Deck the halls with boughs of holly, fa la la la, la la, la la.
One Sunday we sang for lots of lolly, fa la la la, la la, la la.
Tinsel, lights and Santa hats worn, fa la la, la la la, la, la, la.
Mulled wine drunk added to our warmth, fa la la la la, la la, la, la.
That’s the best summary of our fabulous afternoon out singing for charity I can come up with, but should you want further detail still…
Not all our escapades stem from the Time Out books, although goodness knows a lot do. Some things I see online are so in the spirit of the blog that I do them anyway, and singing Christmas Carols in Spitalfields market for Shelter is absolutely in that category. I saw it via twitter, and signed me, Zim and Spouse up on Facebook (the event was organised by a very nice young man called Simon, who it is safe to assume is entirely hip with the social media).
The day dawned cold and bright, and spouse and I met Zim under a large white tarpaulin where the rest of our choral troupe had already gathered. I stood next to my fellow three altos, with Zim and Spouse next to the sopranos. Just this grouping made me realise that we were among much more professional singing company than I had expected. Simon, bass and conductor, had a tuning pipe with which he kicked off each carol, and as we started off it suddenly occurred to me with a shock that this might actually be good. Yes, there were some folks (like me) who were basically filler, but Simon had plainly rustled up a number of genuinely musically gifted people, and blow me, we were actually sounding good!
We worked our way steadily through all the greats: Oh come all ye grateful, in the bleak midwinter, and my personal favourite, god rest ye merry gentlemen. From the first Noel through to decking the halls, we did all the classics – it was all very old school – none of your modern stuff, no Last Christmas or Jingling Bells. And as I sang, cocking an ear throughout to the alto to my right who actually knew the part, I thought about how I have sung all these songs so many times before, sometimes alone, sometimes in choirs, sometimes in churches, and that day out among the Sunday shoppers in trendy Spitalfields. These songs had been sung by generations before me, but rarely for a better cause. Years ago I used to serve breakfast to the homeless, and even used to work at a temporary homeless shelter at Christmastime, where you served food, manned a clothing store or simply chatted and played board games with folk. It sounds worthy, but the truth is I really enjoyed the company of the people I met. You can do an equivalent in London, but you have to register some time in advance – they need 8000 volunteers, and December is too late to register. If you can do it, you should, and I’d love to do it again.
Anyhoo, eventually our singing ground to a halt, and there was a 15 minute intermission, during which Simon handed out his homemade mince pies to the choir, and Zim, Chris and I scuttled over to the mulled wine stand and purchased not one but two cups of top quality mulled wine for £2.50 a shot. It was simply marvellous stuff and did a great deal to seal out the cold. I’m sure the two things are unlinked, but when we returned to the second half of our performance we did so with notably more gusto than during the first half. Simon’s right hand woman, the gifted alto to my right, had suggested we regroup, so the sopranos were more evenly distributed. For reasons which escape me now, this meant that Chris, my beloved, got to stand next to me. As he began to sing, I looked at him in some surprise. He had started enunciating all the words in a very plummy and enthusiastic way, his head bobbing up and down with the beat. My husband was channeling Simon Callow with some enthusiasm. He swears blind that this was entirely down to his previous career as a chorister in Manchester Cathedral. My own view is that two cups of mulled laced with whiskey and downed speedily in a fifteen minute period were at the very least a contributory factor. However, for much the same contributory factor, I decided to channel Callow too, and the curious thing is that the bouncing and enunciation made the whole singing thing A LOT MORE FUN.
And what of Zim? She was fully on operation collect cash, and my goodness it turned out to be a jolly good thing. She chatted with the punters, she rattled the tin at small children, and they donated like billy-oh; not just coins but NOTES. She thought about £200 had been donated, and I hope she is right, because it would do my heart good to have finished our Christmas cavalcade in having raised a generous amount of cash for a really good charity that I really believe in.
We sang on and on, reprising many of the most popular carols until our allotted slot was over. We took off our various Santa hats and other gay apparel, with some going on to a pub, and me, Zim and Spouse like the three muscateers to find a tea shop, and potter around the market, before going on to eat tea and crumpets, all the while congratulating ourselves on a job well done.
Our festive specials are nearly at an end, and I’m pleased we started much as we began through carolling and nodding wildly at the true meaning of Christmas. WIth a final ‘God bless us everyone,’ I’d like to wish you a happy new year. Tomorrow, you’ll find me in contemplative mood as spouse and I do London Christmas, and I reflect on the first six months of blogging and what the new year might hold.