Reasons you don’t need to worry about British Cycling

April 29, 2016 at 3:10 pm | Posted in cycling | 4 Comments
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Worried about what’s happening at British Cycling? Concerned that recent revelations indicate it’s a fundamentally sick institution rife with sexism, racism and ableism? Relax! I’m here to explain why you can carry on cheering and waving flags and just generally LOVING how totally brilliant we are at everything.

British-Union-Jack-Flag

Marvellous

1. Nobody ever complained about anything at BC before now, so everything must have been fine.
2. Well, apart from that review in 2012.
3. Nobody changed anything after the 2012 report, though, so it can’t have found out anything that important.
4. Oh, yeah, there was that book in 2012, too. But, well, she was never a team player. You know.
5. All the people who’ve complained about their treatment have chips on their shoulders because they didn’t get picked for stuff.
6. Well, okay, some of them got picked for stuff. But all the other people who’ve complained are well-known for crying a lot.
7. Well, all the women are well-known for crying a lot.
8. Top-level sportswomen cry at, like, EVERYTHING. They’re just bags of nerves. Honestly.
9. Okay, only some of the women are well-known for crying a lot. Maybe only one. Whatever. You get my drift.
10. Women have REALLY good imaginations. They’re always imagining stuff like sexism, when all anyone was doing was commenting on their arse in a totally supportive way and calling them ‘man one’ because, well, what, hang on, you mean there’s a WOMEN’S team sprint? Gosh.
11. No men have reported sexist comments being made about them, so there can’t have been any.
12. Lots of able-bodied athletes have said nobody ever called them ‘wobblies’ or ‘gimps’, so the others are obviously imagining it.
13. Lots of high-profile men have said everyone was always totally lovely to them, and they’re the REALLY successful athletes – you know, the PROPER ones that get lots of funding and everything – so we should listen to them.
14.None of the men said anyone told them they should go and have a baby. If anyone said it to a woman, he was probably just concerned about her making the right choices. Women always appreciate help with that.
15. No white athletes have ever been called ‘dirty terrorists’, so that must have been just banter. Where would we be without banter? What do you mean, in a more equitable and tolerant society?
16. Everyone at BC is always nice to their old mum.
17. Anyway that bloke’s resigned now, hasn’t he, so it’s all fine. Phew. Carry on!

Bike maintenance for LADIES

April 20, 2016 at 9:12 am | Posted in advice, cycling | 1 Comment
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girl bike tyreGood morning, and welcome to Bike Maintenance For Ladies, episode 37 in an occasional series. Observe the picture above*. There’s a lot we can learn from this neat demonstration of how to change a bicycle puncture.

First, note that the bicycle has been removed from the road, away from passing traffic, and leant gently up against a rock or tree stump. Do not lie your bicycle on its side, especially with the chainset downwards; you risk scratching the paintwork and damaging your derailleur. NEVER balance your bicycle upside down to effect repairs, as this will scuff the saddle and ruin your handlebar tape.

Protective sheeting has been put down to protect the floor from dirt and debris – although if you keep your bicycle scrupulously clean, as in the picture, you’ll find less maintenance is required overall.

Always carry spares and tools. If, like this rider, you prefer to ride without mudguards, you may feel a seatpack detracts from the clean lines of your machine. Simply use your spare inner tube as a hair scrunchie until required.

The rider has removed the front wheel carefully and propped it against her knee, saving the spindle from potential damage caused by contact with the tarmac. Observe how she lines up the valve on the replacement tube with the hole in the rim. Tyre levers are not always necessary: a good strong set of gel fingernails makes a perfectly acceptable substitute.

There are, however, some points for improvement in this demonstration. Firstly, the rider does not appear to be wearing socks. This is unhygienic, allowing the bacteria naturally present in sweat to propagate unfettered in your trainers. Secondly, road riders should always wear a helmet.

.

* Thanks to @JEmptyloo on twitter for sharing the picture.

I go to HARMONY COLLEGE

April 19, 2016 at 11:53 am | Posted in barbershop, barbershop, music | Leave a comment
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Harmony College weekend started with a bang – literally – when I walked into a doorstop in the Premier Inn bathroom on the Saturday morning and broke a toe.

Liz [with a grin]: It’s been sent to take your mind off how nervous you are. It’s a GIFT.

