A Special Weekend

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Cottontown flying kites to finish their show setCottontown flying kites to finish their show setLast weekend saw British barbershoppers descend in droves on Llandudno for the 2011 BABS convention. This one was a special one for me in several ways. First, because I had the honour of hearing no fewer than eight of my arrangements receive their first performances. Five were in the chorus contest (sung by Telfordaires, Tuxedo Junction and the Cottontown Chorus), one in the quartet finals (sung by the Serious Chord Squad), and two in the Sunday afternoon show. Current LABBS gold medallists Amersham A Cappella and retiring BABS champs, the Great Western Chorus, also aired arrangements of mine in the Saturday night show.

The second reason the weekend was special was that four of these arrangements were helping make history within the association. It was back in January 2010 when Cottontown Chorus contacted me with the request to create a package that would win them an unprecedented 4th consecutive gold medal. To say it was both a pleasure and a challenge to arrange for a chorus operating at their level would be an understatement! Of course I didn’t know for sure whether I had fulfilled the brief until 6 pm on Saturday afternoon – though to be honest, they are singing so beautifully these days that they’d have won that contest whatever they performed.

Their ambition didn’t stop at the two-song themed set for the contest, however. After I delivered them their Mary Poppins Medley and Feed the Birds last summer, they came back and asked for another two arrangements on the same theme to make up a complete show set – and these were the arrangements that received their premières on the show. I hadn’t seen or heard anything of their performances before we got to convention, and so their unveiling was an incredibly exciting experience – and the imagination and showmanship that had gone into their presentation was just astonishing.

Now all this vicarious success and glory was very enjoyable of course, but what was really special was the delight the Cottontown guys took in singing them. To be greeted with such a light in the face, and to be sung to with such joie de vivre (they gave me another, personal performance of the two show songs in the bar late on Sunday night) was much more of a ‘gold medal moment’ than when they lifted the trophy. To win a contest simply means that nobody else performed better on that day – to love the music you sing, and to delight in sharing it with your peers is what makes you believe you deserve the plaudits. My website bears the title ‘Helping You Harmonise’ for a reason: I get my kicks from doing things that will help people have that feeling.

Saying our goodbyes on Monday morning, one of the Cottontown guys said it was great to 'have me as part of the family' – and that brought into focus another way the weekend was special for me. It was fifteen years ago to the weekend that I had my first acquaintance with barbershop. At the 1996 BABS convention, the only person I knew was my partner Jonathan, who had invited me along to hear the chorus he had recently joined. This year, I couldn’t walk more than a dozen paces without having to stop to hug, kiss, shake hands with, wave to, or otherwise greet somebody. It was quite a contrast.

Well, this has turned out to be quite a self-indulgent post. But I hope you’ll forgive me just this once. Normal service will resume on Sunday.

We really did love the arrangements! They were great to sing and perform and they certainly gave the audience the "Golden Moment" we wanted.
Keep up the good work and barbershop will benefit.

Every comment and every handshake; every hug and every kiss on the cheek; all fully deserved. I have been singing with this chorus for 31 years now and I was never as excited as I was during the build-up to this last contest. The show set you have created will run and run.

I heard comment that our show package; Mary Poppins Medley (Chim-Chiminee, Step in Time, Super-Cali . . .), Feed the Birds, Spoonfull of Sugar/Jolly Holiday Medley and Let's Go Fly a Kite; would grace any West End stage! Quite an accolade, not just for us but for you too.

I echo that sentiment from one of my colleagues at Cottontown; You are a welcome addition to the Cottontown family. Long may our association with you, and yours with us, continue.

Mick Dargan

Liz, it was a very great pleasure and honour to be a member of Cottontown Chorus on stage in Llandudno last weekend. I'm sure I speak for all the guys when I say that we have been thoroughly challenged, motivated and thrilled by your wonderful arrangements. Keep up the good work. Thank you for the music!

For me it was very exciting to be singing brand new arrangements at Llandudno this year. I sometimes can't get a tune out of my head (some call it an ear worm) when learning to sing it and I have to say all your arrangements gave me an ear worm.

Looking forward to hearing more of your arrangements in the future.

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