Capital Chorus is delighted to have been invited to perform at The Bandstand for the closing weekend of this year's Regents Park Music Festival.
These free concerts are always a big hit with park visitors, and this year they aim to be bigger and better. Enjoy music from the Park’s bandstand from the comfort of a deck chair (available to hire) or on a blanket with your picnic..
Having spent a couple of months in The Great Outdoors Capital Chorus is delighted to have resumed Monday-night rehearsals at our regular pre-pandemic venue in Kingsdown Church. We are actively recruiting new members. So if you've ever thought you'd like to sing in a choir, or you just want to try something new now the long days of lockdown are behind us, then pop along and meet us any Monday evening between 7.30 and 10pm and experience one of London's friendliest close-harmony choruses for yourself. The next few months promise to be an exciting time. Our first public performance will be at the Ealing Blues Festival on Saturday, August 7th, and there's lots more to look forward to after that. So why not consider a fresh start with a rewarding new hobby and try close-harmony singing with us. We look forward to seeing you.
|Capital Chorus is very excited to be performing as part of Ealing Summer Festival 2021. You'll find us among a fantastic Saturday line-up for the Blues Festival on August 7th. Tickets are already on sale. This will be our first time singing at the festival, and our first performance together since the pandemic cut a scythe through pretty well all live music back in March 2020. It promises to be a very special day. The event takes place in Walpole Park and we hope to see you there. |
Buy tickets here.
|Singing in the sunshine. Singin’ in the rain. We’ve done both over the past couple of weeks as the rules on outdoor singing have been relaxed. But whatever the weather the sheer joy of being able to get together once again to share some harmonies has made it an exciting and rewarding experience. So if you’re looking for some music and fun on a Monday evening with a friendly bunch of people then do join us for Harmony in the Park. We’re easy to find – just turn up at the bandstand in Walpole Park in the centre of Ealing any time between 7 and 9pm. Look forward to seeing you there.|
Capital Chorus singer John Beesley has been named John Grant Barbershopper of the Year.
The prestigious nationwide award is presented by the British Association of Barbershop Singers for contributions made to the Barbershop hobby, and John's award is in recognition of a podcast on the subject which he's been producing for the past five years.
The Harmony UK podcast reflects what's happening in the world of British Barbershop singing and beyond. As well as interviews and features on leading choruses and quartets it's covered conventions, European competition, the history of Barbershop Harmony and current hot topics like the place of mixed-voice singing in an artform where women and men have traditionally sung in separate groups.
John is a former BBC journalist. He joined Capital Chorus in 2009 and currently sings in our lead section. He said;
From the moment I joined Capital Chorus I've been inspired by the sounds of barbershop and the stories of so many people from different walks of life who share a passion for singing together in close harmony, .So it's been a joy to discover the podcast is enjoyed by so many of my fellow singers. Those considered for the Barbershopper of the Year award are more usually people with a tremendous talent for singing, directing choruses, or arranging fantastic songs. That certainly isn't me, so it's been a thrill to see my name on a list with so many people I admire.
John's name was chosen from among 20 or more nominees, a sign, perhaps, of how well the barbershop community has continued to thrive through the pandemic. The meme was created by our friends at the social media site Barbershopmusicuk. We're rather hoping the costume might go with the award.
This year, for the first time, the Barbershopper of the Year award has been dedicated to the memory of the late John Grant, whose extensive contribution to the Barbershop Hobby in Britain includes founding and directing two of the country's most successful choruses, Hallmark of Harmony and The Grand Central Chorus.
You can listen to all the Harmony UK podcasts here
|Saying goodbye is never easy, but last night at our virtual rehearsal we had to bid a sad farewell to our hugely-talented tenor and former MD Aidan Brand.|
Aidan is moving on to pastures new in Somerset. He goes with our good wishes and grateful thanks for his enormous contribution to the life and success of Capital Chorus ever since he joined as a founder member almost four decades ago. As Musical Director Aidan guided us to win two separate awards at BABS Convention for the most improved chorus. He was involved in winning two further awards; the best small chorus in 2007 and the most entertaining chorus in 2018. No-one has done more to encourage quartet singing among our members. Two of Aidan's own quartets, Figaro and Bagatelle won gold in BABS seniors contests. Aidan has been a valued member of the music team. He's been an enthusiastic tenor section leader. His accountancy skills have helped him, as treasurer, to keep the chorus on a sound financial footing. He's always the first to put his name down for a sing-out, and the first to offer to buy a round in the pub afterwards. No wonder so many former chorus members willingly answered the call to join us in a farewell video, to sing a song arranged some years ago for us by Aidan, Queen's Crazy Little Thing called Love,
Watch the video
It's been a tough couple of months. Like everyone else the members of Capital Chorus have been doing their best to stay safe in lockdown, while trying to make the most of life indoors. And though we haven't been able to meet together and sing, we can still work together on songs recorded in our own homes.
So do take a moment to enjoy one of our favourite songs, with more than 20 separate recordings brought together by the super-talented Greg Nixon. Greg sings with our leads section, and though he's recently become a dad and is also juggling other commitments,he still found time to make this fantastic video.
Rehearsing, singing and dressing up for the camera brought us some welcome and much needed fun. We hope it'll make you smile too.
Watch Capital Chorus virtual performance of Drunken Sailor.
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As you'll know already, this lockdown isn't easy. For Capital Chorus it had been two whole weeks since we'd met to rehearse together in those dim and distant days before the weight of travel restrictions and social distancing bore down on all our lives. So we were intrigued when Nick, our musical director, held out the prospect of using online technology to hold a chorus rehearsal from home.
First, we had to sign up to a social networking platform called Zoom. It allows people to meet and talk together online in large groups, and at the appointed hour those of us who hadn't used the platform before were surprised at how easily Zoom let us chat, naturally, together. What it wouldn't do, though, was let us sing together. The answer was to break the rehearsal up into sections; tenors, leads, baritones and basses. Each section took half an hour to rehearse together with each taking turns to sing to the others, and our MD offering feedback on tuning, breathing, phrasing, in fact most of the things we would cover in a group rehearsal.
