Emergency Planet Earth – Bringing a whole new meaning to showstopper…
We all know that last term didn’t quite turn out the way any of us had planned. That said, we still have so much to look back on and celebrate. So here’s a reminder of what happened in the wonderful world of Sing United over the last few months…
Our previous show, ‘Lest We Forget’ was so special in so many ways. The theme focused on remembering the service men and women who have put their lives on the line for us over many years and conflicts. This was close to the hearts of many of our singers who had family and friends who bravely fought for our country. That coupled with the fantastic partnership with the wonderful veterans charity, Launchpad, it was a winning combination for sure. Our biggest show yet performed to a sellout crowd at Whitley Bay Playhouse. We always say it, but this one was a tough act to follow…
There was barely a two month break, with Christmas thrown in the middle, so not too much time to turn things around and get our next show underway. The planning had started way before the end of last term though. Mark and Angela worked hard to pull together yet more amazing opportunities to create even more Sing United memories. Our ‘Emergency Planet Earth’ show was back at the People’s Theatre, with not one but two performances! It was a tall order to sell out twice but we’re an ambitious bunch and were willing to give it a good go!
We kicked the new year off in style, all ready to throw ourselves into the new term as always. The familiar sound of chatter and laughter filling the rehearsal room at Blue Flames once again. The Green Heart Army of 150 singers eager to get the Sing United story for 2020 underway. Having smashed our original target we were sitting at over £11,500 raised for local charities. What could we achieve this term under the new banner of our very own charity, the Sing United Foundation?
Sing United Foundation Partnered with Recyke y’Bike
As with every other term we continued with our community giving, in the form of fundraising for a local charity, but through the ‘Sing United Foundation’. We’re so proud of having our very own registered charity, to use as a platform to enhance our fundraising efforts and take them to the next level. This seemed to provide our giving and clever singers another boost (as if they ever need any encouragement!) Just when you think you’ve seen it all on the Sing United Craft Market someone else comes up with yet another fundraising idea. We also continued with more environmentally friendly initiatives led by members of the Green Heart Army. This included Lawrence Straker with yet another collection – this time spectacles for Vision Aid Overseas. The time and effort everyone puts in is truly amazing and we’re so grateful to each and every one of them.
This term Sing United were thrilled to be raising money and awareness for Recyke y’Bike. The North East based charity takes in over 2000 used bike donations from members of the public every year. The bikes are then refurbished by their amazing team of qualified staff and volunteers. They are then sold or given away to help others in need in our communities and across the globe. We loved working with Recyke and they were so excited about all we were doing and grateful for any support we could provide.
Songs with a story to tell…
Our theme this term focused on the hugely important subject of the wellbeing of our planet. As the climate crisis worsens, the devastating impact it is having is plain to see. We wanted to shine a light on the issues surrounding the environment in an effort to inspire people to make changes to their lives to make a difference before it’s too late. The selection of songs were, as always, well thought through but this was a show with a different groove to produce the catchiest set list yet!
As with every other term before it, we looked into the stories behind each song and artists in our ‘Meet the Songs’ series. This greater level of understanding what we’re singing about, always adds a special something to performing the songs. Once again, our spotlight shone on the most important aspect of Sing United, our singers. This term’s ‘Meet the Singers’ series was certainly quite a challenge to discover personal connections between our singers and the Emergency Planet Earth show theme. Yet again we managed to unearth some really interesting stories and had our first ever whole team collaboration for a blog!
Children’s choir with a special connection…
We do love to involve children where we can in our performances and this term was particularly special. One of our singers, Clare Marriott, is the Head of Josephine Butler Primary school in Ashington, along with a group of schools in the Northumberland Church of England Academy Trust. She was inspired by our theme and organised a dropdown week for the entire academy trust. This stretched over 6 schools and 1,600 children who went off timetable to focus on their Emergency Planet Earth project. How amazing to think our show theme inspired so many children to focus on their planet and how they can look after their futures? We invited a small section of Josephine Butler’s school choir to take part in a very special performance in our show. One of their teachers had written a beautiful song called ‘Arctic Home’ for them to sing as part of our ‘Emergency Planet Earth’ performance at the People’s Theatre.
Performance Opportunities Aplenty!!
Our non-venue venue performances took quite some organising this term! Finding venues to fit our theme perfectly was quite a challenge. We went from scratching our heads for ideas to a non-venue weekend extravaganza!
