Joint Choral Concert at Norden Farm – 13 March 2011


This evening, I was a participant in a concert at Norden Farm (a local arts centre and small theatre) with my choir, Taplow Youth Choir. It’s a choir I’m really privileged to be a member of, due to my fellow singers’ high standard of musicianship (which dwarfs my Grade Five ability in clarinet, saxophone, and piano).

Yesterday, I left a Jamboree training camp (such is the level of commitment required) to attend a fortnightly rehearsal. It sounded good, but there was one male-voice piece, ‘Down Among The Dead Men’ that was supposed to be memorised. Needless to say, few people knew it at all, and even they weren’t confident with the words. The conductor, the lovely David Manners, simply said “Boys, if you don’t know it now, go home and learn it. Well.”

So, concert day, and at 3:30pm we all rolled up at Norden Farm to begin rehearsals. I’d made a real effort to learn it thoroughly, but we were still unsure at the starts of lines and phrases. Joining us was the Hertfordshire Youth Choir whose men would also sing the same piece. Happily, they were equally uncertain, and after the run-through in the afternoon we all sat down in a green room and learnt the words. We now had the makings of a brilliant concert, so went to our seats on a balcony above the stage.

At 7:15pm, there was no audience. By 7:25pm, I worriedly whispered to the bass I was sitting next to “They’re late opening the house”. Eventually, with minutes to go until the advertised start of the concert, the first few people began trickling in. It later emerged that this was because there had been a severe confusion over who was to be supplying the stewards.

It got worse though. Taplow Girls Choir walked on at 7:30pm not realising the mistake, so the lighting desk-op duly brought down the houselights (despite the auditorium being only half-full), meaning those still not seated had to rush to their seats – dodging over an assault course of handbags and outstretched legs in the process.

Actually, the desk-op wasn’t great at all; missing cues, playing on his phone, and bringing up spotlights where there was no focal point. In his defence, he was young, it was a Sunday night, and such events are always hard to light due to the tightness of the timings in the non-chronological rehearsals.

However, at the end of the day it’s all about the music, and it was tremendous to be able to join with Taplow Girls (our sister choir), and also the guest external choir for a magnificent ‘Festival of Choirs’ as the programme called it. I am, for that, eternally grateful to the choral directors, especially our own Gillian Dibden.

And what about Down Among The Dead Men? It went alright, not well by any means, but alright. In the end, I knew it perhaps best, due in part to my desperate, eleventh-hour lyric-learning during my post-Scout-camp bath


Night all!

Andrew Burdett

Andrew Burdett is a twenty-something from Maidenhead in Berkshire, working for ITV News.