It worked well, and to round off the evening in traditional style we all came together in front of our computer screens and webcams once more to talk informally, while many of us poured ourselves a beer in what became our own virtual pub.
Capital Chorus is now hoping to hold a virtual rehearsal each Monday evening until the restrictions are lifted and the danger from the virus has passed. We'll refine the procedure week by week, but there's no doubting the value of the internet to singers like us.
Stay safe and keep well.
Coronavirus, as we all know, is posing a threat and a challenge to the entire world. To help combat the spread of the virus Capital Chorus has decided, with a heavy heart, that we must suspend all of our rehearsals and other group singing activities until the danger of contagion has receded. This means that until further notice we will not be meeting on Monday evenings.
Of course, behind the scenes the chorus is still very much a going concern. Our singers are still learning new songs at home as well as brushing up on our repertoire of popular songs drawn from a wide range of musical genres,. We're in touch with one another on social media and we're planning for the day when we can resume where we left off. Above all, we remain as keen as ever to hear from anyone who might be considering singing with us, attending a future rehearsal or booking the chorus for a forthcoming event. If you'd like to talk to us then please see the contact details below. In the meantime please stay safe and look after one another. We'll look forward to the day when we'll be singing for you once again.
CONTACT CAPITAL CHORUS
Phone 07963 595930
Message us on Facebook or Twitter @CapitalChorus
We'd love to say a big thank you to the six new singers who joined our regular Chorus members on January 20th to learn a song for our Blue Monday singing event.
The idea was to brighten what is traditionally seen as the most miserable day of the year by learning a brand new song together from scratch in four-part harmony.
Nick Beever, our new musical director, chose an Elton John Classic for the occasion. And so it was that, after a short warm-up, we started to run through the score of "Can You Feel The Love Tonight", known to millions who've seen The Lion King over the years.
The new guys put in a fantastic effort, as you can see by clicking here to view the final result.
Naturally, we're hoping that some of those who joined us for Blue Monday will want to sing some more. But if you missed the opportunity don't worry. We'll have another "learn a song" event in the summer. Capital Chorus is happy to welcome visitors to all our Monday night rehearsals, so if you can't wait for the summer then drop by whenever you can. We'd love to meet you.
Have you ever experienced the joyful sound of a choir singing and thought you'd love to have a go?
We all know that singing can lift the spirits, especially right now in the depths of winter. In fact this coming Monday, January 20th, has been designated Blue Monday by the advertising and marketing community. They say it's the most miserable day of the year. Why? Because with the Christmas and New Year festivities well and truly behind us, work and the daily grind resumed, and with the bills and credit card statements rolling in, there seems very little to look forward to.
OK. We know that the ads and marketing industry can make a lot of spurious claims. But for many of us this one does seem to ring true, which is why Capital Chorus has chosen the day to invite men of all ages and singing abilities to join us for an evening, learn a song in fabulous four-part harmony, and chase away those winter blues.
Nice idea, you might say. But what if you've never sung in a group before? What if you don't read music? And what if you're not even sure you can hit all the right notes at the right time? Don't worry. Our regular chorus members won't have seen the new song in advance either, so we'll all be learning together. Quite a few of our members don't read music, but we all support one another to find the right notes together. The fact is that almost everyone can sing, whether they know it or not, and a choir is the perfect place to discover your voice. We think you'll be amazed by what we can achieve together in just a couple of hours..
Singing in a choir is a lot of fun. and it has numerous health benefits too. An evening of singing together is as good as a workout and, better still, it can increase your confidence levels and widen your circle of friends. Of course, we believe that of all the kinds of choral singing available, Barbershop is by far the best. Admittedly we might be a little biased here, but the songs are all familiar, there are no Latin lyrics to contend with, and when you're part of a group which gets a chord just right so that it rings to the rafters, well there's no better feeling.
So why not come along and give Blue Monday a try? It's fun, it's free. There's nothing to lose and we think you'll enjoy the experience. To find out more and to register your interest click here. Look forward to seeing you.
It's not every day that you're invited to step up and sing a couple of songs as guests on one of the country's best-known daytime radio programmes, but that's what happened to Capital Chorus in early December when we were approached by a producer from The Jeremy Vine show on Radio 2.
We'd just finished the first of three half-hour sets at the St James's Christmas Market in Piccadilly when a man walked up to us and inroduced himself as Patrick. He asked about the chorus; where we sang, how long we'd been going, then explained that he worked as a producer for the BBC, and was on the lookout for a choir to sing some festive favourites on Jeremy Vine's last live programme before the Christmas break. He'd enjoyed our performance and asked whether we'd be interested. Naturally, we said we'd be delighted.
And so it was that sixteen of us, led by Nick, our new MD, turned up on December 23rd at Wogan House, the building a short distance from Broadcasting House whose studios are used by both Radio 2 and BBC 6 Music. Our soundcheck was at 11.45, a short time before the programme went on air at midday. We were made very welcome by the programme team, invited to make ourselves at home in "The Green Room" with its stunning view acorss central London, and offered coffee from a handily-placed machine. The coffee was good, and it was great fun to watch the comings and goings, and exchange a few brief words with Jeremy and his fellow Radio 2 presenter Steve Wright as they passed by. But the wait was long - we were scheduled as the final item, due on air at 1.50. Normally our default for passing the time would be to sing, but as the Green Room was part of an office workspace this wasn't an option indoors, so back outside to rehearse we went.
Should you ever find yourself in a similar position, we can heartily recommend the pedestrian space beneath The Bridge beside New Broadcasting House. The acoustics are excellent and we soon gathered a small crowd as we ran through White Christmas and Winter Wonderland, our two songs for the programme, as well aa a couple more we sang just for the fun of it.
Back inside the studio a discussion was underway about accidents at Christmas and the peculiar perils posed by the season. Then came the travel news, and as Johnny Mathis on disc sang When A Child is Born, we were ushered into place, in an alcove behind the mixing desk and between two stereo microphones.
