Guest blog by Susan Collins (Isle of Man Federation) about the IOMFWI Choir's experience in the Singing for Joy competition on 11th October in Shrewsbury
The weekend before last, I had the most amazing weekend with the IOMFWI Choir in Shrewsbury for the first heat of the centenary choir competition. Everything ran like clockwork: the flight left on time, our coach was waiting at the airport, the hotel and theatre staff couldn't do enough for us, and everyone from National was extremely welcoming and well organised.
We may not have secured a guaranteed place in the final but it was a fabulous experience for us all and we sang our socks off! We left the theatre on a high- being ‘in it to win it’ was only a very small part of our two and a half year journey. Our emphasis has always been on fun and friendship, which we have in abundance- one choir member even persuaded her son to feed us all that evening! Thank you Deirdre Berriff and son Michael for a lovely meal, and if we’re passing The Old Three Pigeons at Nesscliffe again we’ll be sure to call in.
Our choir had very humble beginnings, with just twelve ladies attending the first meeting to decide if the Isle of Man WIs could enter a choir in the Singing for Joy competition. Many of us were just like the lady in Joyce Grenville’s sketch ‘A Terrible Worrier’, who had never done a rabbit herself but had seen many a rabbit done. We had seen many choirs perform but we didn’t read music and had never been in a choir before… but what the heck, there was no audition necessary!
The same was also true of our conductor, Karen Elliott who, whilst being a well-respected soloist with an extensive repertoire in oratorio, had never conducted before. However, she decided to pick up the baton and give it a whirl. It is her hard work and professionalism which built the choir we have today and her dedication and enthusiasm which keeps it going and makes it all so much fun. She even keeps her fringe unfashionably short so that we can see her face- now that's dedication for you!
|Karen Elliott, Conductor|
Under Karen’s guidance the choir membership grew steadily and our repertoire increased. Soon we felt confident enough to perform in public- firstly at Federation events and then in the community. Such is the reputation of WI that once word of the choir got out the invitations started to arrive and we have performed in shopping malls, churches, residential homes, community halls and even the local museum.
The choir is generating such good will that when it became known that many of the halls and homes did not have a piano, the ladies of the local RC church organised a coffee morning and presented the choir with a cheque for £500 to help us buy a keyboard. The local newspaper ran an article about this and a local business, Manx Telecom, picked up on it and decided to donate a further £400 to help us equip ourselves to entertain in the community. They have also asked us to sing at the presentation evening on 1st December.
Without the Singing for Joy initiative the IOMFWI Choir would never have been formed, and the opportunity to get out in the community as ambassadors for the WI would have been lost. There are definitely no losers in the Centenary Choir competition – even on day one we thought we were reaching for the moon, now we are ready for infinity and beyond…….