Not bad for a Sunday afternoon eh?
Finally, the days spent driving the children mad with random 'ooh, ooh's' and 'aaahhhs' with the odd 'eh oh' and 'do doo' thrown in were coming to an end. The dance moves were more or less learnt and I was on the coach to Wembley for Rock Choir Live.
It was amazing, incredible, emotional and lots of other adjectives. I won't go and get too sappy on you, I promise but it was a wonderful experience and one I will remember for a long time. I've been lucky enough to have some great experiences in my life; ballooning over the Masai Mara, standing on the escarpment overlooking the Great Rift Valley, swimming with giant turtles in Barbados, wreck diving in the Caribbean but this was up there with all of them. If you want to know the real definition of 'a wall of sound' it's 8000 voices singing in harmony - or more or less! Let's not forget my fellow tuneless choir member from earlier posts. When people express surprise at my moving back from France I tell them it's because I want to live my life, not exist in it, and this is what I meant. I want to have these amazing experiences. The 14th July fete couldn't really compare with this, nice though it was. Interestingly there are two other people who are French refugees like myself in the choir and we all felt the same.
We arrived at the Arena at midday. It was chaos, but happy, expectant chaos. Hard as we tried, we all got separated in the crowds so just had to hope we would be able to sit together when we got in. I've only been a choir member for a few months and ours is one of the newest ones to be performing at Wembley. I was the only upper alto on our coach and everyone else was sitting in a different block and so I'd resigned myself to sitting on my own, well, as on my own as I could be among 10,500 people, but by a stroke of luck I found myself being directed to a seat next to Sue, Annette and Lynne from my own choir. Hooray! Safety in numbers and at the very least, more experience members who could push me in the right direction if my swaying and snapping went awry.
The atmoshere was uplifting, exciting and the anticipation was almost palpable. People waved madly at friends and family, trying to attract their attention, the TV cameras whizzed around filming people for the documentary which comes out next month, microphones were shoved in people's faces for a bit of on the spot reaction and the Mexican Waves came and went with increasing regularity. The posh ones from off of London (as they say in Brizzle) had their iPads charged up ready to catch every moment. I had my ageing Sony point-and-shoot which proved not up to the task as you will discover from the lack of videos taken by my own fair hand.
It seemed hours before the show started, slightly late because an entire choir had been delayed by a road accident just outside London but when it did, it started with a bang. The Rock Choir leaders performed 'Let Me Entertain You'. I think Robbie would have been proud.
I'm not going to give a blow by blow account of what we sang but here are some videos of my favourite moments.
'River Deep Mountain High'
Dancing in the Street
There was much whispering about who the special guests would be. Of course, we hoped for Robbie (Let Me Entertain You), Elton John or George Michael (see later) but instead we got this shower....
A motley collection of Rock Choir widowers, brothers, boyfriends and dads who had been rehearsing in secret to sing for their partners. They were totally fabulous and will no doubt savour the one day in their lives when they had 8000 women screaming for them.
The next mystery guests were not so much of a mystery, having been revealed by someone on their Facebook page. It was
George Michael and Elton John, Yay 'The Soldiers' who Rock Choir supported on their last tour.
The final mystery guest was a bit of a wild card, an opera singer better known for his irritating television adverts. I was a bit confused as Rock Choir doesn't do any classical singing. When he was announced, there was an audible groan but he turned out to be a very funny man and soon had everyone warming to him. He was, of course, Mr Gio Compare himself, Wynne Evans. - and not nearly as annoying as his alter ego.
On a more serious note, because it wasn't just about having fun, Rock Choir supports two charities, Refuge and Missing People. Martin Houghton Brown, the Chief Executive of Missing People came on stage first. We'd all previously been handed a poster of a missing person. We were all asked to hold the posters up for a photo opportunity for the charity. We were told that each year in the UK 120,000 people go missing. Of those the vast majority turn up safely but 10,000 don't. Look around at the choir and audience at Wembley. That's 10,500 people. Just about each one of them represents a person who has gone missing in the UK in the last year. How shocki!ng is that? As we held our posters up, I imagined how those families must be feeling. It was very emotional, so much so that Mr Houghton Brown had to leave the stage. The photo has been reproduced widely in the local press but sadly a certain French politician with a big ego and stunted
My missing person is Jamie Cheeseman, who went missing in 1993 at the age of 16. For 18 years her family have been wondering what happened to her. Can you imagine? This is Jamie as she might look today.
Rock Choir has been involved with Refuge for some time. All royalties from our recording of 'Something Inside So Strong', Labi Siffre's anti-apartheid anthem, go to Refuge who have adopted it as their official song. If you don't know the words, read them. We heard that in the UK each week 12 women die as a result of domestic violence, two killed by their partners and the remainder take their own lives. Yet the top four women's charities in the UK receive only a third of the donations of The Donkey Sanctuary. It's a very worthwhile charity but, come on! Universal Records were going to use the even to record a live version of 'Something Inside So Strong' for the new Rock Choir album. Here it is.
Then we had to sing it without the lead vocals which gave a fantastic idea of the sound the choir was making
So there you have it. I'm officially a recording artist. Oh, and a Guinness World Record holder. Rock Choir became, officially, the largest recording act in the Universe, or maybe it was the UK.
And just to prove it's not all for 'femmes d'un certain age' the Rock Choir Teen choir has been launched and it's hoped that more will be set up over the next few years
Watch out for the soloist in the last song. She got a standing ovation and promptly burst into tears. Recording contract to follow I'm pretty sure.
So, the day was nearly over, there had been laughter, tears... and of course a loony. Sitting next to me. Why me? There were 10,500 people in Wembley Arena and she was sitting next to me, invading my personal space, giving me her life story, a running commentary on her parents' progress from Brizzle to Wembley. "So where are your choir?" I asked hopefully. "I can't find any of them" she replied. Not bloody surprised I thought rather uncharitably.
It was time to finish in Rock Choir tradition with a hearty rendition of Joyful, Joyful which had sounded anything but joyful at our last rehearsal. Still, one thing I learned during the day is that when you sing with 7,999 others you can't hear yourself, never mind anyone else so our error-strewn version wouldn't really matter. As it was it sounded pretty good, even if I do say so myself.
But not only that, I've had a horrible, annoying cough for the past 7 years (yes I do mean years). No doctors have managed to cure it but after 4 months of Rock Choir it's almost gone. So on top of everything, Rock Choir can heal the sick!
So how did your weekend go?
Ooops, I forgot our Robbie Williams moment....