Monday, 13 June 2011

Opera, Summer Celebrations and The Perfect Picnic

Yesterday (12th June 2011) was such a day of contrasts for me, but also a day of great blessings, laughter, friendship, encouragement, empowerment and a lot of pain! However, the day was as long and exhausting as it was quickening and over-too-soon.

It was the début performance of the English National Opera's Community Choir ("ENO CC") as part of the ENO's "Summer Celebration". It was also my début in a chorus for an opera company (as a one-off charity event some of the members of the ENO CC signed up to form the chorus for Opera on the Run's fundraising show (raising money for ENO CC)), "The Perfect Picnic", an hilarious operatic farce. The libretto was written by the Opera on the Run's directors.

I, The Loris, have been really struggling with a ridiculous degree of energy loss and exhaustion for a while, but so much more in these last two weeks. This situation arose due to the ridiculous behaviour of my uterus. But anyway, I'll spare the gories for you sensitive types.

A knackered Loris pulling a silly face whilst getting
ready for rehearsals
© The Loris, 2011
So, with dizziness setting in, muscles weakening and a total disappearance of energy levels I found that getting to the Railway Station to meet La Diva became somewhat of a very difficult, painful, slow and seemingly endless journey. Yet by some miracle I made it in one piece and arrived at my destination early enough to be able to grab a drink stuffed with important vitamins and then La Diva found me. The theatre's only a few minutes' walk from the Railway Station, but it was obvious I was going nowhere fast. I was getting hardly anywhere slowly... so, we got a cab to the theatre. Great move - we were the first into the dressing room which meant that I had plenty of time to get into The Frock (this was a full dress rehearsal) and rest between movements (every little thing I do at the moment is exhausting).

The rehearsals went well and the hour-and-a-half just whizzed by, leaving some of us still slightly confused about certain things, but we'd have to wait and see how the event panned out later on...

The Loris looking impish ahead of Choir rehearsal
© La Diva, CJ, 2011
So, rehearsal over, it was back to La Diva's for lunch, a nap, face-painting, choir outfits on and then back for choir rehearsal, break, and then.... on with the Show!! Night and Day!.....

No pictures of the choir as yet, because no photography by the audience was allowed, which scuppered our plans, but there's one of me getting ready,  look...

Rehearsal went brilliantly, and, due to the Ridiculous Amount of Stairs between the ladies' dressing room and the stage, I collapsed onto a chair in the wings and prayed for the energy to make it through the next 3-4 hours! La Diva returned with a refilled bottle of water and then it was nearly time to go.

By some terrible accident, I had managed to not only get into the front row of the choir but also, by dint of stage direction, to be the leader-on of the choir. Joy. I think. We had arranged for a chair to be left on the stage for me, which was great because it also acted as a place marker to head for in case the nerves got the better of us!

The Great RF (our choral director & conductor & general champion) was soon on stage, and we were off! The great thing that he did was not to tell us the order of the songs... "The man must be insane!", might be an expected first thought, especially with a non-professional choir that has had, let's face it, something like 24hrs of practice sessions and 1 hour rehearsal time, but The Great RF is clearly a man of great faith and discernment. We only found out what pieces we were doing as he introduced them to The Audience. It was great. Here's our programme for the night, then:

The Water of Tyne (Northumbrian folk song);
Non Potho Reposare (Sardinian love song);
The King Shall Rejoice (Handel's anthem);
Per Crucem (a canon from the Taize songbook - we sung in 6 parts);
Okolo Hradisce (Moldovan/Czech folk/love song);
Night and Day (Cole Porter classic smoochy nonsense, and the Title of our performance).

Yes, we had a short (45 minute) set, but it was just brilliant, and really well received. Not quite a standing ovation, but almost, we even got a few cheers at various times through the evening too! It was splendid. We did ourselves - and the ENO - proud.

I had to sit down after a couple of the songs because my legs were giving out, or my head was spinning, but by and large I found the strength to stand to sing all of the rep.

The Couch Potato
©: image borrowed from here

As with all these events, there is always at least one distracting audience member, and he happened to be in the seat right below where I was stood. He sat through the whole thing eating his way through a never-ending bag of crisps... What is it with some people?!

So, choir off the stage, down to the dressing room (now overcrowded) to change for the opera.

This is where the genius of The Loris shone - I'd put my white bra on over the top of the black strapless one for the choir performance (black trousers and white top so white bra required) so all I had to do was take one bra off - La Diva had already helped me into the uber-tight and holding-everything-in-place strapless number before leaving her place - and it was fairly easy going from there.