It's amazing how quickly ten minutes can fly by. Jeremy Vine put us all at our ease, and before we knew it our songs were sung and we'd chatted about the chorus, Barbershop and singing at Christmas. Rather than having us describe what it was like, why not listen for yourself to the entire segment. It was a definite highlight of our year, and we'd like to thank Jeremy and his team for their warm welcome, and the opportunity to share our love of singing in close four-part harmony with so many others.
PS. We also had the chance to mention our next Blue Monday event, where you can join us for one evening to learn a song with the Chorus in January. Click here for more details.
Here at Capital Chorus 'tis the season to sing, and we've been having a lot of fun doing it too.
On Saturday, December 7th we were delighted to be invited to entertain crowds of shoppers and sightseers at the excellent St James' Christmas Market close to Piccadilly Circus. There is a spirit abroad at this time of year, something in the air which makes people more willing to smile, greet one another and stop to enjoy a festive song or two. We were all caught up in it as we performed carols and all the festive favourites we've been practising since October. We can promise that it wasn't just the very pleasant and rather potent mulled wine that brought it all on.
Then on Sunday the 8th, another treat. Kingsdown Methodist Church in West Ealing, which for many years has generously hosted our rehearsals, celebrated its Diamond Anniversary, and we were very happy to provide a few songs at the lunch which followed their celebratory service.
On Monday, December 16th we were delighted to join collectors from the charity Crisis as we entertained the crowds with a little Christmas magic during the rush-hour at Paddington Station. Thanks to all those who heard us and donated some money to provide food and shelter for homeless people this Christmas. It was lovely to see so many smiling faces, and we'd like to wish a very Happy Christmas to all.
|There’s always a slight sense of apprehension when a chorus gets together for its first rehearsal with a new musical director. Will the warm-up be unfamiliar, perhaps uncomfortable? Will the new director seek big changes to the repertoire, and will they get on with the chorus?|
On the last point, the members of Capital Chorus were pretty sure about their new director Nick Beever. The previous week members had voted unanimously to offer Nick the post following an audition rehearsal at which his choral expertise had shone through, along with an engaging, friendly style and a dry sense of humour. We were delighted when Nick accepted the post, ending a search which had lasted a gruelling five months. Yet the uncertainty remained: How would our new MD change the chorus, and above all, having learned his craft in other choral styles how would Nick take to Barbershop?
We needn’t have worried. At the break, when Gavin Bolderrow, one of our baris, offered to teach a tag Nick joined in with enthusiasm. Earlier the new MD had us extracting first vowels, then consonants as we sang the song, Drunken Sailor. For us it was quite a novel exercise in working to unify the chorus sound, but it wasn’t very different from things we’d done before. The chorus was in the middle of preparing for a festive gig at the St James Christmas market in London’s Piccadilly in early December. So, at his first rehearsal, Nick contributed with coaching advice while Aidan Brand, a chorus member who’s been standing in as our temporary director, continued to conduct.
Inevitably, change is bound to come. Nick’s choral background includes cathedral choirs in Rochester and Truro. He’s a graduate of the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, where he studied music performance, and he teaches at a London secondary school. He has a wealth of experience to bring to the chorus. In turn we’re looking forward to providing our new MD with a window on the unique world of Barbershop. We hope he’ll enjoy the friendship, the camaraderie and the rich variety of activities and events as much as we do.
So, as our chairman Paul Gordon remarked in the pub after rehearsal, an exciting new chapter for Capital Chorus as we prepare for Christmas, the New Year and the 2020 Barbershop chorus contest in Harrogate.
Perhaps we should apologise for the pun but our first ever visit to the Old Sorting Office in Barnes really was an evening to remember.
Thank you to,all those who came along to enjoy songs from the whole chorus, quartets Catch 22 and Bigger Ben, and a spot of audience participaition along the way. We hope to be back again one day soon. For those who missed it we've included a few video snippets to give you a flavour of the event
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Join West London's award-winning men's a cappella choir for a memorable evening of musical entertainment at 8pm on Friday, September 20th 2019 at the OSO Arts Centre in Barnes.
There'll be songs old and new, many performed in the Barbershop style. Toe-tapping melodies, sparkling harmonies and plenty of fun guaranteed.
Click here for tickets
Many choirs break for at least part of the summer, but at Capital Chorus we like to keep the fun going, making the best of the weather to take our performances to people enjoying the sunshine.
In June we were delighted to be invited to sing for crowds in South-West London attending the annual fair in the picturesque village of Ham. The first Sunday in July found many of our singers down at London’s oldest allotment site, entertaining hundreds of green-fingered growers and their families and friends for the annual open day at Northfields Allotments in West Ealing. The sun shone brightly and we had a fantastic time. (Watch video here). Our thanks to all those who stopped to listen and have a chat, including the local MP Rupa Huq.
The fun continues during August when many of us will be visiting Nottingham University for the annual Harmony College weekend organised by the British Association of Barbershop Singers. On September 1st the chorus will gather for our first ever summer picnic. And to close our the season we’ve a real highlight on September 22nd, when we provide an evening of musical entertainment at OSO Barnes. Click here for tickets, and whatever you do, enjoy the Summer sun.
Capital Chorus performing at Ham Fair in June 2019
Capital Chorus members with Rupa Huq at Northfield Allotments July 2019
It was a day we always knew would come, but that didn't take away from our sadness when our highly-respected and much-loved chorus director Pippa Goodall told us she'd be leaving Capital Chorus later in the summer.
Since she was appointed in February 2015, Pippa has transformed the chorus. Our five appearances with her at the BABS annual convention have seen us achieve our highest ever contest scores and win the Most Entertaining Chorus award, a prize almost invariably won by a Top 3 chorus. Our performances are steadily improving and we’ve successfully learned challenging songs that many other Barbershop choruses would never dare to attempt. Pippa has enabled our singers to benefit from world-class coaches at rehearsals and retreats, as well as encouraging in-house coaching using section leaders and riser recordings. She will truly be a tough act to follow.