It was true I’d spent the previous week trying not to be sick. LABBS Harmony College is a weekend of learning about barbershop, and listening to it and singing it and talking about it and thinking about it. A whole weekend. Sounds blissful, right? But a class called A Cappella Show & Tell was looming large in my nightmares. It was JUST what I needed to move me on with my arranging, except I’d only ever shown my work to people I could trust not to say, ‘Blimey! Well… it’s… um… interesting.’ As the weekend drew closer, I printed out seventy-three different arrangements and decided none of them were actually any good at all.

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The boiz realised I was nervous and gave me this to wear

Liz went off to be awesome on the Directors’ Stream and I was on my own. Luckily, Heather Lane couldn’t have been more supportive and friendly. I was cheered to realise that not every arranger has fourteen music degrees and wanders around murmuring to herself about subdominant progressions using the tonic seventh. (Only some of them.) In fact, arrangers seem to fall into two groups: those who think in terms of the notes on the page, and those who rely on their ears. Each types values (and slightly envies) the skills of the other, and I realised arranging didn’t have to be me on my own with my computer; it could be a collaborative enterprise.

Once this was over, I relaxed and I learnt BAGS of stuff including FINALLY understanding the circle of fifths*, primary harmony** and musical themes*** (all of which you need in order to arrange a song Properly Barbershoppily). We had excellent fun pretending to be Music Category judges, watching DVDs with proper LABBS score sheets in front of us and trying to agree on whether performances were 59s or 61s. I imagined my mouth as a nave, or maybe a piping bag, in the Understanding Resonance class with Alison Thompson, and tried to judge videoed quartets on their singing. We wrote a tag collaboratively under Delyth Knight’s tutelage, with me going ‘Dah dah dah dah’ (singing the chord I wanted) and the rest of the class going ‘C E G Bb’ (#earsversusnotes).

the mix quartet HC 2016

The Mix, giving it the beans

Liz and I ran into utterly fabulous The Mix quartet, and sweet-talked them into letting us watch them warm up for their coaching session. (Sandra: You two are so funny. You’re sitting there, like [makes face of scarily unsmiling slightly stalkerish audience member]. Me: We’re CONCENTRATING.) The coaching-under-glass was fascinating – I was awed by their ability to take a piece of advice from Doug Harrington or Sandi Wright and immediately integrate it seamlessly into their performance.

We cheered the Quartet Stream participants, showing off what they’d learned over the weekend, and sang Bohemian Rhapsody en masse, and Doug taught the whole College a tag: ‘It would be great if we could keep it in D.’ Sandi inspired us to think differently about performance, and our beloved Sally McLean’s session on platforming brought everyone to raucous laughter and tears within about two minutes of each other.

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Liz taking notes on how her part goes for the tag. This may be cheating #baritones

It was the first time I’d been away to a barbershop event without the White Rosettes massive, and it was weird without the formidable wave of #RosetteLove propelling me from one place to another. But it meant we talked to other people. We found out about barbershop dynasties, splits and shenanigans and other types of derring-do up and down the country. We caught up with the Barberettes who’d come to visit us in rehearsal a few weeks ago (‘I can’t believe how hard you guys WORK!’). We drank wine and formed a bass-heavy quartet. (We don’t need you, tenors. No sirree.) We sang with Norwich Harmony and Cheshire Chord Company in the bar, and a friendly bass warbled in my ear so I could try and sing along. Barbershoppers really are a lovely lot.

I came away feeling inspired, and that I had the tools to have a go at stuff. Liz and I drove back up the motorway listening to the Jackson Five and James Brown, playing Spot The Theme***** and working out the chords: ‘One. Five. One. Four. Five. One.’ I’m currently barbershopping The Pink Panther at the rate of about one bar an hour, and working on resonance in my upper range and providing good support for my singing (principally by trying to remember not to bop around with excitement while quartetting). Huge thanks to LABBS and to the Voices in Harmony Foundation, who awarded me a grant to attend Harmony College; you can read my slightly-more-sensible writeup in the upcoming edition of Voicebox magazine.

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Tools of the trade… Everything I need to know is in this book****** [clears diary] [cracks knuckles]

* I strapped it up and channelled the legendary Jane Ford, who broke her wrist and was back on stage with the Rosettes a couple of days later sporting a black silk sling.

** It’s all about the sevenths. Why does nobody mention the sevenths?

*** Delyth Knight described primary harmony as ‘the points where a rubbish guitarist accompanying herself would be FORCED to strum a different chord.’

**** The theme is the point of the song: lyrical (the focus of the song is the lyrics), rhythmic, harmonic or melodic.

***** Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine is a song about how they are going to sing the song, and therefore in its own theme category. This is possibly why it’s not a popular choice for quartets

****** Many thanks to Helen Ring and Alys Galloway for the delivery of this awesome tome.

 

I sing INTERNATIONALLY

March 22, 2016 at 11:13 am | Posted in barbershop, barbershop, music | 3 Comments
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In March, forty-six* of the marvellous fabulous White Rosettes took to the SKIES to perform at BinG!, the German barbershop convention. It’s a bit like LABBS Convention, which you might remember from last year, if you can imagine it re-set in the Barbican with a televised livestream and Tom Service presenting. Yup, Germans take their barbershop VERY seriously.picture by Hannah and the Hurricanes

We were there as special guests (did I mention we’re the national champions and current European champions?), so there was no pressure. Well, not the competing-at-Convention type of pressure. Just the-judges-are-going-to-give-us-marks-for-mike-warming-to-get-their-hand-in type of pressure. And the singing-in-the-German-Barbican-on-TV-on-the-same-bill-as-American-barbershop-royalty-with-the-German-Tom-Service-presenting type of pressure. We White Rosettes are FINE with this kind of stuff. TOTALLY fine.

We flew out on the Friday and were back on the Sunday, and it was a bit of a whirlwind and I’m no longer entirely sure what happened when, so I’ve organised my observations under headings instead.

  1. GERMANY. Yes, we were actually ABROAD. You wouldn’t really know it, as our impression of Munich was mostly based on the fifty metre stretch of pavement between the hotel and the concert hall. Clues that we were not in Basingstoke included the availability of at least 173 different types of Ritter Sport in the supermarket and the fact that we couldn’t work out which train tickets we needed, even with the help of a supposedly fluent German speaker (me) [cough].
  2. WEATHER. Munich in March was balmy and bright. Not so Manchester, where snow and ice necessitated the wheeling-out of the Big Machine to spray hot water and alcohol on to the plane’s wings, and further heavenly dumps prevented the flight behind us (containing several front-row Rosettes) from taking off at all.

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    The Big Machine. Where are our small children when we need them?

  3. SLEEP. There wasn’t a lot of this. Late to bed, early to rise, Rosettes run mainly on chocolate and adrenaline. Kip opportunities were snatched where possible. After one refreshing nap, Liz and I woke to find we had twenty minutes to pack our stage outfits, get our stage makeup on including false eyelashes, biggify our hair and run over to the concert hall. We made it. (She even forgave me for setting my alarm wrong.)

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    Having lunch inconspicuously in full chorus makeup

  4. SINGING. Of course, this is the point of it all. As well as mike-warming for the chorus competition, we took part in two terrific evening shows alongside barbershop royalty – Ambassadors of Harmony, Crossroads quartet and GQ (Girls Quartet) had all made the trip from the States. The Philharmonie am Gasteig was a marvellous hall to sing in, and we rose to its challenge; we got a standing ovation on the Saturday night. And, of course, we sang wherever else we could manage. Christina taught us a round over lunch; we sang in quartet in a glorious ringing atrium halfway up the stairs in the middle of the afternoon, when nobody was about; the afterglow saw us charging through half the chorus repertoire, learning tags from friendly Ambassadors of Harmony (Them: Do you know Prairie? Us: No. Them: No problem. We’ve got the sheet music on our phones) and singing with anyone who would stand still long enough. It was UTTER bliss.
  5. FANGIRLING. Did I mention the barbershop royalty? We gushed at Tim Waurick, tenor extraordinaire and teach track impresario (Me: We love TimTracks! Liz: Is it true you don’t use autotune? Tim: No, I don’t. Well, yes, a bit. But no.) I cornered David Wright and asked him for arranging advice. (He told me ALL his tricks and swore me to secrecy.) We introduced ourselves to GQ as representatives of their British fan club. (Us: WE WERE SO EXCITED THAT YOU SANG HOT KNIFE. Ali: Ah, we were supposed to be singing this ballad and right before we went on I said, you guys, I want to sing Hot Knife instead!) I rugby-tackled the lead from Vocal Spectrum and asked them to sing my favourite. We burbled at Dr Jim Henry, who gamely pretended he remembered us. Rasmus from the Ringmasters sat next to us at breakfast. Crikey.

