“Live at Last” was the title of May’s concert put on by Shipston Music Society. And the relief felt by singers and audience alike to be back together enjoying live music was palpable.

This year’s Royal Jubilee was in evidence in the line up of songs presented by Leamington Choir, Divertimento at the Music Society’s concert in May.

But the evening started - and the audience immediately engaged and gripped when they were invited to join in a real tongue-twister with All I Want is a Proper Cup of Coffee. Tongues were duly twisted and then the choir began their evening.

First of all, Java Jive, a song which continued the coffee theme and made popular by Manhattan Transfer. We were then treated to two songs based on late 19th century vesper hymns, Ave Maris Stella by Grieg and Beati Quorum Via by Stanford.

The Platinum Jubilee was celebrated in a number of pieces reflecting Queen and Commonwealth, starting with O Taste and See composed by Vaughan Williams for the Coronation in 1953. This was followed by a version of The Lord is my Shepherd arranged by Howard Goodall for the Vicar of Dibley, a favourite television programme of Her Majesty. Then we were treated to Ubi Caritas which was dedicated to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on their wedding day, followed by O-Re-Mi, a Nigerian highlife song (“Come on, let’s dance!)

With the ladies dressed in colourful jackets – red, green and purple, and the gentlemen in smart suits, Divertimento presented a sense of real togetherness which was reflected in the high standard of their singing. Goodness knows how much rehearsing went into such pieces as the folk song from Finland, Sakkijarven Polkka, which brought out chattering voices, loud and soft, and appearing at times like a Mexican wave. And then Sleep by Whiteacre which was eerie and mysterious. So difficult to convey this in song and yet so easy for the audience to enjoy and quietly absorb.

Transformational songs, The Lion Sleeps Tonight (Zulu trad.song) and I’m a Train (La Chaine), and humour from Cole Porter’s Tale of the Oyster, completed an evening of variety and pleasure.

Divertimento is a group of singers from Leamington Spa and this was their second visit to us in Shipston. It was high quality entertainment, and a real treat. Yes - Live at Last!

For our March concert the members of Shipston Music Society were once again entertained by The Pavilionaires, a local group who are all members of Shipston u3a and who rehearse every week in Brailes Sports Pavilion – hence their decision to call themselves The Pavilionaires.

The programme began with “Don’t get around much anymore” composed by Duke Ellington in 1940 which immediately set the feet tapping. It was followed by “Satin Doll”, the tune being announced with excellent clarity by the trumpet. “Blue Skies” was an addition to the printed programme but, composed by Irving Berlin in 1926, it made its debut in the Rogers and Hart musical “Betsy” which closed after only 39 performances! The song however became an immediate success and listening to the guitar take over the melody at one point was a delight. Two more well- known pieces “Jive at Five” and “Deep purple” followed and then the final item before the interval was “Sweet Georgia Brown”. Composed in 1925 it became popular when the Harlem Globetrotters adopted the tune as their theme song in 1952. It was a lively item to end the first half of the evening.

After a rousing performance of “A Train”, “Shiny Stockings” provided a more melodic contrast; with music by Frank Foster it has two sets of lyrics, one by Ella Fitzgerald, the other by Jon Hendricks. “St. Louis Blues” was composed in 1914 in the Blues style by W. C. Handy who said the idea for the piece came after seeing a distraught woman in St. Louis lamenting that “Ma man’s got a heart like a rock cast in de sea”. Again the guitar featured more prominently. At this point the alto saxophone was exchanged for the clarinet and we heard “Georgia on my Mind” composed by Hoagy Carmichael in 1930 with lyrics by Stuart Gorrell. The performance had a more dreamlike quality as did “The Nearness of You”.

“When you’re smiling” was a very popular choice and was rewarded with enthusiastic applause. As with every item in the programme it was obvious that each member of the group, whether experienced or not-so-experienced, really enjoy performing together and this is conveyed to the audience. We were certainly sent home with a smile and feet tapping after a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

On May 18th the Pavilionaires provided a lively and entertaining evening of jazz for the Shipston Music Society. The instrumentalists in this group obviously enjoy playing together and their musicianship and enthusiasm shone through in each item on the programme. As in all traditional jazz there were sections highlighting a solo instrument and these were all performed with skill and assurance.

The guest vocalist was Gayle Burch whose clear diction and vocal style were ideally suited to such titles as “The Lady is a Tramp” and “I can’t give you anything but love”. After the interval “The nearness of you” with reduced backing and in a gentler style made a good contrast and allowed Gayle to demonstrate her excellent vocal control.

The guitarist and bass player also had vocal spots but this brings me to the one aspect of the evening which, I feel, needs attention – that of balance. The group is lucky to have a very talented flautist, an excellent exponent of jazz, whose clear tone adds enormously to the overall sound. However, for these two items it overpowered the efforts of the vocalists. Such a pity. Also, the Methodist Church is a small, intimate setting where amplification is rarely necessary and clearly some members of the audience felt that on this occasion it was excessive.

Nevertheless it was a very enjoyable evening ending with “When you’re smiling” with audience participation which sent everyone home “with a smile”.

2017 was well and truly welcomed in with a smile at a wonderful evening organised by Shipston Music Society on 20th January.   Tim and Helen Porter together with their family – Hannah, Beth, and Barney, entertained members with a lively and varied programme of music.  Rare for all the family members to be performing together these days, we were doubly grateful to Beth as it was her birthday.

The evening was delightfully informal with all styles of music played to the usual excellent standard we are used to from the Porters.  Ragtime, jazz, pop, folk and classic were all included to the obvious pleasure of everyone present.  And the variety of instruments that were played to accompany the songs seemed endless – piano, flute, ukulele, recorder, harmonica all made an appearance, alongside of course the voices of all five family members.  Even Beth’s husband was persuaded to join her to sing the Scottish Ashokan Farewell at the end of the evening.

There was hardly a space in the house for this concert and we look forward to welcome old and new visitors during the year to come.

December saw a visit from local musicians, The Pavilionaires.   

They were founded in 2013 and have grown to around 8 musicians, increasing occasionally with visiting ones.  The group comprises keyboard , guitar, bass, alto and tenor sax, trumpet and, on this occasion, a guest vocalist - and as founder Geoff Holtom explained, some members of the group had only taken up a musical instrument after retirement.  So all credit to them for taking this forward, performing for the public and giving such enjoyment.

Gentle jazz was the tone of the evening and the group played a number of well known songs – Misty, The A train, Stranger on the Shore, White Christmas to name a few – as well as less known ones.  Vocalist Gayle Burch’s voice lended itself well to these songs, and her, at times, ‘smoky’ interpretation was just right.   Their ability to conjure up an atmosphere was very good, and perhaps particularly noticeable in their rendition of St James’ Infirmary which transported the audience straight to New Orleans!

There was a really good and appreciative audience for this concert, and we will look forward to seeing them grow in the years to come, and to welcoming them back to play for us again in the future.

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