Surrey Heath Singers takes an active part in the life of our local community in and around the Surrey Heath Borough. Every year, we sing carols in many settings, some private, some public, some out-of-doors (always memorable!) and some of course in halls and concourses. We sing carols in a number of local care homes each year, and in 2013 we joined a “ward round” in Frimley Park Hospital with other volunteers to sing for patients on Christmas Eve.
In 2012, we joined with the pantomime cast from Camberley Theatre, for what was meant to be a “Panto in the Park” evening. Bad weather drove us all into the Theatre, where we had a lot of fun, especially our recent ex-Chairman, who is caught on Surrey Heath Residents Blog leading the actions for the Twelve Days of Christmas. The panto cast were literally “upstaged”!
A lovely innovation in 2013 was the Candlelit Carols evening in late November, where Surrey Heath Borough Council and its Greenspace team invited us to put on a carol concert in Frimley Lodge Park after dark. Our mayor, Councillor Beverley Harding, opened the concert, and it just took off from there. With a large tree and night lighting it was a special evening, made magical when a number of young children decided to start impromptu dancing in the middle, even one girl showing her moves with her motorised wheelchair. We look forward to this event building into a great tradition for our Borough.
Not all our community activities take place at Christmas. In September 2010, we took a stall at the Siemens Fun Day, and performed a number of songs from our recent summer concert. The organisers very kindly gave us a 10 minute slot every hour when the Fun Day PA system was turned off so that we could sing unchallenged! This was the start of a relationship with Siemens, whose community outreach principles are similar to those of the Singers. We are grateful for their donation of £1000 that helped us buy a PA system which we can use for community events.
We are very proud to be the “choir in residence” at Frimley Park Hospital, responding whenever they ask us for a choir to sing at services in the hospital. We have sung at bereavement services, but also at the hospital’s annual Trust Service, which celebrates the mission of healing.
Going out and performing in a community venue is a challenge, because we have no control over the location, acoustics, and we either bring a keyboard, make do with what is there, or do without. We depend on our members to volunteer, and so the range of voices and numbers on the day can vary considerable. We are always in preparation for our next concert, and the chances are that the music we are rehearsing is not suitable for this community performance.
This was one of the reasons we formed Singet!, our rapid response a cappella group. The members put in the extra time to learn, and keep fresh, a repertoire of music that they can perform unaccompanied. So when the opportunity arises to sing in the community we have a group ready to go, and we can say “yes” more often than not when invited. In July 2013, Singet! were the first live music performed in the Surrey Heath Museum’s summer exhibition “Camberley Music Makers”, and they went back again to perform a wider programme in early September.
Singet! sang carols in the newly-opened Camberley Theatre Café, one Saturday lunchtime just before Christmas, the first try-out in the Theatre’s project to develop an “open-mike” culture in the café.
During 2014, Singet! is now arranging a Spring and Summer programme to perform in a number of care homes.