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    Barbershop Royalty (Crossroads) singing at the afterglow

Coming back down to earth after all that was a bit of a trial. I’m not sure why the world doesn’t yet revolve around barbershop; why we don’t switch on the telly and see Suzy Klein introducing the Barbershop Prom, why the Rosettes aren’t packing out the Royal Festival Hall, why people don’t ditch the karaoke machines and sing tags in the pub. If BinG! is anything to go by, it can only be a matter of time.

White Rosettes at BinG! 2016

Click to watch our Saturday night set

* Actually, forty-five took to the skies, and Isabel went in the car with our banners, canes and CDs. Dedication.

What barbershop chorus members are really thinking

March 19, 2016 at 2:55 pm | Posted in barbershop, barbershop, music, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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* * Based shamelessly on this post from Classic FM. * *

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* * Based shamelessly on this post from Classic FM. * *

German barbershop phrasebook

March 2, 2016 at 2:23 pm | Posted in barbershop, music, Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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I’m off to Munich this weekend, with my lovely fabulous barbershop chorus, the White Rosettes. We’re guests at BinG!, the German barbershop convention, and we’ll be singing on stage three times over two days, then finding as many opportunities as possible to sing in stairwells, in corners of the bar and so on. I used to speak fairly good German, so I thought I’d put together a set of useful phrases that my fellow Rosettes could employ over the weekend. In true barbershop style, I’ve provided teach tracks. Mach’s gut!

At the hotel

Do you have room service? Double egg and chips, please.

Haben Sie Zimmerservice? Zweimal Spiegelei mit Pommes, bitte.

I’m having a disco nap and do not wish to be disturbed

Ich mache Schläfchen und möchte nicht gestört werden.

Please could I book an alarm for nine thirty. No, that’s correct. I am English. That’s early.

Ich möchte einen Alarmruf, bitte, um neun Uhr dreissig. Doch, das stimmt. Ich bin Engländerin. Das ist für mich ganz früh.

Making conversation in the audience

They haven’t got enough blusher on

Sie brauchen noch ein bisschen Rouge.

I liked the choreo but the sequins were distracting

Die Choreographie hat mir gefallen. Ich fand die Pailletten verwirrend.

Is that David Wright over there? I’ll be right back

Ist das der David Wright dort drüben? Ich bin gleich wieder da.

At the afterglow

My doctor has expressly forbidden me to drink beer

Mein Arzt hat mir ausdrücklich verboten, Bier zu trinken.

Three gins, please, and easy on the tonic

Dreimal Gin, bitte, und nicht zu viel Tonic.

Shall we sing a tag? Do you know ‘Clouds On Fire’?

Wollen wir einen Tag singen? Kennen Sie ‘Clouds On Fire’?

Are you going to bed already? It’s only four o’clock!

Gehen Sie schon ins Bett? Es ist aber nur vier Uhr!

 

And a good old-fashioned blooper reel. In case you thought this stuff was easy.

Why it is perfectly OK to still like professional cycling

February 2, 2016 at 4:21 pm | Posted in cycling | 1 Comment
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1. Only impressionable under-23s with Machiavellian parent-managers motordope. The pros have been definitely not motordoping since at least 2010. Everyone knows that.

2. EPO is like, so last season. Procyclists are FAR too fashion-forward to be doing it now. They won’t even wear the same shades as last year. You’re telling me they’re still doing drugs?

3. Testing is really amazing these days. Everyone has basically given up because they know they’ll get caught, as soon as they’ve retired. Their reputation will be in tatters and they won’t be national treasures or get commentating gigs or anything.

4. The UCI are committed to routing out cheats and punishing them severely, by giving them two-year bans and only letting them have Cat 2 licences when they come back.

5. The really bad offenders have to sit on anti-drugs-in-sport boards, and become the Mr Mackeys of cycling.

6. It’s only a few bad apples. Well, and their dads. And their spouses. And their brothers. And their doctors. And their mechanics. And their team managers.

