Always up for an adventure and, seemingly, a challenge, Eastbourne’s “choir with a heart”, Concentus, took to the road this weekend on a trip to the England v Wales friendly match at Twickenham. This wasn’t a “jolly” to watch the match however. No, this was the chance to perform to the Twickenham crowd – a potential audience of 82,000 rugby fans. Concentus had been invited to sing to lead the two sets of fans in their national Anthems and entertain the waiting crowds, from the pitch side, with some rousing tunes.
Now it’s easy enough, for the vast majority of us, to recall the words and tune to God Save the Queen, but how many of us would be able to commit to memory the first verse and chorus of the Welsh National Anthem? Yes, in Welsh. This was exactly the challenge put before Concentus in order to lustily lead the crowds in front of Live Sky television cameras.
The day started early for the choir, with two coaches full of some 84 choir members and their guests leaving Eastbourne at just after 7:30am. Armed with breakfast items, music, choir uniform and a bag of mixed emotions they piled in for the trip up to the massive stadium. Spirits were high, as is usual with this friendly bunch of mixed singers, and some last minute rehearsing took place on the way up.
Arrival at the stadium was a shock – the enormity of both it and the task ahead were enough to shake the knees of several of the choir members. But a job had to be done and rehearsals and sound checks were soon underway.
Following sound checks, pitch side rehearsals and a brief period of “marching” lessons, the choir’s crowd rousing set got underway at the East Stand in glorious sunshine. Starting with the challenging “76 Trombones”, the crowd both appreciated and joined in with the more well-known and rousing sections from “Sussex By The Sea”, “Rule Britannia”, “Guide Me Oh Thou Great Redeemer” and “Land of Hope and Glory”. Having been guided from the pitch side to massive appreciation from the crowd, the choir reassembled alongside the military standard bearers for the day to await the next entrance onto the pitch for the ‘main event’.
The sun got hotter, the crowd increased in size and got louder, and the choir’s enthusiasm and anticipation heightened as they made their way to the centre of the pitch. Some joining hands in mutual support and emotion, they took centre stage on the pitch and proudly and confidently led the 81,128 strong crowd in “Jerusalem” and of course the Welsh and English National Anthems. The effect and noise was overwhelming and, it would be fair to say, that a good few tears were being held in check by all.
A satisfied and happy family of choristers from diverse backgrounds, of a large age range but joined as one with their mutual love of singing, regrouped outside the stadium after the match. Many of the spectators approached them to congratulate them on their performance and impressive knowledge of Welsh!
Back on the coach, text and Facebook messages pinged in from family and friends, and everyone shared their favourite moments of the day and exchanged photos. Thoughts turned to the next concerts and the Summer barbeque to round off a perfect day.
Oh yes, and England won the match 27-13.
Have a look: