Hatstand in Cambridgeshire

Remember to get your tickets early for our return to Chatteris.

[imageeffect type=”frame” align=”aligncenter” width=”650″ height=”636″ alt=”Hatstand Opera performance in Chatters 21 June 2014″ url=”http://www.hatstandopera.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Chatteris_2014_PinterestWeb3.jpg” ]

 

 

Back in Cambs: we’re chatting about our return to Chatteris

Back in Cambs: we’re chatting about our return to Chatteris

There are certain clients that are very much part of Hatstand’s heritage, and Chatteris Music Society is one of these! So we’re thrilled to be making a return visit on Saturday 21st June to the Church of St Peter and St Paul, with our iconic show “Golden Moments from Opera”

“Golden Moments from Opera”, our selection of the best bits of opera you never thought you knew, is actually never the same show twice! Each show is tailor-made to the venue and the audience, and thanks to our database of performances, we know precisely what we sang at any of our performances over the last 20 years. (Scary but true!) So, we can avoid too many repeats and incorporate favourite items too.

Since we also vary the line-up for the gentlemen singer and the pianist, each cast has their own music we can choose from. For Chatteris, we’re delighted to have baritone Jochem van Ast, fresh from singing in the chorus at both the ROH and ENO, and pianist Susan Graham Smith, one of the most versatile players we know and who makes our digital piano sound superb!

S, what will we sing on the night? To be honest, we don’t know 100% yet ourselves!  We do a first draft programme using the database, and then add in new numbers, items that we think the knowledgeable and fun-loving audience at Chatteris will enjoy, and shake well! This process keeps the show fresh and enjoyable for everyone, especially the audience.  We can’t tell you the exact formula we use (it’s a closely guarded secret like the KFC spice mix!), but the result has been delighting audiences across the UK and beyond since our first performance back in March 1993.

Why not join us in Chatteris for more hilarious scenes and heart-rending arias from the world’s favourite operas – we look forward to seeing you there!

Quote of the Week

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Statement: ‘brilliantly sustained throughout its range’
Meaning: sings just as loudly at any pitch

from “A Musician’s Dictionary” by David W Barber

 

 

Quote of the week: How loud?

[imageeffect type=”reflect” align=”aligncenter” width=”480″ height=”360″ alt=”Quote from Baritone – Robert Merrill. how loud should opera singers sing?” url=”http://www.hatstandopera.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Robert-Merrill.jpg” ]

Touring Tales: Fog, fog, glorious fog

“It’s unique, you know’, our performance hostess beamed, “Gale force fog. Only the Channel Islands get it.” And boy oh boy, do they get it.

Our tours to the Channel Islands are something we look forward to immensely. Four islands and eight performances in five days may sound hectic, but it never really is, thanks to efficient organisation on the part of the Channel Islands Music Council, and copious amounts of alcohol provided by our various hosts on the islands.

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However, such a tight timetable doesn’t leave much room for error. Our usual adversary are the tides around Sark, which seem determined to ensure that we always have to make a dash down to the harbour to catch the ferry after the schools workshop, held horribly early in the morning. We were counting our lucky stars as we bounced back across to Guernsey on the ferry (a.k.a. tug-sized boat with cabin seating and two benches out on the back.) Yes, it was ‘choppy’, and yes we did have to hang on like grim death to avoid being rolled into the briny, but even I managed to keep my dignity intact. (I usually get sea-sick on a millpond, so I was feeling pretty chuffed with myself.) Did you know you can’t sing and be sick at the same time? So if the feeling comes over you, get to the outside and sing!

[imageeffect type=”frame” align=”alignleft” width=”259″ height=”270″ alt=”Our luggage!” url=”http://www.hatstandopera.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Web_us-and-luggage.jpg” titleoverlay=”yes”]

When we arrived, we rolled onto the harbour side, piled the cases into the taxi, and headed up to the airport for the flight to Alderney. This means small planes, and I mean, small, like ten seats, and just enough room for the luggage. Or so we thought. No, said Blue Islands airways, you can’t take the luggage. It’s our props and costumes, we wailed, we have a show to do. No, said they, you can’t take ANY luggage, no clothes, no show stuff, nada, just hand luggage.

[imageeffect type=”frame” align=”alignright” width=”270″ height=”265″ alt=”Essential prop!” url=”http://www.hatstandopera.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Web_essential_prop.jpg” titleoverlay=”yes”]

So, a frantic repack later, and a promise from the airline to DEFINITELY get our luggage to us by 9am the next day, (or we would set Toni the soprano on them), we boarded the plane with just a plastic carrier bag each, a briefcase of music and a plastic chicken (there are just some props you cannot do without).

