Trafalgar Square Christmas Handbells 2011

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After some time of deliberation Mariko booked our Trafalgar Square slot:

“I’ve booked a slot for us to perform which will be on Friday 9th December from 8-9pm… Practices will be 16th Oct, 6th Nov, 20th Nov and 4th Dec between about 1pm and 2:30pm at Hart St. I also suggest a practice at Hart St immediately before the performance would be a good idea, from 6:30-7:30pm on Friday 9th Dec.”

16th October First Practice: this went well to begin with until we realised that we would be a) performing for a whole hour, b) we had a huge amount of music to learn, and c) that the six planned practice sessions organised wouldn’t be nearly enough! This prompted the following email:

“We only have about a month before the Trafalgar Square Performance on 9th December. Those of you who were at the practice yesterday probably agree that we could do with a lot more practice!”

Eight more dates were immediately booked, taking in all the Friday nights and Sunday afternoons until the big day. This was bad news for anyone living out of town – Network Rail’s maintenance schedule meant at least one 3-hour(?) journey home! Over the course of these practices we were joined by Jess Glaisher (who couldn’t make the performance) and Rosemary Hill (rang some of the carols). We were also watched regularly by: Ryan Noble, Andrew Hills and Harry Baulcome – all of whom had the occasional attempt at getting the ‘A’ in the right place!

Here are some notes on the status and problems of each carol:

The First Nowell: there is actually more to this carol then just: “UL, UL, UL, UL…”! Had teething problems getting over this hurdle!
Infant Holy Infant Lowly: I’ve never seen so many eights and sevens in one carol!
I Saw Three Ships/Once in Royal: tricky timing… note: DON’T COUNT OUT LOUD!
Remember the “Dong” bit in “Jingle bells *dong* Jingle bells *dong*…”
Ben’s reply to Becca – “…but I was counting…” (possibly Silent Night)
Ding Dong Merrily on High: Gloria chorus bit – repeated several times and many times more because of me.
Sunday 4th: this was the practice before dress rehearsal and the stress was definitely starting to show. We messed up our runs in “O Little Town of Bethlehem”, couldn’t get the timing right in “I Saw Three Ships” and some ‘serious work’ was required in Jingle Bells.

Friday 9th 6:00: at the ‘dress rehearsal’ we ran through all the music and timed it to around 45 minutes – so plenty of faff time between each piece.

Friday 9th 7:45: during the week Peter noticed that music stands would not be provided – plan B = trestle table. Apart from some rather bemused looks on the tube, we managed to transport our: table, bells, buckets (plus shakers) and performers without incident to Embankment so we could take in the atmosphere, acclimatise (it was very cold) and set up shop.

When you are performing it’s quite difficult to get a guage of how well something is going, but from the various parents and bucket shakers around I gather it was ok. We dithered so little between each carol we went through the whole book and nearly half again to make up the hour slot!

A mother’s verdict:

“Positioned firmly in the front row I had a sudden flashback to clapping wildly at school nativity plays; Wondered if other parents were there and thinking the same…

After the first carol I realised that this was unfair – these guys were really GOOD so started to relax and enjoy it without worrying that they might make a mistake. Became increasingly frustrated that I wasn’t ringing – I would have enjoyed it, even the challenging bits…

Eavesdropping on other listeners it seemed everyone else thought it was an excellent performance too, contributing to the festive atmosphere in the square that night. Well done everyone!”

Congratulations to everyone who took part, thanks to the bucket shakers and special thanks to Mariko and Peter who organised the practices and sorted out the music. We raised just over £120 for work being carried out at Southwark Cathedral!

Ps: bucket shaker competition results: Rosemary = around £17, Andrew = around £23, Ryan = £82!!

by Jacqueline Bale