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God Bless Us Everyone – Concert Day

18 Dec

Hi everyone

Hooray we did! We slid smoothly through the dress rehearsal, moving on to give two wonderful performances of our ‘God Bless Us Everyone’ concert. All to rapturous applause and a standing ovation.

We got through all those words, stood up, sat down, and swayed in all the right places. Our Do-Do’s were perky. There were no Shepherd’s Pies to be heard, no sandals in the window, and no nicking of Irn Bru in ‘Walking in the Air’.



The audience were amazed by our ’12 Days of Christmas’


It was a long and fully packed day at the Sage, but we managed to get through fortified by coffee and eating our own body weight in Christmas treats. The fun started shortly after registration, when we headed up to the glass-fronted Barbour Room where we would be camping out for the day. Two altos had managed to lock themselves inside the room, and couldn’t work out how to get out. They waved back at us as we shouted ‘press the button’ – disappeared for a bit, then came back waving – again we shouted, again they disappeared – this continued for a short while until our charades-like miming of ‘press the button’ actually registered. They greeted us as we entered and pointed at the button they had ‘found’, then both wandered off trying to remember last minute words and also where they had last been sitting.

The dress rehearsal started before lunch (about 10am Inspiration-time). We marvelled at the orchestra, ooh-ed and ahh-ed at the strings, and became transfixed by watching the Royal Northern Sinfonia and Gary at work.

During the rehearsal we had an intellectual conversation about the different instruments in the orchestra. We could identify the harp, violins, trumpets, flutes but then our expertise began to peter out. ‘What do you call that big thing that he has there?’ I said pointing at a man with a horn-like horny thing. ‘Erm it’s a Oompah-phone?’ – NO. ‘A Stylophone?’ – NO. ‘A Bassoon?’ – NO they are straight with twiddly bits. So it went on. Now I’ve got a confession to make here, because someone made a suggestion which I thought even sillier than the initial Oompah-phone. Margy said it was a Sousaphone, which I’ve just Googled only to find it is a real instrument. Sorry! Anyway I think we decided in the end it was a Tuba, but might have been a Sousaphone 😉



A horn-like horny thing


The rehearsal was so slick and smooth that we didn’t want to jinx it continued straight into Act 2 without a break. We discovered that in ‘Hark in the Herald Angels Sing’ we wouldn’t be able to look at one another, as it was a definite ‘lip wobbler’. In ‘Let the Song Begin’ the jazzy bit, I got a wave of emotion which reminded me of how uplifting it can be to sing with Inspiration. In ‘O Come O Come Emmanuel’ which I ended up loving, the wave of emotion was different, a mild-panic about being exposed for not knowing the words; previously I needed about 20 minutes between the 2nd and 3rd verses to get the words right.

Although Gary was very pleased with the rehearsal, he gave us some reminders about support and stage etiquette.



Don’t fiddle during the concert


We were then free to roam and eat more chocolates. There was more action in the alto camp, when two altos went out for a leisurely stroll across the blinking eye Millennium Bridge; then had to do a Quayside dash back to the Sage after the bridge tilted and blocked their swift route back for the performance. In that time the more sedate altos had got involved in bling-gate, as we got together to discuss what is classed as too sparkly; this was followed by frantic turning of dresses inside out, and finally swapping of spare dresses to fit the clothing etiquette rules.



Nee bling if ya want ta sing


Just before the matinee performance started, back stage there was a bit of a panic as we couldn’t remember the order of the line up. There was lots of arm waving and stage whispers of ‘I’m sure I wasn’t standing next to you’, but we got there in the end and filed onto the stage correctly.

I loved singing in the matinee performance and felt the joy of singing again with Inspiration. In ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’ it felt like we were pulling together as a big team with a we’ll get through this together attitude, and boy did it pay off! I’d been close to giving up and singing the tune in that one, but I got there in the end.

My overall favourite was the ‘Shepherd’s Pipe Carol’ as from my position on the stage, between sopranos on my left and tenors behind me, I could hear the mix of voices in the ‘angels brought this message’ and each time it took my breath away. This along with ’12 Days’ was one I thought I’d never get right, I kept getting brain-freeze at the words.



Is it far or is he there?

But it all came together nicely in the end.


Dance and sing for joy


I didn’t stay to sing in the evening performance, but I sat at home and watched all the congratulatory posts on Facebook. It’s a marathon day and as I’ve had problems with my back, it would be too much for me to do both performances. But I was pleased and proud to be part of the day for one performance.