7. If Modern Cycling gets too much, you can squinch your eyes tight shut and imagine you’re back in seventy-something and Eddy’s bossing the peloton with a single sneer like the Brabantse Elvis and Hinault’s knocking bystanders out with a mere EYEBROW and cycling is marvellous and epic and heroic and totally believable and nobody ever falls off their bike suddenly.

8. Or you can go back to the nineties when nobody wears a helmet so you can still tell who is who and there are real climbers and rouleurs and nobody is good at everything and there are proper CYCLING HEROES like Pantani.

9. Anyway, there are BRITISH PEOPLE winning bike races these days, and THEY can’t possibly be cheating, because it just wouldn’t be cricket. So, marginal gains, and, you know. Beetroot. I’m cheering for beetroot. GO BEETROOT.beet

I do some ARRANGING

January 21, 2016 at 11:25 am | Posted in barbershop, music | 1 Comment
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A while ago, I took part in the Goldsmith’s Earworm Project. I learned all SORTS of interesting things, including that I have a really good musical memory (I got 94% on their test for this. NINETY-FOUR. You’re DAMN right I’m proud) and that not everybody with an earworm hears the whole song playing from start to finish in their head with the backing band and everything, as if it’s on the radio. Until recently, the application of these niche skills has been restricted to correctly guessing the key for TV theme tunes before they start (nobody thinks this is clever, apart from me) and having this argument with my brother throughout our teens:

One of us: [sings pop song]

The other one: It doesn’t go like that.

I’m gradually getting used to the idea that barbershop provides the answer to all such pressing questions in my life. I’ve spent the last few months learning songs, and grumbling about bass lines, and weeping with admiration at clever arrangements (like GQ doing Samson, below). I start imagining the White Rosettes singing Two Thousand Miles, and a quartet doing Mad About The Boy (with me showing off on the bass melody, of course). Could I arrange something?

I usually give up quickly on anything that involves writing music down, because my theory is stupidly rusty. I have to count the lines to get the notes in the right places, and I’m never confident that what I’ve written is what I actually mean. Then Liz introduces me to MuseScore, which is AWESOME (and free). Put something in, play it back, see if it sounds right, adjust it till it does. Bingo. I’m OFF.

Suddenly, being able to hear all the instruments in my head, and remember exactly how everything goes, are skills that are massively useful. (The fact that I often have two earworms at once also turns out to be a plus when I start mashing up Christmas songs, but more of that another time.)

I don’t understand the technoshizzle of barbershop harmony yet (circle of fifths? Chinese sevenths?), so I start with what I know: pop songs. I tear through a couple of 70s hits and feel terribly pleased with myself. I do a bit of Louis Prima and make myself laugh.

But I also acquire a folderful of half-finished or started-but-not-really-going-anywhere stuff.

A good song turns out to be hard to find. Songs that’ll work well for the chorus need structure: verses and choruses and maybe a bridge or a middle eight, and a definite sense of drama, and a proper musical climax. I’m surprised how many of the songs I love just don’t have any of these. (Either that, or I’m turning into my Dad: ‘You call THIS music?’) Other things that make pop songs unsatisfactory include relying on an instrumental theme (Careless Whisper, unless you think your tenors will pull off saxophone impressions), having a crucially-important bass line (all 70s funk, unless your basses are happy to spend the whole song going ‘dum dum-bah dum, BAOWAH’), or featuring Inappropriate Lyrics (no sex* please, we’re barbershoppers). The range is a problem, too: I get all excited about arranging Things That Dreams Are Made Of until I realise it’s simultaneously too high for the tenors and too low for the basses.

I press on, missing lunchtimes and deadlines. Boyf: Shall we watch the cyclocross? Me: Yes! Well, give me a minute. I just have to do a bit more of this. I’ll be right there. Boys: Is tea nearly ready? Me: Um. It will be when I’ve started it.

It’s like crack. I give up on a difficult passage, then the answer appears to me in the shower and I have to run downstairs, dripping, to see if it works.

I find out that my ear plays tricks on me, not least by filling in harmonies that don’t actually exist in the song. This is excellent, as long as other people agree with me on what they are; less so if they don’t. (Liz, listening to one arrangement: Your chords are lovely, but they’re not the ones I hear. Me: Okay, here are the ones they give online**. Her: Those aren’t right either.)