Nevertheless, the chorus has now begun the search for Pippa's successor. Any new director will start from a solid base.. Capital Chorus is one of the youngest and most diverse groups within British Barbershop,. We're quick to learn, open to new ideas and we enjoy being challenged. We're collaborative by nature and we share a keen sense of fun. Between now and Pippa's final rehearsal on August 19th we'll be spreading the word far and wide about this exciting opportunity. We're seeking a director who can inspire the chorus, has a vision for the future and a clear strategy to continue to improve our skills and take Capital Chorus to new performance heights.
The past five years with Pippa have been happy and successful ones for the chorus, and we wish her well as she moves on to develop the many other facets of her musical life These include her interest in singing and arranging, her passion for promoting Barbershop to young people in universities, and her role as finance director of the British Association of Barbershop Singers.
If you'd like to find out more about the vacancy please contact our chairman, Paul Gordon by emailing email@example.com or calling 07747 641802. More information is also available here.
The second May Bank Holiday is a time of excitement for our chorus, but it's nearly always tinged with a sense of trepidation too. The weekend marks the annual convention of the British Association of Barbershop Singers; two and a half thousand people converging for four days of celebration and song in close harmony. For many it's akin to Barbershop Heaven.
The focus for our singers at Convention takes place on Saturday, when 35 choruses, comprising more than a thousand singers in all, compete for a series of prizes in a nationwide competition. Last year Capital Chorus won the "m0st entertaining chorus" trophy with a set which included a rip-roaring performance of the Disney song "Gaston". But how to follow it in 2019 - that was a question which kept us awake on more than a few nights.
In the end our musical director Pippa Goodall, backed by the chorus's music team, decided that choreography and bravura physical performance could take a back seat this year while the chorus further honed its core singing skills. Pippa and the team chose two songs to learn for the contest. Our uptune would be a very demanding David Wright arrangement of the Stephen Sondheim number "Everything's Coming Up Roses" from the musical "Gypsie" . Our ballad, meanwhile, would be "I'll See You In My Dreams", a song first penned in the 1920s by the composer Isham Jones, and for which we commissioned a beautiful new treatment from the young British barbershop arranger Sam Hubbard.
Our preparations included work with two distinguished coaches, Rob Mance and Simon Arnott, and on the day at Convention we did indeed improve our singing score from the previous year, Overall the nine judges placed Capital Chorus 13th out of 35 competitors, achieving 67.4 per cent of the available marks.
We'd like to thank our director Pippa, our coaches and all who put in such tremendous effort to achieve such a rewarding outcome beside the sea at the Bournemouth International Convention Centre.. If you'd like to watch this year's contest set then please click here.
|Ever been caught by the sounds of close harmony from a choir and thought to yourself, I’d love to have a go at that. If so then you must join Capital Chorus for our FREE Summer Sing event in West Ealing on Monday, June 17th. |
We’re throwing open our doors to welcome men of all ages who’d like to sing together. During the evening you’ll join with our chorus in learning an entire new song from scratch, which we’ll perform together at the end of the session. No experience is necessary and whether you’ve sung in a choir before, or you’re completely new to this sort of thing, we’d be delighted to see you.
Capital Chorus is building a reputation as one of the liveliest, friendliest and most entertaining men’s choirs in London. We love to share our passion for close-harmony singing, much of it in the Barbershop-style. The ability to read music can be helpful, but it’s not necessary to take part, and we can guarantee a real sense of accomplishment when we reach that final performance.
As mentioned above the evening is entirely FREE and without obligation. For more information please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07963 595930.
Members of West London's leading male barbershop choir recently joined thousands at the London Marathon, singing and cheering on competitors and entertaining spectators
Weather forecasts are something we mostly take for granted, but there are days when they can bring on feelings of anxiety and trepidation. I’m sure this is true for the thousands of dedicated athletes and fundraisers who run the London Marathon each year, but it’s also the case if you plan to spend five hours beside the course, singing and cheering the competitors on their way.
For the past few years the organisers of one of the world’s premier sporting events have invited Capital Chorus to provide entertainment on the day for runners and spectators alike. Our pitch is in Docklands, beside the 18-mile marker. With so many high-rise buildings the streets can feel like canyons, and the winds that barrel along them can be seriously chilly.
But this year’s cold weather was a small price to pay for such a fabulous view of this exciting event. The first people to power past were the elite wheelchair athletes, followed by the world’s top male and female marathon runners, who set the pace for the thousands more who follow, among them those valiant fun-runners, pounding their way around the course in an imaginative array of eye-catching costumes. Who could fail to be awed by this magnificent parade of human endeavour, and by the fabulous atmosphere which surrounds it.
Perhaps that’s why the day flies by so quickly. The chorus sang a half-hour-long set of songs five times, beginning every hour, on the hour, between 10am and 2pm. It was the perfect place to use the techniques we hone each week to improve our breathing, and to project our voices without straining them. In earlier years some of us found we’d all-but-lost our voices by the end, but not this time. It seems all that effort on Monday nights is paying off. And it all felt so worthwhile when runners themselves gave us a cheery wave as they passed. One or two even stopped to listen and catch their breath for a moment or two. We were able to offer encouragement and we hope we helped just a little to lift their spirits and recharge their batteries as they bounded onwards for the last eight miles towards the finish line.
The Chorus feels privileged to have been asked to sing once again for the London Marathon. We’re among a number of musical and vocal groups to entertain along the course, and it’s always a very rewarding day out. For a sense of the atmosphere why not watch this short video. And if you missed us at the marathon, then why not come and see our next public performance. We’ll be singing on Saturday June 8th at Ham Fair near Richmond.
OK, so was it man-flu, or maybe the desire for a much-needed post-lunch siesta which led so many of our members to take up a horizontal position during our annual singing retreat? The event, held every year just before Easter, is an opportunity for members of Capital Chorus to take a weekend away together and work on aspects of our performance skills, and this year our guest-coach, Simon Arnott, was keen to demonstrate the power that the correct singing posture could add to our voices.