This term has flown by and I can’t believe it’ll be Christmas soon. Thanks to Gary, Sue and Mark for all your hard work; plus of course Santa’s little helpers Mallory, Sheila, Jill and Lindsay.

I saw Facebook posts that the Leeds concert was also a great success, and I believe it is Manchester Inspiration’s turn tomorrow. Southampton too have their concert soon, in fact it might be right now as I write this. I hope it all goes well to our ever-expanding Inspiration family.

Best wishes to all Inspiration singers and God Bless Us Everyone.

See you soon.

Lorraine x

carol singers


The last rehearsal

8 Dec

Hi everyone


The last rehearsal

As the concert is on Sunday I’m not going to write much today. After all I don’t want to run out of things to say. So it was our last rehearsal and we had a small audience, seated on the balcony to watch our efforts. They were appreciative of our singing, and it was nice to hear their applause. As we gave a full run through of the concert we all got to check out our word learning and erm ‘knowledge gaps’. The main thing I learnt was don’t wear a Christmas jumper and stand for 2 hours next to a hot radiator, whilst also trying to perky-do-do and wrestle with Frosty.



Even if I say so myself. I was one hot alto 🙂


See you early on Sunday morning.

Have a great concert day.

Lorraine x



Tweak Week

3 Dec


Well already it’s the penultimate rehearsal, where has the time gone. We started rehearsals working on our support and practising diaphragmatic breathing with some ‘Vvvvt’ exercises. I struggled with where to feel (on myself) to check I was doing it right. I obviously wasn’t, because at one point all I could feel was the underside of my bra wire. My alto pal next to me was having the same kind of problems, so we had a bit of a snigger about that.

Pretending to be the opera singer from the cartoon Tom and Jerry produced better results, and I was able to feel the difference. I find if I’m not using my support correctly, in the high notes it goes up into my throat and gives me a croaky voice. This is one of the reasons I’ve had to skip some numbers whilst singing in the car, and probably why I know some better than others. After a morning commute with ‘For To Us A Child Is Born’ I turn up to work with a voice somewhere between Hilary Devey from Dragon’s Den and Coronation Street’s Phyllis Pearce. So I stick to what I know and stay low.

Once fully supported we did some lovely ‘amens’ from ‘The Lord Bless You and Keep You’. We did this a few times to make them stick, although at one point the ‘amens’ got a bit chaotic and were compared to be cries of Animal the drummer in The Muppets. Remember him?


We boldly sang through ‘The 12 Days of Christmas ‘ without books (correct Alto part optional). We high-fived each other and whooped at the end, not only because we survived it but because it wasn’t too bad. Marks on a scale of Lords a-leaping to a partridge in a pear tree, was about a maid a-milking.

This being tweak week we worked on lots of little bits, and fixed oohs and aahs as we went. Some numbers such as ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’ and ‘O Come O Come Emmanuel’ were left alone for fear of flooding through incessant hanky wringing.

Tweak week has given me some points to twerk work on. Not too many so I’m quite chuffed with that. Although I’m finding the verses in ‘O Come O Come Emmanuel’ really difficult to learn, anyone else finding this?

See you all next week for the last rehearsal.

Keep twerking – you’ll definitely need support for doing that 😜.

Lorraine x

Ps. Who’s bringing Christmas goodies for concert day? Mince pie for breakfast anyone? Mince pie for break, ooh and for lunch too don’t mind if I do.

Hark, Hark ……What was that?

18 Nov

Hi everyone

So after a run of high ‘nee-naars’ this week we did another full run through. My first thought was ‘another one?’ and then I remembered that we’re not that far off the concert. It’s only 3 weeks away – if I deduct work time, sleep time and all of my telly time (I’m a Celebrity, The Missing, Westworld, Neighbours, and any other old rubbish) – that means it’s getting scarily close, so I better start some serious word learning.


Happy Holiday

Exercising and brainwashing – it’s the future.


I managed without my book for ‘Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas’ although I got my verily merilys muddled. Not sure why that happened, but I hate it when a new mistake pops up for no reason.

At the start of the rehearsal I had made a promise to myself that I would be totally off the book with no cheating. Unfortunately only one number later I had to break that promise. It’s Frosty’s fault, not mine.




Be nice to the altos Frosty



I stumbled through the air, walking only very occasionally. Gary said the ‘Shepherd’s Pipe Carol’ this week had a lovely air of insouciance. I have to admit to looking this word up, thinking it would mean ‘winging it by yodelling through the oohs’ but I was pleasantly surprised.



An easy-going Shepherd’s Pipe Carol


A lot of the laughter this week came from discussions on how to dance in ‘Let the Song Begin’, when the mood changes to the strong latin beat. Gary suggested maybe trying the Ed Balls’ Gangnam Style, which I also had to look up.

Warning: once you have seen this clip it can never be unseen.



Perhaps we could also use the ‘hey sexy lady’ steps? Would they work in ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’? Perhaps not, it’s difficult enough already.

In the break Mark gave us a taster of his new solo piano album ‘Lightburst’. As we all know he’s very clever and talented. His album launch concert is on 26th November 2016 at the Jesmond United Reform Church, 7.30pm.

The biggest laugh in the 2nd half, surprisingly was not our attempt at ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’. But instead came in the middle of ‘Hark The Herald Angels Sing’.


Tommy Cooper

Just like that………What was that? [photo from Wikipedia]


Just like that there was a huge bang behind me, which made everyone jump. I couldn’t think what it was. Gary was clasping his chest in shock and laughing, and the altos were all a titter. Had Rudolph veered off course and crashed into the church window? ‘Smerely a matter of reason. Had some naughty boys thrown a snowball at the window to disrupt our singing? Again wrong and totally irrational, but I did genuinely think this for longer than sensibly possible.

No it was Mark’s loud piano playing booming through the speakers. Honestly what a shock, it took quite a while to recover after that. The altos were in shock – Ethel dropped her knitting, Dolly nearly choked on her Vocal Zone, and poor old Madge she lost her place in ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’. I’m sure that special sound effect will become a weekly feature as it got such a laugh.

I’ll need to lie down and relax with ‘Lightburst’ after all that.

So only 3 weeks to go and as we know time flies (like a reindeer). I’ve made another promise to myself to try for a week without my book. Hopefully next time I can be more true to this promise and myself, and last longer than one song.

See you soon.

Here’s to a swotty week ahead.

Lorraine x

I hope the Ed Balls clip works if you are viewing this by email?



First full run through … books optional

5 Nov

Hi everyone

This week was a surprise full run through of the concert. In no particular order and scoring ourselves as we went along. The idea is to give yourself a score out of ten for words and for notes, then at the end you’ll know what you know, and also more importantly you’ll know what you don’t know.

I mainly scored seven for the words. But don’t be too impressed, I was using my book for the whole rehearsal.


Will I ever get used to my varifocals?


I often found myself tongue-tied, cross-eyed, and tripping on to the wrong line in the music. In ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’ I’m totally unable to count backwards from twelve to one whilst also singing the wrong notes harmony. It’s too much for my brain. My biggest problem at the moment is on the fifth day of Christmas and it’s driving me mad.





Poor old ‘Frosty’ got a rough time of it.



Frosty in a not so jolly mood


With ‘Frosty the Snowman’ I can sing it at home with the CD. I can sing it in the car, in the shower, in my head, in fact anywhere except in the rehearsal with everyone else.



A frosty reception from the judges


Another low scorer for me was the ‘Shepherd’s Pie Pipe Carol’. I made a right meal of that, minced my words and everything. It was all going along quite nicely until the ‘oohs’ and then I was side-swiped and knocked out the game.



On the way to Bethlehem …. Ooooooh……..


My high scorers were the ‘Candlelight Carol’ and ‘Let the song begin’. Hopefully when we do this exercise again they’ll still be at the top. That’s the worry that you focus on one thing, say ‘Frosty’, for that to then push out things you knew a few weeks ago.

So I’ve promised myself that I will have a rehearsal filled week in all my usual venues – my car, in the bath, in my head, and annoyingly in the middle of the night with a dreaded earworm.

From Wednesday’s self-scoring rehearsal I wrote down the things I have to work on. Two things mainly –

  1. The words
  2. The notes

How did your scoring go?

Have a lovely week practising and see you soon.

Lorraine x

An Alto’s Lament & zombies

21 Oct


This week’s weird warm ups included an old favourite of the Vvvvvvtt, Ffffffffft, Zzzzzt exercises, also known as the tickle your top-set and hockle on the person in front of you game. These exercises are great to practise on your own, perhaps on your morning commute, it’s a guaranteed way to get a seat on the metro.




