Lest We Forget – New Venue for Our Special Remembrance Show
Our last show, ‘Always On My Mind’, took us all on an incredible emotional rollercoaster. It was a theme close to many of our hearts, tackling the difficult subject of mental health. At the end of the show it really felt like it was going to be impossible to beat. The combination of such an emotive subject, an amazing amount raised for a local charity, and a unique and compelling show was a real winner. I don’t think any of us were quite prepared for what was waiting for us in our next concert.
Months in the planning, Mark and Angela certainly didn’t disappoint. Once again they brought us some amazing opportunities this term, to create some lasting memories to add to the Sing United bank. With our ‘Lest We Forget’ show day fittingly being Remembrance Sunday, we were set up for yet another wonderful show. A new venue for this one in the Whitley Bay Playhouse – a bigger audience to entertain, more tickets to sell and a different stage to perform on. The show was also to feature a very special performance by Sing United Family, led by our wonderful Colette Brady-Waugh.
After the long summer break we were all raring to go when rehearsals got underway at the beginning of September. The warmth in the room, from old friends and new, was ever present in the now familiar Sing United rehearsal buzz. Our Green Heart Army of 150 singers were itching to get things underway. Having raised almost £8,000 since Sing United began, we set our sights firmly on our target to tip the £10,000 total raised mark by the end of the term. It felt like a big ask…
Sing United Supports: Launchpad
Each term, when we set the fundraising counter back to zero, naturally there is a brief thought that perhaps this term we’ll finally run out of steam. It literally lasts seconds and our big-hearted and talented army turn each rehearsal into a craft market, showcasing their skills and raising actual bucket loads of cash.
This term’s support fittingly went to the amazing veterans’ charity called Launchpad. The charity was established in 2013 when they opened Avondale House on the Byker Estate in Newcastle. The charity provide accommodation for homeless veterans, helping them gain employment and permanent housing for a better future.
This was a true partnership and the charity worked with us, tirelessly all term, to help promote our performances and fundraising for them.
Songs with a story to tell…
Our theme focussed on remembering the service men and women who have put their lives on the line for us, over many years and conflicts. This year, on 10th November, we paused to make sure that those who have gone before us, and sacrificed to allow us to live in peace, are never forgotten. As always, the songs were carefully deliberated and chosen but the show was far from sombre. We had spine-tingling, thought-provoking, emotional and even some humour thrown in for good measure. This show had it all.
We took a deep dive into the stories and artists behind each song in our Meet the Songs series. This greater level of understanding what we’re singing about, always adds a special edge to performing the songs. Once again, as in all the terms before, our spotlight shone on the most important aspect of Sing United, our singers. This term’s Meet the Singers series was our biggest yet! We had quite a number of singers sharing their special connections to the theme of our ‘Lest We Forget’ show. Each term we’re taken aback at the amazing stories that lie within our wonderful group. There are many fascinating connections of family members involved in all the armed forces. As always, we’re humbled and honoured that our Green Heart Army are willing to tell us such personal stories to share.
Emotions were running high from the moment we all heard the ‘Last Post’ was going to feature in the opening of the show. Tissues were at the ready and we weren’t even near show day yet!
Performance Opportunities Aplenty!!
Just a few weeks into the term, we had our first challenge and performance to prepare for. In late September, over one hundred members of Sing United descended on the Spanish City for a very special top secret performance. Flashmob!!!! A perfectly timed and executed few minutes, with a rousing rendition of ‘We Shall Overcome’, in the beautifully restored Dome. The unsuspecting diners sat eating their Sunday lunches – some stopped, some looked, some stared and some just carried on eating! It was one of those moments you wanted to bottle and relive over and over. Fear not! The planned camera footage of the event has been seen by well over 50,000 people! What a buzz!
Just a few weeks later, we were gathered in Eldon Square to perform two sets of our show taster. This was also another opportunity to raise some much needed cash for Launchpad. It had been no mean feat to organise behind the scenes but was so well worth it. This turned out to be a very special experience for the audience and singers alike. Incredibly emotional – and that was just Mark when he realised he’d forgotten his yellow and black tape!
Our last non-venue venue performance took us to Mowbray Park, in Sunderland. This was for a very special collaboration with the National Veterans Walk. On a cold, crisp November morning we gathered at the bandstand to perform. Nearby is the Veterans Walk, where granite memorial stones are laid by families in memory of their loved ones, lost whilst serving with the armed forces. All the money raised as part of this performance was split between Veterans’ Launchpad and the charities that the Veterans Walk work with: SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, Brothers In Arms, and the Sunderland Armed Forces Network. Before we’d even started singing a homeless veteran, who was paying his respects, had been introduced to the amazing Launchpad team. This ensured the link had been made to get him the help he needed. What an incredible thing to happen?
