Song on the Tyne – for Macmillan Cancer Support

On Sunday 2nd July Bishopwearmouth Choral Society and the Bishopwearmouth Young Singers joined with Ryton Choral Society and the Tyne Theatre Stage School Choir at the Sage, Gateshead for a charity concert presented by the Rotary Club of Newcastle upon Tyne. The evening was in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support and a bucket collection raised over £1,200 in cash. The Rotary Club will soon be able to make a substantial donation to Macmillan incorporating the proceeds from the concert and other recent activities.

A crit of the performance has been kindly prepared by Philip Sanderson :-

“Despite it being one of the warmest days of the year so far, there was a healthy and eager turn out in Sage One, Sage Gateshead, for ‘Song on the Tyne’, led by David Murray, one of the North East’s most outstanding musicians. The concert was a collaborate venture as it was presented by the Rotary Club of Newcastle upon Tyne and featured a wonderful combination of the joint choirs of Ryton Choral Society and Bishopwearmouth Choral Society. The permanent conductor of both of these is David Murray. The Bishopwearmouth Young Singers also featured, along with the Tyne Theatre Stage School Choir. And that was not it: renowned soprano Sally Harrison also teamed up with Murray to add another dimension to this already varied programme. All ticket proceeds from the concerts and donations have gone to Macmillan Cancer Support.

The concert began with the combined choir of Bishopwearmouth and Ryton Choral Societies. Throughout the concert they did four substantial sets of popular songs by writers such as Randy Newman, Noel Coward, Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Lennon and McCartney to name but a few. The common theme running through all of the pieces performed was that David Murray had specially arranged all of the music for four-part choir. For anyone who knows anything about choral writing, or indeed choral singing, they will appreciate that this is not an easy task. Yet Murray’s arrangements were superb. They were no mean feat either: imaginative part writing, intricate relationships between the different sections, some complex harmony and even more complex rhythms. All too often choral versions of pop songs end up where the sopranos have the tune and everyone else adds a bit of padding now and again. These were certainly not that. If Murray showcases some of his song book again it is really worth trying to hear it.

So how did the choirs handle these arrangements? The short answer is incredibly well. They did a marvellous job. From the outset every word could be heard: the diction was pristine. The choral sound was fantastic. It came across, I’m sure to everyone in Sage One, as complicated and impressive, but fun. The choirs did seem to be enjoying themselves, despite the concentration needed to get around the notes and the text. There were a number of special effects and Murray’s attention to detail was not just in the writing, but also in the performance under his excellent direction. The choirs really responded well. They were accompanied by fine instrumentalists which added a richness and deep colour to the scoring.

The Tyne Stage School Choir, under the direction of Liam Gilbert, made a contrasting contribution to the concert. They sang two traditional pieces and two contemporary medleys: one from “Into the Woods” and the other from “Wicked”. These complex pieces were impressively performed from memory and very much enjoyed by all.
Sally Harrison did not disappoint either. Her performances of Gershwin’s “Summertime” and Kern “Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man” were performed with sensitivity and were deeply felt, yet they possessed the power and control of an experienced opera singer. Harrison’s fine performances were beautifully accompanied by Murray.

Harrison then joined all of the evening’s performers with Murray’s arrangement of Simon’s and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” This not only had power and might, but also it had a somewhat rustically modern feel. The applause at the end said it all. This was a wonderful evening packed with a lot of music. Unreserved congratulations must go to everyone involved.”

Philip Sanderson.