As Simon told us, with singing the alignment of the body to its optimum position is particularly important. Paying close attention to the position of the feet, knees, hips, abdomen, neck and head can improve the sound, while using the abdominal muscles to support breathing can help sustain notes and prevent singers from "trailing-off" at the end of phrases. One way of helping to find the best possible alignment is to lie down, using the floor for support - it certainly gave us a new perspective on our hobby, and it was remarkable how much difference it could make to the strength and clarity of individual performers.
As a singer, composer, arranger and director of two exceptionally talented and successful choruses, Meantime and the London City Singers, Simon Arnott brought a wealth of experience to share with us. He and our own musical director, Pippa Goodall, worked us hard during a very rewarding two days at our retreat hotel just outside London. This was our fourth annual chorus retreat. Past coaches have included some of the most well-known and accomplished names in British Barbershop including John Palmer, Zac Booles and Kirsty Williams, and after the day's efforts are completed there is always plenty of time during the evening to relax, socialise and maybe even sing some more.
As one of West London's leading male voice a cappella choirs we'll certainly be putting what we learned from Simon to good use when we appear at upcoming events including The London Marathon and Ham Fair, We're also hoping the weekend will help us perform well in one of the highlights of our year, the men's chorus contest at the annual convention of the British Association of Barbershop Singers, which takes place in Bournemouth at the end of May.
This year Capital Chorus marks 35 exciting years as one of the leading choirs for men in West London, singing close harmony in the Barbershop-style.. The early days saw the chorus rubbing shoulders with American diplomats, breaking singing taboos on the London Underground, and experiencing the odd fashion disaster, But the spirit of commitment to performance, the craft of singing, and to having fun were there from the very start. In the following article our Chairman, Paul Gordon, himself a founder member of Capital Chorus, reflects on how it all began.
Our story starts in the summer of 1983 when Phil Jones, a member of the Carshalton Barbershop Harmony Club, decided to try to start a chorus in the West London area near his home. He contacted Ian Stone, the British association of Barbershop Singers (BABS) membership secretary, who was singing with the Chesham Barbershop Harmony Club. The “Dynamic Duo”, together with some other barbershop singers based around London, decided to hire a room at Rooks Heath School in South Harrow for a few Wednesday evenings to see what happened.
Word of this wonderful music spread and chords could soon be heard echoing around the school each week as the embryonic chorus discovered the delights of tags and polecats. However, Christmas was fast approaching, which meant a break from Wednesday night rehearsals and the risk that the new singers would forget about this strange new hobby during the festive season.
January soon arrived and the first Wednesday evening saw a queue of eager singers waiting to try this Barbershop lark again. It now looked like it was going to be feasible to officially form a new Barbershop Harmony Club with a name, a constitution, a committee, subs, and lots of administrative stuff to accompany the singing. After thinking of various possible names for the new club and its chorus (including Harrow, Middlesex and London) “West London Barbershop Harmony Club” and “Capital Chorus” were decided upon. An exciting and vibrant club committee was formed, and on Monday, 13th February, the committee met at the Ballot Box public house to formally start our 35 year journey.
By May 1984 the club was obviously a going concern, so an approach was made to BABS to apply for membership of this strange organisation, which seemed to be affiliated to a mysterious American group known as SPEBSQSA, which made it all seem slightly worrying to the uninitiated.
However, a visit to one of our rehearsal evenings by John Wiggins on behalf of BABS put our minds at rest. He confirmed that we were singing good barbershop, had a proper club structure and constitution in place, and said if we’d like to give BABS some money a couple of times a year then we were in.
We were officially welcomed to BABS with a “Chord of Accord” at their AGM on 23rd September, and the new singers all received BABS membership certificates in January 1985.
Our first public performance was on Wednesday, 20th June, 1984. We were guests of the Lissenden Players for an Old Time Music Hall evening at Lauderdale House in Highgate, North London, and we sang an assortment of exciting songs.
Other performances soon followed, including the first ever public outing of a quartet from the club, at a charity performance in Newham, East London. The quartet members were all part of the group of established barbershop singers who founded the club.
Capital Chorus became one of the first groups to legally perform on the London Underground when Capital Radio teamed up with London Transport to host “The Great Capital Underground Caper” on 27th September, 1986. Entertainments and events were held at 18 stations across the network in aid of the Help a London Child charity appeal. Capital Chorus sang at King’s Cross Station as part of the event and then may have gone on to do a bit of impromptu busking elsewhere….
Perhaps the most significant performance of our first year was our appearance as mike-warmers for the BABS Southern Prelims. Phil Jones directed the chorus as we sang a rather splendid renditions of “Wait till the Sun Shines, Nellie” and “Sweet Adeline”. We almost wore matching uniforms, but someone managed to mislay their beautiful light-blue tank top on the day of the contest, resulting in a not-quite-matching bright-yellow tank top appearing in the front row and, yes, the judges noticed it. (The wardrobe malfunction, however, was nothing compared with the saga of the beautiful “made-to-measure” green and silver lamé waistcoats that made their debut at the 1985 prelims.)
For a few years we had close links with the American Society in London and the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square which brought about some very prestigious and extremely enjoyable performances.
A regular event was the US ambassador’s 4th of July Garden Party at his official residence, Winfield House (known to its friends as Woolworths Towers) in Regents Park. We performed free of charge but were amply rewarded with an afternoon of spectacular entertainment and ceremony, as well as more free food and drink – including a doggy-bag – than we could possibly consume.
Another American Highlight was the 1996 Election Night where we performed at the US Embassy until the early hours of the morning. Once again, the free food and drink came non-stop as we mingled with famous politicians, journalists and celebrities. Parts of our performance were broadcast on TV and radio news and current affairs programmes around the world.
