Just one spark will light a fire, one person really can make a difference!

A favourite topic of mine – Yoof!  They don’t always get a fair hearing in today’s society.  I suspect this has long been the case………. even when youngsters have witnessed and experienced real horror.

This afternoon I witnessed an elderly lady, walking her dog, march past a couple of teens chatting on their way home, and grumble “you can’t take the whole pavement”.  A completely unprovoked, negative, comment that I’d be prepared to bet my favourite shoes she would not say to a couple of adults standing chatting on the footpath.

And heaven forbid if a teen wears a hood!  But our teens do, they’re proud to wear their hoodies, emblazoned with ‘Southend Choirs’ yay!!  Our kids work hard and regularly represent the town in the most positive way.  They’re also keen students of history and through their work with the choir learn priceless lessons.

Anyway, life can present little difficult at times, whether it’s having to walk past teenagers on your dog walk, having to wait a little in traffic, or in the supermarket queue.

A cure for day to day niggles, and put them neatly into perspective, is to grab the chance to hear about REAL difficulties.  National Holocaust Memorial Day services across the country this coming weekend give all of us that opportunity.  Southend’s event, this year at 3pm on 26th January, at the local Civic Centre is always both moving and interesting.  It’s free to attend, and even free to park!!

This year’s theme, ‘Journeys’, provides space to reflect on the forced journeys made by millions of people, of all ages, during the Holocaust and subsequent genocides.

If you don’t know much about the horrors meted out across Europe during World War Two, prepare to have your eyes and heart opened by what you hear.  We will be addressed by a concentration camp survivor, Mala Tribich, MBE.  Her inspirational work helps to ensure this devastating period of history is never forgotten.

Mala Tribich at a Holocaust Memorial

Mala Tribich at a Holocaust Memorial

Born in Poland, Mala and her brother, Ben Helfgott (an Olympic medallist for Britain in 1956) were the only members of their immediate family to survive.  At the age of just 12, in 1942, Mala was smuggled from the Piotrkow ghetto and hidden by a Christian family to escape deportation.  By the age of fourteen she’d been in hiding with false papers; tragically her parents and her sister had been exterminated.

Mala went on to survive spells in concentration camps including Ravensbruck and Bergen-Belsen, from which she was liberated by allied troops towards the end of World War Two.  After that Mala was sent to Sweden to recuperate from typhus; and since 1947 Mala has lived in Britain.

Our choirs are honoured to sing at this memorial event.  It’s also a chance to learn critically important lessons, pay our respects and listen to amazing stories of Holocaust survival.  Also to hear about the great bravery of those who risked their own lives to save others.  Listening to Mala speaking at the event will be a real privilege, something I’m sure our choristers will never forget.

Mala survived two death camps and went on to be reunited with her brother several years after the war. Her tireless work ensures that this horrific period of history will never be forgotten and proves, on so many levels, that it takes just one spark to light a fire, one person really can make a difference.

Happy Christmas from Southend Boys’ and Girls’ choirs

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Saturday afternoon with Southend Boys’ and Girls’ choirs

My inner secret bean counter was attempting to figure out the singing hours our choristers have put in to get us to Christmas 2013 so tunefully.  With 140 kids singing beautifully all through the past five weeks, the number of hours clocked up is immense.

We’ve sung in Southend High Street, many times at the beautiful and ancient Holy Trinity, Southchurch,  St. Saviours and Crowstone Christian Centre in leafy Chalkwell, the poignantly beautiful St. Nicholas, Canvey Island, as well the Palace Theatre in Westcliff plus both Westcliff High Schools, the Boys’ and Girls’ schools.

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There’s nothing quite like Claridges

As if that wasn’t sufficient, we’ve sung to diners at Claridges every weekend since the end of November, while also performing at St. Martin in the Fields, St. James’ Piccadilly, finishing the season on a superb note at the Royal Albert Hall, where on both Sunday and Monday this week we performed with the shockingly talented Anton Du Beke and his lovely dance partner Erin Boag.

Throughout all of our concerts we work hard to keep our Christmas repertoire fresh.  Simple to say but that’s not easy to do.  Consistently achieved though by Southend Boys’ and Girls’ choirs.  Last Saturday evening at St. James, in the heart of Piccadilly in London’s west end, was a programme of fresh new seasonal music, with an arrangement so new the ink was barely dry on the page.  Also sung that evening were highlights from Britten’s sublime Ceremony of Carols.  I would argue that no-one, absolutely no-one, sings this piece better than the choristers of the Angelis Choir (aka Southend Boys’ and Southend Girls’ choirs).  There were lots of opportunities for our wonderfully enthusiastic audience to sing too, with a great selection of carols also on the menu.

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A fabulous couple of days with Anton and Erin

Early next morning, after the St. James concert, the kids were back in London rehearsing at the Royal Albert Hall for their performances in Anton & Erin’s amazing Christmas Cracker show.  We’ve worked with Anton before and were very much looking forward to repeating the experience.  Anton of course didn’t disappoint, it was a real thrill to be on the bill with him again.

