Saturday, 23 June 2012

Zimbe! and A Little Jazz Mass

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ZIMBE! Sing the songs of Africa
23 June in Windsor Parish Church
The Royal Free Singers’ sell-out summer concert  with Dedworth Middle School Choir, the G:Force Gospel Choir, from Formby School, Lancashire and the Call Me Al Jazz Quintet was a memorable and uplifting event for all who performed and attended. The performance of Zimbe! a brilliant fusion of traditional African song and jazz, completed a full programme of African, gospel and jazz music.

 Zimbe! (the anglicised version of the Swahili word for “Sing them”) is a vibrant sequence of twelve African songs imbued with the spirit, energy and simplicity so typical of the African tradition.  It includes simple children’s playground songs from Ghana and Zimbabwe, a Xhosa lullaby, a rousing drinking song, and music for religious occasions. Alexander L'Estrange is the composer and we were privileged to have him conduct this performance by the three choirs singing together.  See and hear more about Zimbe! on

Alexander L'Estrange
The other major work in the concert, conducted by Ben Gunner, was Bob Chilcott’s A Little Jazz Mass, composed in 2004, which the Royal Free Singers enjoyed performing in 2008. It embraces a variety of Jazz styles: an easy tempo Kyrie, a Gloria with real swings, gentle laid back Sanctus building in volume through the Benedictus, culminating in a blues-inspired Agnus Dei – gorgeous, soulful music in an utterly original setting. This work is inspiring to sing and has now become a firm favourite of Royal Free Singers members.

Audience comments: 
'Lovely concert - really uplifting! Thanks a lot and well done the cast of millions!' 
“…… the concert on Saturday was incredibly inspiring and uplifting – we couldn’t sit still and wanted to get up on the stage with the singers – well done what a triumph.”

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Royal Free Singers in Slovakia!

Some 60 or so Royal Free Singers with attendant 'groupies' landed in Budapest on June 1st, ready for our singing tour of Slovakia. Met by our wonderful tour guides, Martina and Lenka, our first stop was Kosice - where we booked into the Hilton for the first four nights of the tour, and then five nights in Banska Bystrica. We sang four concerts in beautiful churches (and enjoyed the standing ovations!); we went up mountains, into forests (narrowly missing a bear!), into caves, restaurants, bars and castles. Some of us loved the traditional slovak dumplings with special cottage cheese and bacon - others were less certain! There were many coach journeys, conversations, some truly dreadful singing on the coach - to contrast with the beautiful concerts, many loo breaks and lots of ice cream.

Musical highlights included Janacek's Otcenas - with lovely solos from our two star tenors, Richard and Peter - Lauridsden's O Magnum Mysterium and, of course, The Storm is Passing Over - with Linda Chanan conducting.

The last night party saw many choir members getting up for 'impromptu' solos and some very amusing group pieces. The hat dance, copied from a Slovakian dance seen earlier, ended in chaos, with some people playing less than fair!

Ben Gunner, our conductor and host, led the choir once more into unknown territory, giving us wonderful experiences in the sunshine and bringing us all back safely - into the rain!