Ryton Festival is fun!

I’m glad that the light nights are coming in. We usually make plans for the dismal first two months of the year when depression tends to infiltrate. We spend a few days near Holy Island and book a couple of theatre trips. There’s less need for this, now that I’m a committee member of the Festival.  SAD syndrome, or whatever it’s called, is largely abolished – with late February weekends spent in the midst of friendly and welcoming committee colleagues, and discovering a rich seam of new pals amongst our talented performers and their families. If you would to know the 2018 results, you can find them on the Festival Face Book page, and also by following this LINK

I missed the first weekend of the festival because we were away, and then the Speech and Drama weekend was cancelled because of the snow.  Thursday 8th March was my first session, serving the tea.  Once the tea break was finished, I got to hear several of the boys’ and girls’ solo classes.  On Friday evening, I was the meeter/greeter/money taker on the door, and then on Saturday morning I was in charge of the trophies.  All easy enough, until Saturday afternoon – announcing.

The one car-between-two arrangement enjoyed by Heather and I works well.  Until that is, it comes to the question of in-car musical entertainment.  My glove compartment library consists of Oscar Peterson, Count Basie, The John Wilson Orchestra, Clare Teal, Etta James, Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker, scores from The Sound of Music, Cabaret, Chicago, Show Boat, Guys n’ Dolls, On a Clear Day, Funny Girl, Silk Stockings, Kiss Me Kate…… and so on.  Occasionally our CD’s become shuffled up, and I find myself subjected to the assault upon the ears that is Eminem.  If I tell you that the sole purpose of Heather’s existence at the minute is going to see Kim Wilde at the Sage in April, this tells you all you need to know in regard to her musical tastes. It says on Ms Wilde’s website that she stays behind after shows to sign autographs, so Heather will arrive home all dreamy and star struck. I can’t go that evening because I’m making a lamb casserole.  I know who Kim is (I hear her name mentioned often enough and I like her Dad) and I know who Prince is, but only because he died.  I also know who the Pet Shop Boys are, because I once took Heather to see them for her birthday.  A “Light show extravaganza like you have never seen before,” was breathlessly promised in the promotion blurb.  Indeed, the light show delivered by The Pet Shop Boys was truly fantastic.  I just don’t understand why they had to make such a racket while they were doing it. I’m equally vague about classical music.  I like Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, but there my knowledge concludes.

I had announcing duties at Ryton Music Festival last Saturday, and I got chatting to entrant Stephen Gladstone before the afternoon sessions began.  I saw from my crib sheet that he was singing Mr. Cellophane from ‘Chicago’, by Ebb and Fosse. Without having to Google anything, I know that ‘Chicago’ has music by John Kander, and I would have credited the words to Fred Ebb. I think of Fosse as an award-winning choreographer, but nevertheless I knew we were talking about Bob here.  Jonathan Worthy from Hamsterley entertained us with If I Were a Rich Man.  No one needed to tell me that this is from ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ and that Topal sang it in the film.  It escapes me who wrote the lyrics, but the music is by Jerry Bock.  These are things I know.  I don’t know how I know, I just do. Just as I know that Edith Head did the costumes for the film Sweet Charity, and Marnie Nixon dubbed Natalie Wood in West Side Story.  I asked our secretary Alison to outline my responsibilities (there is something about Alison I find immensely reassuring) and I was contentedly familiar with everything listed in the light opera/musical show category, but not the others.

“How do you say that?” I wanted to know, jabbing my finger over the name Besig

“Besig, just as it reads.”

 Bezig I wrote in the column, just to keep myself right. Then my eye alighted upon Class 15, Vocal Duets (any two voices) – Open.  Lynne and Isabel were singing something in French.  I’ve lost the crib sheet now, so I can’t remember what it was, but there were two things about the piece of which I was certain.  First of all, I couldn’t pronounce its title, and secondly, it would take me weeks, months, and years to learn how. My eye scanned the hall until it found Lynne. 

“Would you be able to announce this yourself?” I asked.  Aware that I was being somewhat unprofessional I ploughed on, justifying myself.

“You see if it was Matthew Ford or Harry Connick Junior, then I would be alright because they sing in English, but this isn’t English, it’s French, and I can’t pronounce French.”  French master Ivan Parker of Ryton Comprehensive could testify to this. Indeed, I don’t always do English either, I’ve never been able to say the word phenomenal. Thankfully Isabel came to my rescue, and introduced the song herself. 

Whilst the Festival is not Heather’s bag, she supports us, and willingly coughed up money for a patrons’ ticket. 

“Would you like to come to the end of Festival committee buffet?” I enquired, certain she would say no.

“Oooh yes please.”

Oh God.

Warnings were issued, not just by me, but by my fellow committee member and Heather’s Facebook friend Richard Reid. A potted version of her instructions follows:

“You do not swear, in fact you don’t say anything, because you can’t open your mouth without swearing.  Just sit quietly.  VERY quietly. Say nothing. If anyone speaks to you – then you will restrict your remarks to the weather.”  

In the main, she managed to adhere to our instructions, that was until Alexander Akhurst from Durham stood down from singing.  She turned to me.  “That was ******* tremendous,” she whispered. Apparently, Kim Wilde has competition.