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These are not the chords I’m looking for. Or are they? Who knows?

In a flash of inspiration, I knock out an arrangement of the Spiderman theme over a weekend. (Me: Listen to this. I’m a GENIUS. Boiz: That’s AMAZING, Mummy.) My lovely quar-/quin-/sextet, the Remingtons, gamely agree to give it a go. They learn a little section with me playing snippets from my computer and trying to sing their parts to them.

The baritone has all the mad accidentals because that’s the Baritone Thing, and because Liz is awesome and can sing ANYTHING. (Her [looking at middle eight]: I thought you said this bit was easier? Me: Um… Her: I’ll get you for this, later.)

Then they sing the first four bars. It’s so exciting I could POP. There is NOTHING like hearing it come to life; the plinky-plonky version on the computer doesn’t prepare you for hearing people’s voices doing your stuff.

The basses get right into going ‘Spi-der, Spi-der-MAN!’, giving it some welly from the sofa. Our tenor’s stream of semitones sounds just as spooky as I’d imagined. The lead does a great job of holding all her posts. I sit there grinning my silly face off. Liz even starts directing it, which is a complete thrill: ‘Everyone needs to come in more quickly here. Let’s decide where we’re going to put the ‘t’ in ‘night’.’ We revoice the final chord. Me: ‘I want a massive great overblown glissando from this chord to that one.’ They do it. It is MAGIC.

* or religion, or politics, or innuendo

** Looking up chords online sounds like the answer, but it makes it slower; I have to look up all the notes that make up a Dm7 and write them down, then check that I have them all in the chord, then give them all to different parts because it sounds wrong, then add some other notes because it’s too boring. I go back to doing it by ear. (Chords picture is from this blog. I can’t work out how to link to it from the picture any more. Damn you, WordPress.)

 

I compete at a BARBERSHOP CONVENTION

December 1, 2015 at 5:23 pm | Posted in barbershop, barbershop, music | 2 Comments
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October felt like it was a year long. But finally, we’re here: on the coach, in the dark, on our way to the Ladies’ Association of British Barbershop Singers’ annual Convention, to try to win our fifteenth national championship. It’s uncharacteristically quiet. Most of the White Rosettes aren’t morning people, I’m guessing; those with a penchant for staying up until the small hours singing and guffawing don’t tend to be.

The Rosettes’ in-coach service, Catering To The Elite, do the rounds, offering a variety of drinks and snacks including the very popular Cheese Scones With A Cheese Topping. We perk up a bit. By the time we reach the second service station, we’re spotting chorus buses in the car park and eyeing up women in matching fleeces in the Costa queue. The back few rows even do a bit of singing when we get back on.

We'll have one of these, next year. BUS OF CHAMPIONS

We’ll have one of these, next year. BUS OF CHAMPIONS

The quartet competition’s well under way when we arrive in Bournemouth. The convention centre’s about three minutes’ walk from the hotel; apart from a swift detour to take a beach selfie on the morning we leave, this stretch of tarmac is all I see of the town. It doesn’t matter, because there’s such a lot going on indoors.

We quickly get used to the rhythm: when you can come and go, where to find people, the little audience-participation rituals. Watching quartets is FASCINATING and I miss Liz, who is still en route, because I need to discuss absolutely every aspect of each performance with her RIGHT NOW. Eventually we drag ourselves off to find dinner. The waiting staff are inexplicably grumpy when seventeen of us turn up after we booked a table for nine, but they gradually thaw, finding us extra chairs and flirting hammily with us in that old-school Italian-restaurant way. We serenade them with Orange-Coloured Sky, and get a round of applause.

Saturday dawns bright and mild, but this is no time for skinny-dipping. There’s WORK to get on with. The information sheet, terrifyingly, has ‘Hair and makeup done by 9am’ on it. We do them, and even fit breakfast in, too. There’s time for a long, gentle warm-up, with lots of breaks for good-luck-card-reading and bad jokes and false-eyelash application. We sound terrific. There’s a real sense of ‘Bring it ON!’ in the air.