A few pins later and the straps on The Frock were shortened a bit, more make-up and lippy applied, La Diva did the honours with the eyeliner (as I am ridiculously hopeless at this art) and then it was 10 minutes to go, and then, "Chorus to the stage please!" over the tannoy... and off, up the Ridiculous Amount of Stairs to the wings and 15 minutes later we were one, big crowd of wafty-underwater-bar-brawlers... we sang for a bit, left the stage, quick prop swap, and La Diva & The Loris plus 7 others of us were back on stage being terribly sensible and exacting critics...

Except I would have been an exacting critic had I not lost my pen somewhere on the stage when I crossed my legs and notebook & pen slid off The Frock and parted company as they hit the deck... Ah well, I retrieved the notebook and still pretended to be writing though. Keep Calm & Carry On, right?

The Diva (in the opera) stopped singing, we "bravo"'d for one bar, then quick exit, and prop change. A couple of minutes' later, we were enjoying wafty-underwater-picnic food and a splendid rosé whilst the Characters went about their arguing. Trying not to laugh (it is, after all, a farcical libretto) was somewhat of a challenge for me. This got almost impossible for me once "Puck" started throwing food about the stage - at us and the Cast and then at The Audience; but I did manage to re-focus and get a grip on myself and then at last it was time to turn and face out to The Audience (up until now we were all faced upstage - backs to The Audience) and sing about the British Weather....

...Thunder, rain and well, the picnic was over! Act one almost over and for us it was off the stage and back down the Ridiculous Amount of Stairs to the dressing rooms and time to chill*, eat our picnics and chat before going back up to the stage for the curtain call (yes, that entailed going back up the Ridiculous Amount of Stairs!)

Alas, no pictures yet of the actual opera performance for the same no-pictures-allowed reasons, but here are ones that La Diva and/or I took at the end of our performance. La Diva and I used this time to take a few pictures for posterity (some included here) during this break.

La Diva, promo shot 1
© The Loris, 2011

La Diva, promo shot 2
© The Loris, 2011

Sops, finishing our picnics during Act II
© The Loris, 2011

The Loris, relaxing offstage, post picnic...
© La Diva, CJ, 2011

Cast out for their bows, Chorus out for our bows, cast back out for second hurrah!, drinks handed to cast by Chorus members and that was it. All done and dusted! Party time!... Or not. Bed time!

The Mater and Th'Avunculus ("The TPB") plus The Flatties were there with smiles and hugs for us at the end, and more photos were taken ( Although The TPB) seems to have somehow engineered not being in any) and then we all headed for home.

The Flatties and La Diva, the end of the night...
© The Loris, 2011

The Flatties & The Loris, the end of the night...
© The Loris (courtesy of Ma), 2011

The Loris et Mater, the end of the night...
© The Loris (courtesy of TPB), 2011

La Diva et The Loris, dead on our feet...
© The Loris, 2011

After what seemed like hours of waiting we finally got on a bus and made it home, having been entertained by a rather worse-for-wear birthday girl and her friends. Ah, the wonders of the night buses.

It was an utterly exhausting, but amazing, day and I know, with even greater certainty, that this is not the life for me, but it was something amazing to be a part of. Would I do it again? Most definitely, but I'd need a less Ridiculous Amount of Stairs to contend with, for a start...

But my thanks and greatest appreciation goes to the Jesus for getting me through it, and the many friends that prayed for my health to hold out, and for the people that came to see us, La Diva for being there, The Great RF and oh my word, I'm sounding a bit too luvvie... But yet I mean all those thanks with the deepest and most sincere gratitude!

TL, from her pit, 12th June, 2011

***********STOP PRESS!************************STOP PRESS!*************

14th June 2011: ENO Community Choir pictures up on ENO's Flickr Photostream

***********STOP PRESS!************************STOP PRESS!*************



  1. Ah I love it! You guys look amazing, and I'm so glad that you made it through. So sorry to have missed out, but I will endeavor to make the next one.

  2. I'm not sure if I'm more amazed that there's finally a new post-Christmas blog post (hee hee) or that you achieved all of that in ONE night!!! Well done, it sounds like you were tremendous. Which is no surprise at all xxx

  3. Ah LondonHev, we were very sad you could not make it, but it'll be good to see you next time!

    Thanks so much Sarah! xx I, too, am rather amazed myself at both of those things! I've started several times to try to write something interesting, but I didn't have the brain space. The next post will have to be a tale of the lost quarter... ;]