March kicked off with our first outing – this one was nearly thwarted due to the high winds in the aftermath of storms Ciara and Dennis. We were deliberating until the 11th hour and then after a check in with the venue we decided to head for Northumberlandia.
Considering the weather, there was a good turnout and we certainly kept the ladies in the cafe busy! An opportunity to give the Sing United outdoor weather clothes collection an airing! Our first chance to perform some of our favourites and sing to a small audience amongst the trees! Apart from the howling gale, it was a beautiful day and warmed our hearts if not the rest of us.
Our Performance Hat-trick
Our bumper weekend of performances kicked off on the Friday before show weekend with a very special visit to Josephine Butler Primary School in Ashington. A small but perfectly formed band of singers arrived to represent Sing United. Warmly welcomed by our own
Clare Marriott and her team, we were treated to displays of the work the children had produced as part of their Emergency Planet Earth project. It was amazing! Then on to the hall where we gathered and saw over 400 children file in and sit down to listen to a performance of live music. Something they don’t often get the opportunity to hear. The children were amazing, engaging with us and the music from the start and joining in when they could! This was a really emotional and special performance that will stay with those of us lucky enough to take part for a long time.
Then on the Saturday we were straight in with a performance at this term’s charity, Recyke y’Bike. Their headquarters in Byker is a hive of activity, packed to the rafters with bikes of all ‘states’ and sizes. Some are ready to sell and on their way out and others ready for some TLC from the amazing team that brings old neglected bikes back to life.
It was a first for us all singing in a bike shop, and you could feel how much our support meant to the team there.
Last but by no means least…
On Sunday we headed for our final performance at the Ouseburn. During the term we had stumbled across an article in the local paper predicting areas in our region that will be underwater if we don’t take action to reverse the impact of climate change. We took suggestions from all our singers and the Ouseburn was the most popular choice. We worked closely with The Ouseburn Trust and Newcastle City Council to make the performance a possibility. So a large group of us descended on the Ouseburn band stand and then the steps outside The Ship and The Cluny to give our loyal following and passers by a performance to remember. It was amazing to see people coming out of the pubs, residents coming out on their balconies and people stopping mid bike ride to watch and listen.
It was becoming more likely that our last non-venue performance would actually be our last performance of the term. The Green Heart Army can overcome most obstacles but a worldwide pandemic was a little bigger than even we could bear. We were very lucky to have squeezed in the band call, one of the highlights of every term as this would be our only chance to hear our wonderful band play some funky tunes!
Emergency Planet Earth Show Day:
The strangest and saddest show day yet – no gathering of green, white and black was allowed as the country prepared for lockdown. We missed everyone descending on our venue and getting to our places on stage. No sign of the band, our Cliff, Gavin, Laura and the extended team that all make the magic of show day. We didn’t get that feeling of excitement looking out at the empty seats that would soon be filled with friends and family eager to see and hear our show.
However, we couldn’t let show day come and go without doing something together! From the jaws of despair we managed to bring us all together with a virtual performance of ‘We Shall Overcome’. We all gathered online, for what would have been the start of our first show at 3pm on Saturday 21st March, to sing with Mark playing that familiar tune from our previous show. We all got dressed in our green, white and black colours and recorded ourselves singing along. This was such an uplifting experience for us all and just left us with the task of getting the videos and editing them together… It was no mean feat but with a lot of patience all round, we got there in the end! Not bad for a little idea to bring us all together and here is the result…
The term and the memories of all the special performances will be with us forever. Even without our usual collection on show day we managed to raise a fantastic £1,836.43 for Recyke y’Bike. This couldn’t have come at a more crucial time for the charity, so we made sure the money was with them a quickly as possible.
We’re delighted to have launched a new Facebook group called ‘Friends of Sing United‘ for anyone who would like to stay in touch and up to date with everything going on at Sing United. We’d love past and current members, friends or family of either and anyone connected to any of the charities we’ve supported to get involved and play a key role in our activities going forward. Click on the button below to join the free group!
Our next show is fittingly ‘We Sing United’ but when that will be is currently out of our hands. Keep your eyes and ears open for what we’ll be up to next as we will sing united again. Whenever it is, there will be plenty of fun, friendship and singing from the Green Heart Army still to come. In the meantime watch this space…we’ve gone virtual! We’re two weeks in to our virtual rehearsals and we’ve started preparing new songs for when we need them. This has been so important to keep our Green Heart Army together and from the response they are definitely a hit! Once again proving that nothing will stop the amazing community we’ve created ?