FESTIVAL OF CHICHESTER: the city’s singing day

Arthur and Polly
Arthur and Polly

A concert version of Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance will be the challenge in the Come & Sing day at the Festival of Chichester.

Once again, husband and wife team Polly and Arthur Robson are the brains behind it, Polly acting as administrator, with Arthur as musical director.

Polly is promising a fun day for all concerned on Saturday, July 4 at Chapel of the Ascension, University of Chichester, College Lane, Chichester.

The event takes the form of an all-day rehearsal, followed by an evening performance at 7.30pm. Participants were asked to sign up by June 26.

“We are doing Gilbert & Sullivan because it is so popular,” Polly said.

“Last year we did a hotch-potch of Gilbert & Sullivan choruses. This will be even more fun, The Pirates of Penzance, all of it. There will be more little solos we are hoping people will latch on to. It is just a lot of fun. A lot of the songs are very familiar, like A Policeman’s Lot. There is a great opportunity for gents to dress up as policemen or pirates. We would certainly encourage people to come in costume of some kind.

“Everyone can sing. Everyone has a voice. People sometimes come with friends. Sometimes they come in groups, but people also come along by themselves. We also have a lot of people that come every year. They rock up off buses and trains. They come from all over the south.

“We start off together and have a communal sing, a warm-up with exercises from Arthur, and then we split into sections, ladies separate from the men, and then we learn our separate parts.”

Hard work?

“Well, at the end of the day everyone knows they have been there, but hard work makes it sound negative which it really isn’t.

“It is great fun. We just want to get to the point where we give as good a performance as we possibly can with the work we have all done. I can guarantee everyone will have a great time and everyone will learn something during the day.

“It’s about team work. It’s about all working together. It’s a whole lot of stuff like that. Sometimes it’s about connecting with people who sang when they were younger and then got caught up with jobs and family and stopped singing for whatever reason.

“This is a great way for them to get back into it in a non-threatening way and in a non-threatening environment. People can dip their toes in the water and have a fun day out.”

The event has been a regular on the Chichester calendar for the past 32 years. The summer outing tends to be fairly light-hearted, with an autumn singing day offering something rather more serious.

But even when they are being light-hearted, there is still a serious element.

“With the advent of Gareth Malone, people think they can rock up and learn little tunes. This isn’t like that. At the end of the day we are trying to put on a performance. It’s more testing than just rocking up and knocking out a pop song. Gareth Malone is a positive thing, but this is not the same thing.”

As Arthur says, the chances are there will be plenty of people who know The Pirates of Penzance inside out alongside those who really don’t. And that’s no bad thing. Polly believes.

That will drag everyone along. Everyone will be swept along by their enthusiasm for a really enjoyable day.

As Polly says, the point is that a lot of Gilbert & Sullivan societies have died – and yet G&S remains incredibly popular.

“This gives people a chance to pick up on something they might not otherwise get the chance to do.”

Festival of Chichester tickets are available online: www.chichestertickets.co.uk. Box office: 01243 813595. In person: Cloisters Shop, Cathedral Cloisters, Chichester, PO19 1PX (open Monday-Saturday 10am-5pm).

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