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With our pair of ever-popular sell-out Minchinhampton concerts, Christmas is alwasy a busy time for the Stuart Singers, but this year we also managed to fit in singing two extra Christmas programmes, at prestigious concerts at Gloucester Cathedral and at Cheltenham Ladies College. Standards like Sleigh Ride and Do You Hear What I Hear, vied with new favourites such as the Ragtime Carol and Christmas Lullaby as audience pleasers, but there's no doubt that Walking in the Air, with 11 year old guest soloist Rosie-Jane Widdowson, was for many one of this year's highights.
Not only were we delighted to be able to help The Listening Post raise money at their Cathedral concert, we also gave away at the two Minchinhampton concerts money which we had raised ourselves, and this Christmas' deserving beneficiaries were Guide Dogs for the Blind, Five Valley Sounds, GRH Intensive Care Unit and Minchinhampton's own Holy Trinity Church.
With the concert season over for another busy year, we'll take a few week's break, before returning in January to begin rehearsing another season of new songs.
Our new Music Director Helen Sims is determined to carry on Gerry Palmer's policy of stretching us vocally and artistically, so for 2013's summer concerts in Minchinhampton we learned no fewer than 19 new numbers, all of them sung (of course) from memory. It's probably a record. Altogether they made for an unusually varied programme even by our eclectic standards: something which our loyal audiences tell us they love.
Two medleys of audience-pleasing standards from Cole Porter and Frank Sinatra framed a first half which also featured the ladies masquerading as witches in a ghoulish chorus from Verdi's Macbeth, Franck's famous Panis Angelicus and the well known Forever Autumn, featuring Bill Evans' narration of part of The War of the Worlds. The second half began with the jolly Tie a Yellow Ribbon and, by way of the haunting Bilbo's Last Song, the traditional Pick a Bale of Cotton, the a capella All in the April Evening and a new take on Old Macdonald had a Farm amongst other pieces, closed with three highly contrasted numbers: the men's forceful rendition of Sixteen Tons, the serene On Holy Ground and, finally, that old favourite, Razzle Dazzle.
It was a classic Stuart Singer's programme, hugely enjoyed by our enthusiastic audiences, who also saw Helen hand over donations to support four good causes: Alzheimer's Research UK, Milestone School, Stroke Association and Stroud Valleys Project.
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