When I was thirteen I joined Newcastle's premier youth choir, Swing Bridge Singers, whose 'uniform' includes a bright yellow t-shirt, and whose ethos is one of fun, laughter, music, inclusivity, friendship, and six-part harmony (if you can include that in an ethos). There were (and still are) no auditions, no membership fee, no prerequisite that you should be able to read music, no parents' committee, and no register. It ran/runs off the enthusiasm of its members and its amazing choir master Andrew Scott, or Scottee as he's always been known.
Swing Bridge Singers was six months old when I joined, but last weekend we had a reunion celebration for its 20th anniversary, held at The Sage Gateshead. There was a single rehearsal for current members and ex-members on Saturday (29th December), followed by a party in the evening, and then the concert during the afternoon of Sunday 30th December. The first half of the first half of the concert was the current choir, who sounded fabulous, and whose joy of the music and the experience of Swing Bridge you could see on their faces and hear in the songs.
The a capella group Black Voices have done some things with Swing Bridge Singers in its recent history, and with Scottee in other musical capacities beyond SBS. Black Voices are also celebrating their 20th anniversary and agreed to take part in the concert last weekend, so they comprised the second half of the first half of it (if you get what I mean). Their collective background, as far as I know (check their website for more information), is that they are a group of nine black women based in Birmingham (UK) who perform in quintets rather than a nonet. They have extensive experience of singing gospel and spiritual music, and this is often reflected in their performances. They are currently singing many songs that highlight the memory of the British slave trade, and are celebrating the bicentenary of its abolition. They produce a deeply rich sound, and their music has both a passion and a zest to it that I've rarely seen.
The second half of Sunday's concert comprised a mass choir of current members of Swing Bridge Singers and its ex-members. Sadly only about 250 of the 450 who've sung in the yellow glory of Swing Bridge were able to make it, but we did have ex-members come back to Newcastle for the concert from Spain, Ecuador and Tasmania, such is the impact the choir has had on people and the place that it holds in their hearts that they should travel such great distances for a reunion! I was one of the few who had very little distance to travel, but Scottee and the Swing Bridge Singers are very special to me, and I have some fantastic memories of my years with them. I had some tough times through my teenage years, but Swing Bridge Singers kept a spark of life inside me and probably saved me from myself. I hope that doesn't sound too melodramatic ... it's not meant to ... it's just how things were, and merely a reflection on the special thing that SBS is and the special person that Scottee is (and he's still a good friend).
So Sunday's concert was great fun, brought back some wonderful memories, was very yellow as we all had special Swing Bridge Singers 20th anniversary polo shirts, slightly nerve-wracking (we sold out!), and it was great to sing the old songs again and meet up with past friends again. I'm waiting with great excitement for my copy of the CD of Sunday's concert. I'm told that the combined choir made a great sound, and whilst I have recordings of some of the songs by their original artists, it's always great to listen to a piece of music and remember taking part in the creation of the recording.
Signing off with warm memories.