There was a progression in the ninging exercise, in that we had to sing the “ning-gah” and stop the sound by pinching the nose.


Your own nose (Joke 2016)


The “ning” stops if you are ning-ing right, but if like me and you were ning-ing wrong it didn’t always ning-ing work.

The singing began with a number declared as a favourite by a young audience member from a Christmas Concert past. I quote “I loved it when you sang that zombie one”.

What? Zombies? Eh?

When questioned further it all became clear. It was a case of misheard lyrics.



Let the Zombie King, Emmanuel is coming


There was a discussion on the best way to dance in the Zombie King, as the rhythm is difficult (especially if you have two left feet like me). Consensus was that’s it’s probably best not to ‘go for it’ too energetically.


Sing to the Lord sing sing Allelujah


But don’t be too relaxed either


We sang ‘Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas’ by heart, which was more by chance for me. Gary stopped us and asked that we put some more character into it. We dutifully obeyed, but we were stopped again as he wasn’t that keen on our attempt.


Sing it art lard


I was traumatised by the 12 ways of singing ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’ or an Alto’s Lament as I now secretly call it. It’s a nightmare, but it did help me get some extra practice on the ‘ffffffffftttt’ exercises.

I’ll have to try harder with that one and will properly listen to the rehearsal track. At least it’s not in French, Welsh, or Lion King type chants, so I might stand a chance with it. BUT at the moment I’m in that I can’t do it phase. Never mind I’ll put a brave face on it.

My ’12 Days of Christmas’ brave face


See you all next week and happy rehearsing.

It’s nearly Halloween, so time to get your Christmas tree and decorations up. Oh I do love being on an Inspiration calendar, where Christmas starts mid September. Best put the sprouts on now 😆

See you soon.

Lorraine xx

Week 3 – Perky do dos and perky don’ts

6 Oct

Hi everyone

How nice it is to be back singing on a Wednesday night. It’s lovely to see you all, because it’s been ages hasn’t it? It’s taken until week 3, but I’m getting back into it now and thought I would write a quick blog post. A few of you have kindly asked about it, so here it is.



Blogging is back again … YES


That singy ningy thingy was a new weird warm up. It was to get the holes in your head buzzing or something. After many failed attempts I think I managed it. The faces we were pulling and the resulting “ning——gah” sounds were certainly not for public consumption though.

Singing ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’ brought back some memories. Unfortunately they were mainly of the tune, which as an alto I wasn’t meant to be singing. It’s so difficult to sing something you know so well so differently. It’s a bit like those numbers in the file which have (2016) in the title, they strike fear into my heart. But to distract me from getting dragged into the tune there was the return of an old friend. Yes the first appearance of the perky do dos made us all laugh.



It’s supposed to be a perky shake of the head, please keep practising


We first did the perky do dos in the 2011 and if you fancy a step back in time you can read about it here. That was the year we all got overcome with emotion holding a tea-light in ‘Let There Be Peace On Earth’, not the year of the sweaty clapper as I originally thought.

Anyway back to Christmas 2016. Whilst note bashing the do dos there was a lovely solo from one of the sopranos, which Gary described as “wrong on every level”. He’s mean isn’t he, but he gets away with it. Like when we were hiding angelically behind our bushes in ‘Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas’ he described that as “butch”.



Butch! S’merely a matter of reason


I like singing ‘Somewhere In My Memory’ but I always think it should start with the word ‘somewhere’, which unfortunately means I end up singing – “Ssss…Sandals in the window”.  It makes me laugh every time, but it’s not very professional.

There’s a few to learn ‘by heart’ for next week, which means I’ll have to go in for some brainwashing. Playing the tracks over and over again, until they’re so stuck they wake me up in the middle of the night. This Wednesday’s ear-worm was ‘For To Us A Child Is Born’ and in my head it was my poor attempts at reaching the high notes.

I’ve got concerns about managing my way through the long ‘everyone’ at the end of ‘God Bless Us Everyone’. I think we’ll have to sing it in shifts, I’ll do the first two bars ok but will be heaving for breath after that.



This might help you count the final ‘everyone’ in ‘God Bless Us’ from Bar 111 to Bar 3500 (approx.)



Do Do Do

See you all next week.

Happy listening to the rehearsal tracks.

May your brainwashing be plenty, but your ear-worms be few.

Lorraine x


Ms Perky Doo Doo

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