Those people who were brave enough to venture into Queen Victoria Square, Hull on the afternoon of Saturday 9th of August, were treated to a fantastic 90 minutes of entertainment and mass singing. Not even the rain which had started to fall mid morning could dampen the spirits of Mike Brewer, our choirs and the public who came to watch and be a part of this Last Choir Standing Singing Event. Those people who decided to stay at home in the dry should be kicking themselves for missing out on an opportunity to partake in what was a really special event, the rain even stopped for some of the time!
BBC Look North's Peter Levy kicked off the afternoon welcoming the audience and introducing Mike Brewer OBE, the choirs Gay Abandon and Chechelele and drummer Godfrey Pambalipe.
Following a short message from Myleene Klass and Nick Knowles shown on the Big Screen wishing the afternoon a success, Gay Abandon, a choir from Leeds who sing a diverse range of music from contemporary to classical took to the stage.
Dressed in pink and purple T shirts, 31-strong Gay Abandon brought the afternoon to life with a stomping version of Queen's Crazy Little Thing Called Love in which they were accompanied by keyboards and saxophone. Even in the rain it was impossible not to feel that the sun could actually be shining as they then sang Cole Porter's Don't Fence Me In.
To rapturous applause Mike Brewer took to the stage to start the first part of the singing workshop which he began by warming and loosening up the audience with a few exercises both physical and vocal. With a mix of jokes, stories, and deft teaching practice, Mike, by the end of this first session had the audience singing a children's song he first came across in the 1970's called Mrs O'Leary, a fun song which really inspired the audience to want more.
Chechelele, an a capella choir from York who sing world folk music then entertained the crowd with 2 songs. Firstly a Zulu song called Jowe followed by E Malama an Hawaiian song about the need to look after this sacred earth. With their colourful costumes and mix of voices and movement this 19 strong choir really impressed the audience.
Mike was back with the second part of the workshop, this time accompanied by Godfrey on drums, in which he began to teach the songs that would eventually be sung by everyone to close the event. O Re Mi, an African chant from Nigeria and Shut The Door an Appalachian folk song. Starting with O Re Mi he worked with the audience teaching the song line by line, encouraging, cajoling, and bringing out the best from the wet but enthusiastic crowd. Working in the same way on Shut The Door, piece by piece the songs began to come together.
Gay Abandon were back on stage with more singing. A beautiful song called Everything Possible which moved and gave thought to the audience was followed by a rousing rendition of Drunken Sailor that literally sent the audience wild.
Back on stage came Mike Brewer, more workshop, more fun, more learning for the audience as the mass singing approached. Now the subtleties began as Mike introduced different harmonies for different voices. One for the tenors, another for the basses, one for the sopranos.
Spending time on each of the two songs they started to take shape before in no time Chechelele were back on stage for the final performance from the choirs. Two songs from South Africa, E Marabini and Tate Modima, which received huge applause and appreciation from the audience.
Now it was the crowd's turn to entertain. With further instruction from Mike and with Godfrey joined by Keith from Chechelele also on drums and 4 soloists handpicked by Mike from the two choirs, Queen Victoria Square was filled with a mass sing of Shut The Door followed by the chant O Re Mi by the end of which Mike had the crowd singing in 4 part harmony.
It really was an unbelievable experience to see, hear and be part of a large group of people singing, the feel good factor is extraordinary, leaving everyone on an amazing natural high. The rain, the cold, the grey drab light, none of that mattered as the Square lit up with the sound of music as people united in song.
All that was left was for Peter Levy to say thank you to everyone who had participated in the event, Mike, the choirs, the drummers, and of course those people who had ventured out into the wet afternoon, the audience. Thank you!
Watch all the performances and masterclasses from the live singing event in Hull.
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