Not that any term has been particularly easy to learn, this show was up there with the most challenging so far! Lots of lyrics to get our heads (and mouths) around. We really had to have some of the tracks on constant repeat to have any chance of learning them in time. Also helped by a few actions from Mark, in one particular song, to prompt what was coming next! Due to the timing of the show and rehearsals we had a later than usual band call, the day before the show. We’d already had a taster of Alex playing the trumpet in the opening number the week before. The wonderful talents of the band came together to give us a real flavour of how the concert was shaping up.
Lest We Forget Show Day:
A cold November day at the coast greeted us on show day. Not to be deterred, we all descended to turn our new venue for the day green, white and black. Entering via stage door, finding space in one of the dressing rooms, we then gathered in the auditorium for our next instructions. Our amazing team from the Discovery Museum show were back to get us ready for sound check and show time. It was hard to believe that the seats we were sat in would soon be filled with another, even bigger, sell out audience!!
Different… places please!!!!
None of us, including those at the helm, quite knew how the staging was going to work out in our new venue. Thanks to a team of early birds, they’d already mapped out a plan for where we were all going to stand. We gathered on stage and assembled with apparent ease. This was our chance to look out at the nearly 600 seats that would soon be packed to the rafters with loved ones. Sound check was underway, our band sounded amazing as ever and we could feel a very special show was about to come to life. Once again we had Gavin Forster, from Gavin Forster Photography, and Laura Purvis, from Pick & Mix Digital Production, capturing some special footage and memories of the day. Then we just had time for a quick break and turnaround to get this show on the road!
Lest We Forget Show: Powerful & Poignant
We’ve never quite had to emotionally prepare ourselves from the very first note before in a Sing United show. This was certainly an exception. We all knew how special our opening would be, singing ‘We Shall Overcome’ intertwined with the ‘Last Post’. A genius creation by our musical mastermind, Mr Deeks, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.
Now a permanent fixture in the Sing United team, and our shows, we welcomed Cliff Lee once again. Cliff signed the lyrics of all our songs for our amazing audience. The first half was underway in spectacular fashion, moving straight into George Harrison’s ‘Give Me Love’ to completely change the mood. We welcomed back a firm favourite from our ‘This Land Is Mine’ show, with Kate Rusby’s beautiful ‘Recruited Collier’. After many switches of mood, we ended the first half with ‘Where Have All the Flowers Gone’. This slow build to a huge crescendo sent the audience off into the interval perfectly.
The second half started with a beautiful performance of ‘Somewhere Out There’ by Sing United Family. Fitting so well with the main theme, depicting the emotions of being far away from your loved ones. We know this is the point at which many of the singers start to well up. Then we had to battle to keep the tears from rolling down our cheeks for the rest of the show. We also heard from the team at Veterans Launchpad about the amazing work they do. They spoke passionately about the huge difference our efforts will make to the people they are helping in our region.
We valiantly performed ‘Buffalo Soldier’, making sure our ‘dreadlocks’ and ‘buffalos’ were all in the right places! We’d been wrestling with the words to the ‘Battle of New Orleans’ all term but managed to pull it off. Even the alligator appeared when he was supposed to and not a moment too soon! A favourite amongst the singers, though a real challenge to learn, was ‘Cable Street’. The performance on the night was nothing short of epic – we nailed it in style and the audience told us so! That just left us with the full rousing version of ‘We Shall Overcome’ to finish off the show. Or was it? Not quite! The ‘Songs for England Medley’ was our encore and brought the show to an incredible climax. Not one of us will ever forget the much anticipated, and impeccably timed, poppy drop. From the first petal at the start of the last verse, to the last petal falling as Mark took his final bow. The emotion on the stage and in the audience was tangible. The performance was strong and the message was clear. Sing United are just getting better and better!
Our amazing audience absolutely LOVED it.
This whole term, and all the special performances, are etched in our memories. We were staggered at the donations and fundraising yet again this term, coming in at over £3,500 for Veterans Launchpad. This has taking us over a whopping £11,500 raised since Sing United began 20 months ago. We’re beyond proud of this incredible achievement. At the end of this term, we announced the exciting news that Sing United has been granted charitable status. This means we’ll now be fundraising under the banner of the Sing United Foundation! Who knows what opportunities this will bring to the start of yet another new chapter for Sing United.
Where next? We’re back at the People’s Theatre on Saturday 21st March with our ‘Emergency Planet Earth’ show. Keep your eyes and ears open for what we’ll be up to next. Whatever it is, there will be bucket loads of fun, friendship and singing from the Green Heart Army still to come ?. Watch this space…