Last weekend, the men in our choirs donned their teal bow and neck ties, and the girls their teal jewellery and accessories. Teamed with black outfits, for two hours on Saturday and Sunday night, the stage of Toynbee Studios looked like a season finale of Glee. Unlike Glee, however, at Starling Arts our shows are, thankfully, without as much drama. No childbirth, declarations of love, corrupt PE teachers or celebrity judges appeared to upset the balance of our latest concert, Summersault. Not as far as we're aware, that is.
Without doubt, Glee brought the term 'show choir' over to the UK, and rather fortuitously launched on our screens at the same time as Starling Arts was born. Yet in the last two years, we've developed our own choral identity away from that brand, and with it a team of loyal musicians, technicians, singers and audience members who always come back for more, ready to support us.
Over the last couple of years, we have produced several concerts with our choirs. From humble beginnings in a draughty church hall with an old piano, it's wonderful to now be able to fill the stage and auditorium of a venue like Toynbee with a band of talented musicians accompanying our wonderful singers, and a backstage and technical team giving it a slick, professional finish.
So, we thought we'd open up this week’s blog to those people, to see what Starling Arts and Summersault means to them.
Shalini - a choir member’s perspective
I've been a part of Forte since the choir was first formed, and I am continually amazed at how making music has brought people together and genuinely enriched all of our lives. Many of us joined the choir on the basis that we sort of liked singing in the shower and wanted to meet a few more people in London, but I don't think any of us realised how much fun we'd have, or the sense of achievement gained from performing in several successful shows, each one better than the last, and having the opportunity to develop and learn in a field completely different to our everyday working lives.
Performing in Summersault in particular has been a highlight as the theatre was bigger than we've ever performed in, and I sang my first significant solo - I would never have had the confidence to do this a year or so ago, but with the encouragement and support of everyone in the choir, what had once seemed a terrifying experience became an exciting opportunity. It's hard work - we're all busy with our full time jobs so we have to squeeze singing in where we can, but it pays off when we're able to come together to put on such a great performance, have a lot of fun doing it and and hearing how much the audience enjoyed it. I can't wait until the next one!
Peter - the Sound Technician’s view
This was my third Starling show as sound tech, and from my point of view (how does it sound...) the best. At the previous two shows at the LOST theatre we had to have the band close to the choir which meant that the choir mics picked up the band too, and limited my ability to get an optimum balance. At Toynbee the band were a comfortable distance from the choir (but still visible to the audience), and I had no problem keeping the vocals heard above the band - and thanks to the CCTV monitor in the second row of the audience the singers could still see Anna conducting from the piano.
I am always overwhelmed by the talent of the performers and how nice they are, even forgiving us sound and light techies when we get something wrong. Constantly ‘riding the faders’ to optimise the sound balance I can’t keep my eyes fully on the choreography, but I am listening intently at all times, probably more intently than the audience who are feasting their eyes as well as their ears. The most moving number for me was “Children Will Listen”. And I had to restrain myself from singing along with “God Only Knows”...
What the audience thought...
It is very difficult to give a reasoned, unbiased and dispassionate response to Summersault because love and pride gets in the way!
From its very beginning, the Starling choirs have always given polished performances, with the added 'verve' that the songs haven't just been sung, but actually performed too. This has improved concert by concert and Summersault proved that the choirs are now reaching newer heights in entertainment and ability.
One member of the audience said to me "...it was great fun" - the evident fact that everyone was having such fun increased the audience's enjoyment too.
Another (new to Starling) emailed me to say "I was REALLY impressed with the evening - great entertainment; well polished and enjoyable choreography to enhance the songs."
So keep on bringing the musical theatre classics - and new songs - to your audience, Starling, and we'll lap it up!
Cat - the Stage Manager
Having seen other Starling Arts shows, I was very excited to be involved in this concert as the Stage Manager. My main role was to make sure that all performers were in the correct place at the correct time to ensure that the show ran smoothly, and with over forty of them backstage and a maze of routes from one wing to the other, it can be a tough job!
I had an amazing weekend working with all three of the choirs. The passion of the singers and of Anna and Emily at the helm is very inspiring to watch, and I felt proud to be involved with such a supportive company. It's a privilege to be part of the team.
Helena - another of our singers’ thoughts
After a few weeks of frantically concentrating on dance moves and tweaking harmonies, the day of the show always begins with a mix of trepidation and excitement. Concentrating on those kick lines and nailing the entrances and exits takes up the morning, but when showtime arrives it's time to let your hair down, get on with the performance and... enjoy
It's such a wonderful privilege to be able to perform. To do it with such a fantastic bunch of like-minded people, making fabulous memories together, is an opportunity not to be missed. I loved every minute of performing in Summersault - thank you Starling Arts!
Our choirs are now taking a well-deserved for the summer while we head down to Devon to facilitate our Summer School production of Beauty & the Beast, but they'll all be back in September, with a rather exciting announcement ahead of Christmas, so watch this space...
Anna & Emily