This review has been dragged out of me. I didn't want to do it. The Holderness Gazette must have forgotten about it. The Culture Correspondent of the Caerphilly Courier has been made redundant. Why was he ever there? You might well ask. Anyway, it's down to me. So here we are: a review of the Winter Warmer concert featuring the Bishop Burton village choir and their friends. The editor has redacted some of the review as he is very conscious of the need to maintain the objectivity of the paper after the last hacking scandal.
So, let's get on with it - an impartial observer would have said that the choir were f***tas**c and truly br*ll**** - who am I to disagree? I say full marks to their leader, Heidi Baker, for getting them to such a high standard in such a short time. I am sure the audience can forgive her for coming from C****y B****n if she can achieve this much in less than twelve months with a group of people, several of whom had not sung in public since their long-gone schooldays.

The concert was a traditional entertainment with a nice mix of solos, dramatic monologues and songs by the choir. There were over 100 people in All Saints' Church which provided a magnificent acoustic and architectural back-drop for the concert. Never mind the weather, this was an evening of fun and enjoyment. Some might say this kind of concert has gone out of fashion but the audience appeared to enjoy the variety on offer. There wasn't much fidgeting going on, even among those who didn't bring a cushion.

The choir began with three songs - "Sweetly the Swan Sings", "With a little help from our friends" and "Grandfather's clock". The lyrics of the Beatles' song had been adapted to read:

What would you do if we sang out of tune?
Would you stand up and walk out of here?

Well, they kept in tune and their friends in the audience stayed sat down - at least until the interval. By a great coincidence, two swans had returned to the Mere the very day of the concert. How marvellous! I hope they enjoyed the first song as much as the audience did in the church.

The audience was then treated to a performance by the resident village poet Gina Douthwaite of three of her own poems: "Decoration day", "A tipple too far", and "A hanging offence". Witty, pithy and thought provoking they were too and went down very well with the audience.

We then had three songs from our guest soloist, the excellent Poppy Shotts accompanied by her father on the piano. She has a magnificent voice, full of quality and emotional depth, and she sang audition pieces that have helped earn her a place at the Royal Conservatoire in Scotland from next September where she will be studying voice and opera. Poppy sang "Die Abgeblute Linde" by Franz Schubert, "Ici Bas" by Gabriel Faure and "Die Nacht" by Richard Strauss.

It was good to have the Reverend Ruth Newton in the audience as she had recommended Poppy to the organisers but she had also been first to recognise Poppy's talent when she sang a carol in the nativity at the primary school of which Ruth was the head. Well spotted, Ruth. This was definitely one of those moments you'll remember for many years - what a talent Poppy is and there's more to come.

These winter entertainments traditionally include dramatic monologues. Our first was by Captain Peter Frewer, choir member, Humber pilot, and well-known for his lugubrious roles in the village panto. Peter gave a jolly and very amusing rendition of the Captain's Whiskers, a poem in which the whiskers were always needing to be hung out to dry. He was followed by Karen Mosley who also held the show together from the pulpit as compere without resorting to a hammer once. Karen performed "Nowadays we worship at St Tesco", an ironic poem by Pam Ayres, commenting on the decline in church attendance and a corresponding increase in retail activity. The poem is funny but also carries a warning; but as Karen commented, the extended use of the church is one way of battling against the tide. [Sorry, I must break off at this point to read an email from St. Tesco with their latest offers.]

The choir began the last session of the first part of the programme with the ladies singing "I have a dream" from the Mamma Mia musical. Very prettily sung, with some really g**d harmonies. They were followed by the men of the choir Dreaming of the Everley Brothers. Some ground-breaking choreography (for them at least) was introduced too although not all the bits were pointing in the same direction at the same time. The men and ladies came back together for a performance of "Summer Nights" from the musical Grease. Very energetic and just the sort of song you want in the middle of winter to remind you of better times to come.

The concert was called a Winter Warmer and this extended into the interval refreshments with mulled wine and warm mince pies on offer.
The choir began the second half of the programme with Sibelius' poignant "Song of Peace", followed by "Speak Softly Love" from the Godfather movies. They then gave us a robust rendition of "This Old Man" where it became a round for two and then four voices, "rolling home" together at the end.

Gina Douthwaite returned to perform three excellent pieces that contained impressions from local places: "Primrose Pastures", "Barn" and "Burton Bushes". I'm sure many in the audience will now be going back though the back copies of the newsletter for examples of the shape poems that Gina is well-known for.

Heidi Baker the choir leader then gave us a mesmerising and emotive performance of "Ave Maria". She has a strong, vibrant voice and it came across beautifully in the good acoustics of the church.

David Bowden accompanied himself on the piano in four songs which dealt mostly with deficiencies in the character of men: "When I was one and twenty", "Come again, sweet love doth now invite", "The salley gardens" and "The foggy, foggy dew". David knows how to capture an audience and he finished off with the jovial "The foggy, foggy dew" by drawing an enthusiastic audience into joining him in the chorus. David has a wonderfully rich, baritone voice; it was a real pleasure to enjoy its resonance around the arches of the church.
Captain Frewer returned to the lectern to regale us with "Nell of the Yukon" a tale of derring-do in the land of ice and snow written by Ronnie Barker. The tale is very funny in itself but Peter's performance added much to the amusement.

The last session of the evening began with the choir's performance of John Rutter's "The Angel's Carol". This was then followed another carol by "What Child is This?" to an arrangement of the well known Greensleeves tune. The wintry element of the programme continued with "Dashing through the snow" a hectic song written around the Jingle Bells theme. Working hard on the piano was Susan Leeding who accompanied the choir most expertly for most of their songs. She was also one of the driving forces behind the setting up of the choir. A few technical difficulties with a CD slipping in the church's sound system was proof enough that there's no substitute for the real thing!

The concert ended with the choir and the audience joining in a resounding performance of Walking in a Winter Wonderland. The sound must have alerted the staff at the Altisidora of the impending end to the concert as many of the choir and some of the audience decamped there afterwards. They rightly enjoyed the success of the concert - let's have more of this. What a good celebration of the variety of talents in and out of the village.

The concert was dedicated to the memory of Bill Hutchison who was a founder member of the choir but sadly died late last year. He is much missed in the choir and we were pleased that his wife and daughter were able to join us for the concert as well as a number of his friends.

The concert raised over £600 and the proceeds are being split between the church, the choir and the village playground fund. Many thanks are due to those who contributed to the success of the concert - too many to mention by name.

What next? Well, Karen hinted at a cross between Glyndebourne and Glastonbury up at Cold Harbour Farm. What could that be....?

If you would like to join the choir, you are very welcome to do so. They meet at 7.30 in the Thomas' Granary, Westfield Farm most Tuesdays. No audition required and you don't need to read music. Contact Bryn Jones (01964)550255 or Susan Leeding on (01964) 551277 or visit the choir section of the village web site for more information.

Comment from John Dunning:

Congratulations to our very own village choir on their first full concert performed to a large appreciative  audience in the Church on Monday evening, admirably introduced by our own star of stage and now pulpit Karen. It was advertised as an evening of "musical and dramatic entertainment" which was fulfilled to the letter and masterminded by Bryn, he must be welsh Jones I trust it was not "a one off" and that we can look forward to future performances.

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