Music feastivals have always been a regular part of musical life at Capital Chorus. We’ve taken part in a number of local festivals and have often travelled around Southern England to participate. Winning at these festivals quickly became something of a habit for us and we have numerous awards to our name. Very occasionally there may be a second competitor in our class, which makes winning an award even more of an achievement!
The first festival ever entered by members of the club was the 1985 Ealing Music Festival. A quartet, Capital Four, got together for the first rehearsal at 6pm on Tuesday, 30th April. At 6,30 they were on stage and by 6,45 they received a winners’ trophy, having thrashed the two other competitors in the “trio, quartet or quintet” class. To say that the judges were extremely impressed would be something of an understatement, and to say that the quartet had a few beers afterwards would also be understating the facts ever-so-slightly….
High-quality coaching has always been something that Capital Chorus strives to offer its members.
As a men's a cappella choir which sings unaccompanied, our voices need to be on-song, and as close to pitch-perfect as we can make them. ,The barbershop-style which we enjoy so much places a high value on bringing out the emotions in the songs we sing, and making them as entertaining and moving as we can for our audiences. So we were delighted when Rob Mance, one of North America's most renowned Barbershop chorus directors, agreed to join us for an evening in February to share some of his expertise.
Born in Canada, Rob has spent the past seven years as director of the Kansas City barbershop chorus, Central Standard, taking them from 9th to 2nd place in the annual international contest held by America's Barbershop Harmony Society. His career has encompassed professional singing, coaching, music education at school and university level, and conducting ensembles from well beyond the Barbershop world.
Apparently Rob first noticed Capital Chorus when he and Central Standard were invited as special guests to perform at last year's convention of the British Association of Barbershop Singers in Harrogate. At the same event our chorus' rendition of Gaston was awarded the prize for the most entertaining barbershop performance., and it was seeing us there which encouraged him to spend an evening with us on his next visit to the UK.
So what did we learn? Well, Rob spent a good deal of time helping us blend our voices to form a "wall of sound". He worked with us on some basic things like hitting the right note first time without wavering. He stressed to us the importance of supporting one another, For example, when one part was singing an embellishment to a song, it was important that the other three parts should sing as though they too were embellishing the score. Rob focused on the teamwork between a chorus and its director. The Director's job, he explained, was to hand the singers a big ball of energy which they could amplify and hand back. He was very complimentary about our own energetic musical director, Pippa Goodall, who was happy to accept some coaching tips of her own from Rob in front of the whole chorus. It's not every MD, he said, who'd be willing to do that. Most importantly, perhaps, he stresed to us that every rehearsal should be treated as though it was a performance.
Inevitably, and happily, the evening ended with our guest accompanying us to the pub and continuing the conversation over a beer. Our thanks to Rob Mance for all his advice, experience and wisdom. We'll do our best to put what we've learned into practice as we prepare for a weekend-long singing retreat in April, and the next BABS convention in May.
Capital Chorus has just enjoyed one of our busiest and most successful Christmas seasons in recent years.
The highlight was surely a well-attended and highly enjoyable joint concert with our friends the Kensington Singers, held at the beautiful St Stephen's Church on Gloucester Road. The event raised funds for Chickenshed Kensington and Chelsea, whose young performers took to the stage and blew away the audience with a series of festive songs and humorous montages. Our own singers had an opportunity to reprise the performance of "Gaston" which won us a trophy for the most entertaining chorus at BABS Convention last May,. Our a cappella style and the accompanied singing of the Kensington Singers provided a varied mix of musical styles, and the evening concluded with the two choirs combining for a spirited rendition of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas".
We were also delighted to greet crowds on consecutive weekends who stopped to listen to us out and about in Sloane Square and West Ealing. We often wear our Christmas jumpers for these gigs. In West Ealing, our performance was followed immediately by a Christmas Jumper competition which one of our leads, Ian, was delighted to win!
Looking ahead to 2019 we're already preparing for an annual appearance at the London Marathon in April, and a trip to the seaside in May for the annual convention of the British Association of Barbershop Singers. We wish you a Happy and Harmonious New Year.
|Last June Capital Chorus held a course to give the opportunity to those with an interest to find out about singing in close harmony, and, over six weeks, to give it a try. Four people enrolled, and we're delighted that, when the course ended, three of them decided to stay on and join the chorus.|
Raj (left) has joined the lead section. On the day of the Royal Wedding he was walking across Lammas Park when he spotted members of the chorus singing in the shade of a tree. He stopped to listen. We were promoting our course and Raj took a leaflet. A few moments later he texted to book his place.
Rory (centre) had sung in choirs before, but he'd never tried Barbershop. When he spotted one of our posters while out and about in Ealing, he thought he'd give it a go. He's now a bass, helping out on the deepest, lowest notes.
Terry (right) has joined our tenor section. He has a lively interest in choral music and song from around the world, and while travelling in the far east he sang with groups in Japan and Vietnam. Terry found our chorus online, and after the course he decided our style and our approach to singing could help him further develop his vocal skills.
It's our great pleasure to have all three new members join us on the risers. They're all tremendous singers, and they seem to have taken to the fun and camaraderie of a chorus where we enjoy working together and supporting one another. We try not to take ourselves too seriously, but we always aim to perform to our best ability. Welcome All!
The members of Capital Chorus are delighted to have returned from this year's British Association of Barbershop Singers' Convention in Harrogate having scooped one of the top awards. We were judged most entertaining chorus in the annual nationwide contest in which 36 choruses took part from all over Britain.
We're especially pleased because the song which won us the title was arranged by our own multi-talented musical director Pippa Goodall, and was choreographed by chorus member Tom Fitch, who sings tenor. Taken from the film "Beauty and the Beast", "Gaston" is a rather tongue-in-cheek paean of praise to the movie's comically arrogant and macho character of the same name, and between them Pippa and Tom came up with plenty of comedic touches including bodybuilding moves, mock fights and even a spitting contest, which brought the audience to their feet.
