An article I wrote for the Shrewsbury Chronicle ....
When my mother-in-law (and we shall call her Betty because that is her name) expressed an interest in attending the Mayor’s Charity Concert, I decided I might like to pop along too.
“Oh, I really don’t think it’ll be your cup of tea,” she said, no doubt thinking about that noisy devil’s music I seem to be listening to whenever she comes round.
“Really?” I said. “Choirs, a brass band – and all in the beautiful setting of St Chad’s Church. What’s not to like?”
Besides, it would mean she would be chauffeur-driven there and back, as well as having the pleasure of my company!
Needless to say, Betty was finally convinced.
Well stocked up with fruit pastilles and chocolate buttons (yes, I know, I’m a big kid), I picked her up just after six o’clock and we headed off in the direction of the Georgian gem that is St Chad’s.
Thinking (correctly, as it turned out) that all the parking spaces around the church would be taken by choristers, musicians and organisers, I parked on the Shrewsbury School side of the river and we then walked over the majestic Kingsland Bridge, trying our best to ignore the biting wind.
We grabbed ourselves a pew right close up to where the brass band would be positioned and sampled our first fruit pastille of the evening.
Already, Betty was enjoying herself – and the music had not even begun.
Since moving to Shrewsbury last year, she has been positively lapping up life in the county town, taking in the architecture and the history, savouring quiet moments in tearooms and coffee shops, visiting Rowley’s House and the castle, going to the cinema, joining various groups. There’s no stopping her.
And now, with the daylight illuminating the stained glass windows fading, she was eagerly anticipating the concert, entitled “100 Brass and Voices” and featuring The Friday Singers, the fantastic soaring voices of the Shropshire Girls Choir, Shrewsbury Male Voice Choir, and the truly stupendous Shrewsbury Brass Band.
All four groups were excellent, providing an evening that embraced film themes, emotional negro spirituals, Irish folk music, opera, fifties rock ’n’ roll, musical theatre, a Salvation Army-type romp, and mainstream pop.
A great deal of the music was decidedly upbeat and, frequently as I looked around the audience, there were broad smiles to be seen.
Shrewsbury Brass Band (formerly the Sabrina Brass Band) blew us away with rousing, full-blooded swing while the charming ladies of the Friday Singers enchanted us with gentler melodies – a Maori tune, a calypso, a slice of Jesus Christ Superstar.
The Shropshire Girls Choir – really quite magnificent – brought us a stunning version of Over The Rainbow, Labi Siffre’s Something Inside So Strong, and a heart-melting Hushabye Mountain from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
The Shrewsbury Male Voice Choir – a fine body of men – won a round of applause when they dedicated Swing Low Sweet Chariot to the victorious Shrewsbury Town Football Club who, that very afternoon, had won promotion to League One.
And the choir also delivered a real crowd-pleaser in the form of the Tony Christie hit, Amarillo.
The evening was in aid of the Mayor’s Charity Fund (Small Grants for Small Groups) and the St Chad’s restoration campaign. And it was good to know that our money was going to such worthy causes.
On our way back to the car afterwards, the chilly wind still blowing, we strolled over Kingsland Bridge, lights reflected in the river.
“Oh, it’s a grand town, this,” said my mother-in-law.
I smiled. “Welcome to Shrewsbury, Betty.”