The chorus competition goes on all day, but it’s not our turn until the middle of the afternoon. So for now there’s a fair amount of sitting around to do, interspersed with checking the time and going for a bit of a walk and making nervous conversation and trying to eat something. It’s a bit like being in labour. But once the clock crawls round to half past one, we’re off. The afternoon is mapped out for us with military precision. 13:52: arrive at dressing room. 14:37: leave dressing room. 14:39: arrive for photos. 14:49: leave photos. We get changed in our little corner of the hall. Michelle checks my makeup. ‘Very nice!’ My neighbours are astounded at this, the first instance in recorded history of a White Rosette not being told they need more blusher.

Barberbuddies

Barberbuddies

We move on to photos, and suddenly it all feels very serious. I worry about the photographer: he looks about twelve, and he has to back right up against the curtain to fit us all in. We’re not allowed to sing here, so we speak the words, going through the choreo, beaming for our imaginary audience. Each minute lasts about a week. Jenny holds my hand. Another move, into a warmup room with a ceiling so low I can touch it. We sing. It sounds weird, in here, like hiding in a cupboard behind everyone’s winter coats. Water, loo break, try not to be sick. Then a long corridor, and a wait on tiptoe. We’re outside Lemon Squeezy’s dressing room. LEMON ACTUAL SQUEEZY. I drink some more water, and have a coughing fit. Up and out and onto the risers. At last, we’re behind the curtains. The stage feels tiny. The lights are very bright. Sally is backed right up against the microphone. I remember the story of a quartet member who stepped clean off the stage, one year. The audience are whooping and hollering. Someone looks at me and mouths, ‘OK?’ Yes. Yes, I am. I’m fine. I feel light, and astonishingly confident. It’s like finally leaving for the airport after months planning an epic holiday, knowing it’s too late to go back for anything you’ve forgotten. I am ready.

CONTESTANT NUMBER TWENTY-TWO. FROM LEEDS. UNDER THE DIRECTION OF SALLY McLEAN. THE WHITE ROSETTES!

The curtains open to a surge of cheering and applause. I’m grinning my face off. Sally brings us together, and we sing. I think about Rachel’s advice: ‘Keep your eyes on The Boss. She’ll give you everything you need.’ The ballad is beautiful, transcendent. The uptune is fast and utterly furious. It’s all over in seconds.

Marvellous fabulous White Rosettes on the Convention stage

Marvellous fabulous White Rosettes on the Convention stage

In the dressing area, I’m suddenly a mess. (Liz is too. We have a word for this: barbersob.) I can’t stop crying. People ask me if I’m OK. I don’t think I am, and it’s all a bit odd. Despite my normal, everyday state being somewhere west of bonkers on the anxiety scale, I’ve felt eerily calm all day. But the emotion finds its way out, somehow, once you’ve run out of fingers to plug all the little holes in the dam.

Back in the auditorium, there are more choruses, then presentations and speeches. It’s a bit of a blur. There might be bingo, or Vic Reeves singing in the club style; I’ve no idea. Anxiety levels are stratospheric. Hannah and Alys distract me with complicated barbershop family trees. We wait for maybe a decade before the results are announced.

And we did it. We really did it. A fifteenth gold medal. Everyone cries and hugs and texts. I look around for Liz, and she’s there, just in time. Champions. We are champions, too, now.

I’ve never won anything in my life. Well, no, that’s not true: I won my piano age group at the North London Music Festival, aged about nine. It’s been downhill all the way, since then. So this feels marvellous. All the hard work, all the rehearsing and sweating and concentrating and doubting and weeping and practising choreo in our socks in the kitchen. It paid off.

A fairly raucous evening ensues, once we’ve performed IN THE ACTUAL SHOW, which is an utter thrill. We accessorise our outfits with gold medals and enormous grins. There is a lot of singing in the bar. I hit the wall at about two o’clock and roll off to bed; apparently they’re all still going strong at four. They’ve got energy, and heart, and staying power, these White Rosettes. Though it’s predictably quiet on the coach again the next morning.

Beach selfie feat. GOLD MEDAL

Beach selfie feat. GOLD MEDAL

Come and see us LIVE on 12 December in Harrogate. It’s going to be ace. Until then, you can watch our GOLD MEDAL WINNING performance:

 

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November 9, 2015 at 6:47 pm | Posted in tv & film | 1 Comment
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