We should also thank Kirsty Williams for a weekend of inspirational coaching earlier this spring. Kirsty is a leading Barbershop and drama coach who had us all, by turn, laughing and crying as she helped us delve into the emotions and find the humour in the songs we'd chosen to sing.
The "most entertaining" prize is awarded each year by judges from the Ladies Association of British Barbershop Singers, who wanted to encourage their male colleagues to impart more excitement and fun in their performances. The UK has separate Barbershop organisations for male and female singers.
Capital Chorus was also placed as runner-up in the Small Chorus category, for groups with 25 singers or less. Altogether a weekend to remember.
You can watch our two performace songs by following the links below.
I see the Light
Sunshine, huge happy crowds, and the excitement of some of the world's top athletes racing past as we sang. There's no doubt that the London Marathon is always one of Capital Chorus's favourite gigs. On Sunday April 22nd we were invited once again to spur on the competitors and entertain spectators in the heart of Docklands with some of our best-loved songs, all performed in the Barbershop Style.
The day was almost as much of a marathon for the chorus as it was for the runners themselves. We gathered to warm-up at the roadside at 9am, then between 10am and 2pm we sang one set of songs per hour - five sets in total. With 14 songs in the full set, that amounted to well over 60 individual performances during the day. All that singing makes bottled water an absolute necessity for those involved, and a quick coffee grabbed between sets quickly becomes one of the delights of the day.
We'll probably never find out whether, as he flashed by, Mo Farah felt urged onwards by our spirited rendition of "Hello Mary Lou" but we did receive many cheery waves from those further back in the race as they pounded past the 18 mile marker. It was a privilege to be able to offer encouragement and a pleasure to exchange a quick word with some who came over to say hello.
The London Marathon was only the beginning of what will be an exciting and very demanding couple of months. Keep an eye out for our new "pop-up" quartets who'll be performing in some surprising places around West London as they spread the word about our latest Sing in Harmony Course, which begins on Monday June 4th at Kingsdown.
Over the next six weeks we'll also be preparing in earnest for the annual contest to be staged at the end of May by the British Association of Barbershop Singers. For the first time this year we'll be singing two songs which have been specially arranged for us by Sam Hubbard and our own musical director, Pippa Goodall, Last year the chorus achieved 11th position, our highest ever placing. With 36 choruses competing in Harrogate this year we'll be determined to do our best once again.
Watch Capital Chorus at the 2018 London Marathon
A big thank you to everyone who came to see Capital Chorus in concert on October 7th at St Michael and All Angels in Chiswick. It was wonderful to meet you, and to have the opportunity to perform for such an appreciative audience.
Through your generosity our bucket collection after the show raised over £340 for the chorus's adopted charity, Nordoff Robbins.
We would also like to thank Avalon and Sound Hypothesis, the two fabulous young quartets who appeared alongside us. You were amazing! After the show Avalon went on to win a bronze medal in the annual nationwide quartet competition held by the Ladies Association of British Barbershop Singers. Heartiest congratulations from all of us.
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It was more than just monkey-business. Incorporating ape-like sounds and gestures into a barbershop contest song was a real departure for the chorus, but we were determined to do it convincingly and sing the song well. After all, this was our biggest event of the year, the annual contest organised by the British Association of Barbershop Singers. The song in question was a David Wright arrangement of Disney's Jungle Book classic, "I wanna be like you"
While our musical director Pippa Goodall drilled us on the notes, Tom Fitch, one of our tenors, stepped forward to provide us with a humorous visual interpretation of the action in the song. Tom's choreography made for demanding and sometimes hilarious rehearsals, and we were delighted with the reaction we received from the 2000 convention-goers when we finally performed the song at the Bournemouth International Convention Centre at the end of May. IWBLY, as we've affectionately come to know the song, was preceded on the contest stage by a ballad, Robert Rudd's beautiful arrangement of "It's You".
The two songs earned us our highest ever score from the judges, 68.2 per cent. The competition was hard-fought with 37 choruses taking part. Capital Chorus finished in 11th position, up four places on 2016. Next year we hope to do even better!.
Watch our BABS Convention performance HERE
One of the highlights of the Capital Chorus year involves being invited to sing for runners and spectators at the London Marathon. It's happened for the past three years and whatever the weather it's always a day of excitement and surprises.
Our preparations always begin with an early roadside warm-up at 9.15. This year we were placed in Docklands, beside the 18 mile marker, and our audience consisted of race-stewards and paramedics. It must have been odd for them to see 20 or more blue-shirted enthusiasts pop up on the pavement singing silly rounds and doing penguin jumps. But at least we were able to ease some of the pre-race tension and before long our warm-up had an appreciative audience of people decked out in official day-glo orange or yellow tabards.
It's amazing how the excitement builds. First to come barrelling through at a tremendous pace are the elite wheelchair athletes. They're followed by more paralympians, then the elite non-disabled women and men, the club runners and finally the thousands of regular folks who've put their all into raising money for myriad good causes. Some have also put considerable effort into their imaginative costumes. We saw bright yellow emojis, several bears and a crocodile run by and that's before we'd been to the pub!
It's a privilege to sing, to wave and cheer all the participants on towards the finish, and for the chorus it's a marathon performance in more than one sense. Our set list included ten of our most crowd-pleasing songs. This year we sang the entire set four times, with a break for take-away coffee between each performance, and the chance to shout some encouragement to the competitors. This year for the first time we started cheering on by name those who'd had their own names emblazoned on their shirts. Greg Nixon, one of our leads had recently run the Manchester Marathon and he told us that hearing spectators urge him on by name had given him a real lift - we hope we were able to do the same for others.
For us, the stand-out moment of the 2017 marathon came when a man who'd just run by suddenly stopped, turned around and came back to film one of our songs on his phone. It must have added at least a couple of minutes to his time, but we hope he'll enjoy replaying the video he captured of us providing a spirited rendition of "Drunken sailor".
The chorus would like to pay tribute to all those who put such amazing effort into running the London Marathon. It's one of the world's most spectacular sporting and community events and it was wonderful, as barbershoppers, to be included. We can barely wait for next year.
