Singing in Wolverton Hall

Grand piano and armchair with classic oil paintings

Corridor and map of Wolverton Manor, Isle of Wight

December has arrived! There’s so many things that make me fall in love with this month: pine needles, sharp blue starry skies, wrapping paper with twine, and singing carols. We welcomed in 1 December with tangerine sugar’d mince pies, champagne, and a roaring fire. But the Christmas cheer started late November for me, singing in the fabulously atmospheric Wolverton Manor.

This grand old 17th century house is tucked away off a tiny lane out in the West Wight. The couple that live there hold concerts in their hall throughout the year. It’s perfect for a relaxed cheery festive celebration. The small audience all crowd in to the kitchen for wine in the interval, and the choir use the snug family lounge as the green room, warm from the wood burner and with every surface full of generations of photos.

The old fireplaces, creaky staircases, rambling rooms, and deserted wings give the whole place an air of Brambly Hedge’s Secret Staircase. And filling it with wintry songs really does make it feel like a midwinter festival. I’m ready to relish all the festivities of December, and I’m starting with this tune.

Camerate singing at Wolverton Manor November 2013

Singing Big

View of Royal Albert Hall stage

Close-up of Royal Albert Hall stage

So this was my Sunday. After months of rehearsals, our little chamber choir got to sing big, with two other choruses and a full orchestra, at the Royal Albert Hall. Being directed by a famous composer to a sold-out venue on this scale feels kind of a big deal looking at these pictures. At the time, I was focused on where to stand, watching for the alto entries, and soaking up the sound of so many skilled musicians. But my goodness, that hall looks big doesn’t it? I’ve sung here once before as part of 1300 voices. This time we were a smaller bunch, invited by the composer, and it felt even more of a privilege to be part of. It’s amazing the places music takes you. (Photos thanks to Edward Radcliffe)


Sunset above Shorwell

The sun descending in the west,
The evening star does shine;
The birds are silent in their nest,
And I must seek for mine.
The moon, like a flower
In heaven’s high bower,
With silent delight
Sits and smiles on the night.

William Blake

The choir I sing in recently commissioned a piece of music using verses from this poem and it has been whirling around my head for days.  I love  that last flurry of the day, and the zephyr and hush that accompanies sundown.  I’m always amazed by people who have the creativity to capture those moments, with words or music.   All I can do is sit in wonder (and maybe hum the tune to myself..)

Singing in the city

Photo collage of Royal Albert Hall rehearsal

After all my recent talk of the delights of Island living, this week I’ve hardly been here. Last weekend I was in London to sing at the Royal Albert Hall with my choir as part of the Really Big Chorus

I have to admit to being a little sentimental about the Albert Hall, as this is where Tom and I met years ago. That time, we were up in the gallery, listening to Mahler #2; this time I was down on the stage, singing Jenkins’ ‘Gods of Olympus’

It was great to have the opportunity to sing in a such a grand venue. The sound of 1300 voices ringing round the hall was a little heart-thumping. Add to that the full orchestra and killer percussion section, and we made a pretty dramatic sound.

So I’ve heard no pounding waves on the beach this week, but more pounding kettle drums in the midst of the city; both more enjoyable in their sharp contrast.