Ball and Bow

Happy Christmas from the Angelis Choir

Each of these concerts, every one of them fresh and pitch perfect, has been a hit.  Combined, they add up to a triumph by the choristers of Southend, a wonderful Christmas season.  As someone said recently, if these children are the future then we’ve nothing to worry about!  For now though they’re going to take a few days off and enjoy the holidays!  Merry Christmas!!!

Singing in the rain – and the wind…..

AutumnLeaves_Oct2013It’s cold, windy and very dark here in south Essex, but at the allotted time this evening in they came.  From school, from college, from their part time jobs, from friend’s houses ‘cos they’d not had time to get home yet, in trooped the dedicated young singers of Southend Boys’ and Girls’ choirs (aka @AngelisChoir).

They were getting together for one more rehearsal for their big London concerts, squeezing it in before giving a recital to a local charity group tonight.

And as always there was a buzz, friendly chatter, happy, excited faces.  Our kids are a real credit to the ‘youth of today’, a panacea for life’s niggles.  They’re looking forward very much to revisiting our favourite London performance venues:

Tomorrow evening they’re singing at St. Martin in the Fields, on Saturday at St. James Piccadilly (there are still seats available for this, they’re only £10 and can be ordered from 01702 303628).

Then a madly early start on Sunday morning, as the kids head off to the Royal Albert Hall to give two performances in Anton & Erin’s Christmas Cracker (it’ll be fab working with Anton again), then returning to the RAH one more time this side of Christmas, on Monday 23rd.

RAH_withAntonduBeke_2011

Our kids are so looking forward to singing for our London audiences.  Would be great to see you there!

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Pitch perfect and powerful

What a weekend!  It was fantastic to have so many different groups singing, many at the same time.  All in all an incredible few days to enjoy top drawer choral music from the kids from Southend.  This level of skill doesn’t happen overnight, but demonstrates just how hard these young people work, all year round, to build on the town’s rich musical heritage.

The weekend got off to a lovely start, with choristers from both Southend Boys’ and Southend Girls’ choirs giving a spirited and entertaining performance on Friday evening at the family Christmas celebration at Holy Trinity Church in Southchurch.

The following morning our young singers were back on duty delivering high spirited high street carols, stopping shoppers in their tracks with their rich harmonies and unsurpassed descants!  You have to hear the descants to believe it – seriously!!  PPP – Pitch perfect and powerful….

And on that note, the older lads among the carol singers went on pretty much straight away to rehearse for the evening’s concert performance of the Southend Young Men’s Chorus, the newest creation from the Southend Boys’ Choir.  They gave their usual polished performance, also pitch perfect and very powerful!  Stunned with their performance… “I hadn’t realised, they are SO good” said one delighted new fan.

Throughout the weekend we also had groups of younger choristers, both looking and sounding angelic, entertaining diners taking tea at Claridges.

Rounding off the weekend,  it was great to be back again at the Three Rivers Golf and Country Club last night, where our choirs gave yet another wonderful sounding performance.

We still have a lot to do before Christmas, we’ll be at Crowstone UR Church this Wednesday, 18th, at 7.30pm, then  St Martin in the Fields  on Thursday, 19th, for their annual Spirit of Christmas by Candlelight concert,  St. James, Piccadilly on Saturday 21st at 7.30pm, then at the Royal Albert Hall on Sunday 22nd and Monday 23rd in Anton and Erin’s Christmas Cracker.

Then we might take the rest of the year off🙂.

Thank you for reading, and thank you even more if you’ve listened to us too!

 

The amazing Southend Young Men’s Chorus

Lads from the Southend Young Men's Chorus

A couple of likely lads, there’s another 18 of these fine chaps in the Southend Young Men’s Chorus. For future dates follow us on @angelischoir.

Had a real treat this morning – bumped into a friend who had seen the Southend Young Men’s Chorus performing last night at the Charity Concert for the Southend Fund.  She could not have been more effusive!!  A keen follower of local culture my friend has seen countless performances from our our rich seam of local musical talent.  Even with that background though she was absolutely blown away by the Young Men’s Chorus!  Catch them if you can – forthcoming dates will be posted on our twitter @angelischoir.

St. Nicholas Day visit to St. Nicholas

There’s never a bad time to hear Britten’s Ceremony of Carols, but yesterday evening, in the beautiful setting of St. Nicholas Church on Canvey Island, it was sublime.StNicholas_Canvey_Inside

Poignant too, on the feast of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children, with a reputation for secret gift-giving, who became the model for Santa Claus.

That brings us back to gifts and reminds us that we’re so lucky to have the Southend Boys’ and Southend Girls’ Choirs.  In the words of our lovely hosts at St. Nicholas ‘With talent like that, the world is in safe hands.’

Thank you so much! We’ll be back.

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In the meanwhile though got loads of fab performances to give – starting tomorrow, Sunday 8th at 7pm, with a Christmas Choral Extravaganza, Christmas Cracker, by Southend Girls’ Choir with Southend Vox at the Palace Theatre, SS0 9LA.  Tickets: 01702 351135.