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Glastonbury Abbey Extravaganza
on Saturday 3rd August 2019
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Brue Boys open the 2019 Extravanaza in front of 10,000 people in the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey
Photos by kind permission of Jason Bryant

As well as this main report and photo page, see also the 2019 Extravaganza Extra with more photos.

Preface

When the Brue Boys started in 2007, little did we dream that Jennifer’s ambition to have a choir of fifty men would be realised and that twelve years later the choir would perform in front of a sell-out crowd of 10,000 people on the huge stage at the Glastonbury Abbey Extravaganza on 3rd August 2019. But we did it!

Preparations

Glastonbury Festival maestro Michael Eavis first approached the choir in 2018 and attended a concert at Easton. The booking was confirmed, and Jennifer started to choose and prepare a song list for a continuous performance of one hour. This was, therefore our most ambitious musical challenge. Later we were told the actual performance would only be for 45 minutes, but we negotiated another 5 minutes, meaning we would sing fourteen songs.

‘Old Boys’ were invited back for the run-up to the big event and over 50 took part in rehearsals, with eventually 44 boys taking the stage at the big event.

A final rehearsal was held in Butleigh Church and we were delighted to see about 100 people come along to see how the local choir who many of those present had seen before, were shaping up for the big test.

The Brue Boys with Conductor Jennifer Westcott,
Pianist Hilde Senior with her husband assistant Bob in the front and flautist Jean Heal far left,
before taking the stage.

In the hands of concert professionals

We all turned up at 1.30pm on Saturday 3rd August and were ushered into the ‘Brue Boys Green Room’ in a separate marquee behind stage which gave us a good space to relax, with carpeting, lounge furniture, hot and cold refreshments and a discrete changing room for our ladies: Conductor Jennifer Westcott, Pianist Hilde Senior and Flautist Jean Heal. As we were on first, we had our sound check last, so heard sounds of the Lighthouse Family and The Specials who had adjacent Green Rooms.

The professional back-stage team was used to organising similar stages at the Glastonbury Festival. We were so impressed with their friendly, business-like manner and knew we were in capable hands. For many weeks beforehand, our own logistics team led by Andrew Look had liaised with Production Manager Emma Reynolds-Taylor who has managed the big acts on Glastonbury Festival’s Pyramid Stage. Andrew, as he does with all our concerts, keeps his logistics team on track and for the first time, tenor David Chambers took over planning choir attendance and concert management of the actual choir.

With military precision we assembled at 3.15pm in four rows of 11 to be ushered up the steps and into the massive back-stage area, replete with the kit for the other two bands, and onto our specially constructed staging. Here we looked out on the now quiet Abbey grounds, trying hard not to say anything as a plethora of microphones was placed in front of us all. Rehearsals of a few of our songs went well, but from where we stood and sang it was impossible to hear the effect of the whole choir, usually amplified naturally at smaller venues. Here, we were in the hands of the sound engineers 100 yards away under a large tent, adjusting and blending our sound to project from the huge speakers below us at the edge of the stage. This was undoubtedly trickier for Jennifer, Hide and Jean, but they all looked happy by the time we had finished our ‘Sound Check’.

Soon the gates were open, and we heard the buzz of the huge crowd jockeying for the best picnic spot in anticipation of the Extravaganza ahead.


The Big Performance

Now well-rehearsed, we were introduced by compere David Titchener and we took the stage at 5.15pm to an enthusiastic welcome. Chairman Robert Peto gave a short introduction, highlighting the special role of Conductor Jennifer Westcott and Pianist Hilde Senior (assisted as always by husband Bob).

Then we did what we do – sing with enthusiasm and with a confidence that there would be something for every possible taste as we worked our way through our eclectic repertoire consisting of:

The upbeat and well-known ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’, Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, ‘Mingulay Boat Song’ arranged by Brue Boy Trevor Ryder , Amanda McBroom’s ‘The Rose’, ‘Alexander’s Rag Time Band’, The Welsh song ‘Yfory’, The Zulu Chant ‘Senzenina’ sung accapella and led in style by baritone David Marshall, Irish folk song ‘Carrickfergus’, the romantic 2015 Earlene Trentz song ‘Beauty Is Her Name’*, The Spiritual ‘Hand Me Down My Silver Trumpet’, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ from Carousel, ‘Hello, Dolly!’ from the show of the same name,’ Sailing’, made famous by Rod Stewart and ‘Jack’s The Lad’* Sailor’s Hornpipe from Henry Wood’s Fantasia of British Sea Songs.

So, how did it go? Well, you have 10,000 other people to ask to really find out. Nevertheless, we were delighted with what sounded like an enthusiastic reception. We heard people clapping along, singing choruses of 'You’ll Never Walk Alone' and 'Sailing', and some getting up and doing a hornpipe to our final number. They certainly, as we were, lifted by Jean Heal’s lovely flute accompaniment to the romantic song ‘Beauty Is Her Name’ and especially her ever-quickening complement to the Sailor’s Hornpipe’. Also prominent throughout was Hilde’s very accomplished piano accompaniment, performed on a digital instrument which fed into the professional sound system to provide a wonderful sound echoing around the natural arena.

Finally, we took our last bow, and all us Boys needed to see was the beaming smile from Conductor Jennifer as she turned around to face us after acknowledging the crowd’s response. We’d done it!

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Afterwards

The atmosphere in the Green Room was brilliant as we reflected on the performance, which we thought was our best ever. Helped, no doubt, by the beers generously donated by Bass Ian Tucker! Most joined families in the grounds to enjoy picnics, more drinks and the two other bands. Both were hugely enjoyed by the crowd, and we just hope that our songs started the night off well. At exactly 10pm the firework display thundered into the night sky that earlier had seen a rainbow (with hardly any rain) over the Tor and a crescent moon set over St John’s Church. Magical.

Feedback

Michael Eavis met Jennifer after the performance and said that he was simply delighted and that we had chosen some beautiful songs.

Production Manager Emma Reynolds-Taylor said "The show was brilliant. It sounded and looked great. And all of you were an absolute pleasure to work with". 

More of Jason's photos below show images from the rest of the Extravaganza

Image of the Lighthouse Family's performance in front of the sell-out crowd


The Specials during their late evening set


The Firework Finale rounded off the fantastic event


Published by The Brue Boys Choir for Men Copyright © 2019 and all Rights Reserved.