not knowing the music. The second was the need to encourage new members to join and to do this he proposed a completely new way to plan concerts; rather than have about one concert per month we should instead have only two, perhaps three really big concerts in the year, held at major venues in and around the city rather than in churches. Each concert should be themed, eg from musicals, swing, from stage and screen. Given the date, we should then plan to advertise and recruit new members specifically to take part in the concert. Thus both new members and existing members would be learning new material together. Venues could include the Terry O'Toole Theatre, the Blue Room in the Lawns and the Auditorium in the Collection Museum. The meeting expressed concern over dropping care home concerts, but accepted that Crauford's proposal was the best way forward to address the future survival of the choir.
Tony Daborn presented a healthy set of accounts that indicated that we had comfortably paid our way despite having a very full and busy year of concerts and other performances. Tony retired as Treasurer at this meeting and was presented with a gift expressing the choir's gratitude for his 7 years in the role.
Ron Travis had offered to succeed Tony as Treasurer and was formally voted into office. All other members of the Committee had agreed to continue in post. Mick Bowbanks advised that he would be retiring as Librarian at the 2019 AGM. Although no longer on the Committee, Keith had agreed to continue as the liaison with the North Hykeham and Lincoln Civic Parties, and with the banner and uniforms. Our full committee for 2018-2019 is:
Chairman - Brian Cropley
Treasurer - Ron Travis
Secretary and Website - Steve Griffiths
Music Director - Crauford Thomson
Accompanist - Heather Benson
Publicity and Welfare - Brian Oldfield
Librarian - Mick Bowbanks
Concert Secretary - Bill Leaper
Civic Party Liaison - (Ex Officio) Keith Hebblewhite
The choir had been here on 2 October 2015 for the initial opening of the IBCC spire and commemorative wall. Last April we were here for a second time at the official opening of the whole site, which now included the Roy Chadwick Centre, a place of archival memories, testimonies and an education centre for schools and those engaged in research on the role Bomber Command played in WW2. We were very honoured to have been asked to return for a third time, on this occasion to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the end of WW1. Last April the weather had been bitter cold, but dry. On this occasion it was bitter cold, windy with frequent driving rain showers.
We were once again joined by the Orpheus Male Voice Choir. The plan was that we would sing a few choir pieces as entertainment as the congregation assembled ahead of the Act of Remembrance. We would then sing three songs during the Act itself. To cope with the inclement weather we had been allowed to wear coats, hats and gloves over choir uniforms and we were all crammed into a tight space at one end of a large-ish tent.
Also sharing the tight space at the other end of the tent was the IBCC orchestra lead by Crauford. Their main concern was less trying to keep warm and more trying to protect their valuable instruments from the wind-swept rain.
Heather and keyboard could be found crammed in between choir and orchestra. She had a very busy morning first at the keyboard accompanying the choir and then out into the teeth of the weather to play the Last Post on her cornet during the Act of Remembrance standing next to the spire, then quickly back to the tent to join the other brass players in the orchestra for the 'Remember' anthem, then back to the keyboard to complete the ceremony as the congregation dispersed at the end.
Meanwhile, one had to feel sorry for the members of the congregation who stood or sat outside in the wind and rain. Even the loadspeaker had some degree of rain-proofing. Indeed, the weather at one point became so severe that one or two of the veterans had to be taken indoors for their own health and safety.
To entertain the troops before formal proceedings began the joint choir alternated with the orchestra. The choir sang:
Rhythm of Life
In Flanders Fields
The Act of Remembrance was lead by Nicky van der Drift, the IBCC CEO, and included a solo flute item, poetry readings, testimonials, the Homage, Last Post, 2-Minute silence and reveille. There then followed wreath laying and the reading out names of IBCC veterans who had passed away in the past 12 months. While this was going on, the choirs, accompanied now by the orchestra, sang:
Despite the battle against the weather, we all felt we had honoured the special nature of the 100th anniversary of the ending of WW1. This occasion will never happen again and we were very privileged to have been an active and core ingredient in the ceremony.