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Then the problems started. Thick fog rolled in, and the next morning (Thursday) we couldn’t see the end of the garden, let alone the sea. We performed the schools workshop in jeans, and waited for our luggage – in vain. Fog meant no planes, and no planes meant, no luggage. So, we did the evening show in our morning workshop jeans and trainers, except our Toni, who in true diva fashion had packed into her carrier bag some extra make-up, a pair of high heels and some tight designer jeans. We became inventive with props – the chicken was for the workshops – but Carmen needs some castanets, so the only thing for it was to play the spoons. I’ll never sing the seguidilla again without longing for spoons!

By now it’s cold, really cold, and all our fleeces and jackets are in – Guernsey airport. So, stoically, we borrow jumpers from our extremely accommodating hosts, and eat cake with lashings of yellow Alderney butter next to the wood-burning stove in our cosy boathouse accommodation. Come Friday morning, and we’re due in Jersey for an afternoon workshop and evening performance, but there are still no planes. However, we are on fifteen-minute standby just in case the fog lifts just a smidgen. I now know how WWII Spitfire pilots felt; fifteen-minute scramble is not fun. We have to cancel the Jersey show, the first time EVER we have not made a performance, and we feel absolutely awful. So, in true Alderney fashion, we drown our sorrows by working our way through our host’s wine cellar.

[imageeffect type=”frame” align=”alignleft” width=”410″ height=”250″ alt=”The rather small boat to take us to Guernsey!” url=”http://www.hatstandopera.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Web_Billys_boat.jpg” titleoverlay=”yes”]

By Saturday morning, the boys were wearing holes in the carpet in frustration. Then my mobile rang – it was the airport. “No flights” they said, “But Billy’s taking his fishing boat ‘Out of the Blue’ the twenty miles to Guernsey. Do you want a place?” I booked us in pronto, and we legged it down to the harbour. Then we saw the boat. Or rather, the fishing smack the size of a large pick-up truck, with an open back and a tiny cabin. Toni freaked and I joined her. The boys did the macho thing and we did the ‘wave them off at the quayside’ thing. For the boys, the adventure had only just begun…

To be continued…

Mad Madge: Eat to the beat: what is this obsession with music to munch by?

 “We’d love you to come and sing at our fund-raising dinner,” the prospective client sweetly intones. “Can you sing during dinner?”

 To which my answer is a curt but polite “Not while people eat”. I always think that singing during dinner is an insult to two art forms, ours, and the chef’s. If I’d slaved over a hot stove for hours only to have my moment of culinary glory shared with a woman dying of consumption whilst singing flat out, I’d have language as strong as Gordon Ramsey’s too. Opera is to be watched, good food is to be savoured. You can’t do both at once.

 Worse still, I’ve noticed a growing trend for every waking minute of a function to be packed with music, from the first drink to the last stagger on the dance floor. First some poor ignored pianist or never-to-be-heard-above-the-chatter string quartet do their best to stay awake as a drinks reception full of people totally ignore their best artistic efforts. (Or, worse, as one pianist told me, chat loudly about how dreadful the evening is, right in her ear. “Don’t they realise I can play and listen as the same time?”) Next, the punters move into the dining room, where the DJ has thoughtfully put on a background cd of music to add ‘a relaxing atmosphere’. Personally, I find having to yell at my dinner companion over disco hits of the 70s less than relaxing…

 Then, we come on, to an audience already partially deafened and with ears tuned to amplified sound. As I’ve said before, it takes them three numbers to adjust to acoustic singing, by which time we’re almost through our first set. And so it goes on, until we’ve done, and the live band with enough amplification for a Wembley Stadium packed with deaf grannies starts up, emptying the room in 30 seconds flat. The poor old DJ has to sit about until all this has finished, and try and coax the remaining punters out of the bar back onto the floor for a line dance to “Oops Upside Your Head”, because it’s the MD’s favourite.

 When will organisers realise that what people want to do over dinner is … talk. They want to interact with their fellow guests, not sit there blasted by a wall of sound from all directions. So, when us performers sing in between courses of dinner, it’s a moment to guests to sit back, sip some wine and gently digest some fabulous music, presented at a human volume level. When the next course arrives they might even want to chat about the music (heaven forbid). What they don’t want is Kool and the Gang in their ears again, until they finally retreat from the evening with thumping headaches and no idea of whom they were sitting next to. Or what they were listening to. Or both.

 And if all else fails, you can always find the fuse box and pull the plug…