Watch some video of our day at the London Marathon here and here
Rarely have we appeared on such an unusual bill. The scene, the stairs of the reading room at the Wellcome Collection beside the busy Euston Road: The decor, medical models, skeletons, extensive tall bookshelves and a prototype x-ray machine.
The occasion was a Friday night event called "Macho?" which was billed as an exploration of the complex science of masculinity. Along with the many serious gender-related topics under discussion there was a lot of fun.
We followed hard-on-the-heels of a very competitive nappy-changing contest (worry not - dummies were used and no real babies were harmed). Elsewhere in the building a group of Drag-Kings were hosting a "Bromance Cabaret" .
Capital Chorus was invited to sing as one example of a London male-voice choir, and we and Pippa, our female director received a tremendous response from an enthusiastic audience. We'd like to thank the Wellcome Collection for the opportunity to take part. You can watch a video of one of our songs here.
Capital Chorus has just returned, tired but enthused from a weekend of intensive coaching at a hotel in deepest Buckinghamshire. It was part of our preparation for the annual British Association of Barbershop Singers convention in May.
The weekend was certainly hard work, with two full days of expert tuition from one of the Barbershop World's most experienced directors and singers. Zac Booles is a gold-medalist with perhaps the UK's best-known quartet, The Great British Barbershop Boys, and he also directs Grand Central Chorus, one of the country's leading Barbershop ensembles. Needless to say Zac was ably assisted by our own MD Pippa Goodall.
But if you're worried we might have worked too hard then rest assured there was a pool, a bar and some exceptional company with whom to relax after the rigours of the day.
You can listen here to what went on during a very exciting weekend. We hope you'll enjoy it as much as we did.
We love this comedy song, originally sung by the a cappella group Straight No Chaser, so as it's already December the whole chorus gatecrashed Santa's workshop and got busy.
Under the direction of our chief elves Pippa (musical mayhem) and Greg (camera craft and technical wizardry) we recorded a video performance to wish all our friends, supporters and fellow barbershoppers a very Merry Christmas, and a 2017 filled with harmony, health and happiness. We hope it makes you smile.
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Nazir Khan discovered Capital Chorus in September 2016. Here he writes about his first few months singing Barbershop. (Naz is pictured centre with MD Pippa and fellow baritones Kuz, Tim and Rory)
Exciting. Dazzling. Powerful. Unifying. I wouldn’t have described Barbershop singing in any of these ways before joining Capital Chorus. To me Barbershop seemed a little fusty, a genre from a bygone era, not one to appear in my Spotify playlists. Despite this I had a real desire to sing and became more open to exploring unfamiliar styles like Broadway and Gospel. As my tastes and confidence grew I came across a colourful flyer for Capital Chorus’ Learn To Sing course. It looked like a fun way to spend a Monday evening but it soon became the outlet for singing I had been looking for.
Though I had no previous Barbershop experience, I was carried on a wave of enthusiasm from those in the Chorus and began enjoying the repertoire. It was a non-pressure environment with the benefit of safety in numbers, which meant the inevitable tongue trips and timing errors could be gradually overcome. As a baritone I started to learn how important it was to listen and blend with the other parts, and to regard the sound we created as a dynamic force which could have an emotional impact. I liked the idea that I could learn a polecat and use it as a bridge to connect us with people from other Choruses. I began to see I had underestimated Barbershop. To find that harmonic sweet spot, a lot of work is involved. In fact I still find myself having to dig deep to match the vigour fellow Chorus members bring to songs such as Ebb Tide or The Ballad of Springhill.
To feel up to par I would listen to my Baritone part repeatedly through my headphones on long walks, drilling sections with the Chorus or taking part in rotating quartets. As i don’t read music, I had moments of feeling discouraged or overwhelmed, but this was eased by having supportive fellow Baris and a patient Musical Director to turn to for guidance. That’s part of the camaraderie of Barbershop - no one wants you to give up and you’ll still be asked to join a quartet at break time to sing a tag or two. So when it came to auditioning to become a fully fledged member of the Chorus, I was ready to take that step.
Now that I’ve been part of the Chorus for nine months, I feel I can finally call myself a Barbershopper. Every Monday I find myself surrounded by talented people with a deep love of music and a wicked sense of fun. What started off as a hobby has evolved into membership of BABS and a memorable performance at this year's Convention in Harrogate. As I soon found out, no two performances are the same and we’ll only make it through together as a chorus, bringing an audience along with us on an emotional journey. So in the end really quite exciting, dazzling, powerful and unifying.
You see it every day on the news - uncertain future, political turmoil, and the members of Capital Chorus are feeling it as much as everyone else. Like most groups of friends we had some lively discussions during the EU referendum, but we're fortunate to share a love of music and harmony, and it's helped us to keep in mind that, as the late MP Jo Cox said, there really is far more to unite us than divide us.
It was while practising for a recent gig in Waterloo that some of our chorus members realised that the words of one song in our repertoire, called Nevertheless, seemed especially poignant in the current climate. Westminster was but a short walk from the performance venue so we decided to record the song opposite the Houses of Parliament and dedicate it to the 73 London MPs who, with their colleagues from all parties, are trying to map out a route to a better future for us all. After all, it's a tough job, and perhaps they could do with our support. You can watch the video below.
We're delighted that several MPs responded with thanks after viewing the song. Some said it brought a smile to their faces and one even asked to be added to our mailing list for concerts. Needless to say, we'll be very happy to oblige.
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It's a busy time for the chorus at the moment - among our most recent performances was one for listeners to BBC Radio London 94.9.
These days the average radio studio is far too small to accommodate the entire chorus, but our quartet "Slipstream" were able to squeeze in beside Saturday breakfast show hosts JoAnne Good and Simon Lederman to talk about our activities and provide a couple of songs.
You can listen to our intrepid radio stars Paul Gordon (bass), Simon Laight (tenor). Patrick Key (lead) and Aidan Brand (baritone), along with our musical director Pippa Goodall here.