Standing in front of a very astute, highly credentialed Adjudicator in a room full of fellow competitors of the teenage variety, some of us prepared for a Ladies Ensemble, frocked in what might be construed as ‘mutton dressed as lamb’, was in itself a test of courage. It was on a Friday night in Ipswich when the members of the Esk Community Choir came to sing in four items at the 92nd Silkstone Eisteddfod and boy, did we sing our hearts out, the only things separating us from those little whippersnappers were a few energetic dance steps and fifty something years of maturing!
First on stage was the Ladies Ensemble, small in number but full of flare, who gave it their all with All That Jazz. ‘…special commendation for the costume! Such courage and pizzazz!’ and ‘…we enjoyed your performance just as much as you did!’ were some of the adjudications by the insightful and instructive Mrs Adele Nisbet though the “Awwww, aren’t they gorgeous!!” coming from some of the talented little pipsqueeks watching on were just as encouraging.
With an Houdini-like costume change, the Jazz Ladies quickly joined with the Esk Mixed Ensemble for We’re Gonna Put on a Show/ Can’t Help Falling in Love. Coming hot on the heels of the engaging performance by the Ipswich High School Vocals, our ladies and men really did put on ‘a classy act’…a ‘terrific!’ performance.
Then in an inspiring demonstration of diversity, it was a viva l’Italia with a dolce duo of O Pastorelle Adio and Mambo Italiano by the second Ladies Ensemble. What we may have lacked in Italian completo was made up for in fun and commitment… ‘delightful’…’the simple costuming and choreography was the icing on the top!’... from the knowledgeable Mrs Nisbet.
In the Open Choral Section where the whole Esk choir came together for a trio of African/American Spirituals, it was a case of “if youth knew; if age could” when we came up against two polished theatrically produced medleys of songs by the kids from St Bridget’s College, Indooroopilly and a Show Choir from St Mary’s, Ipswich who sang, sparkled and danced their way through a montage from The Little Mermaid and Sister Act 2. And so it was with Margaret’s practised accompaniment and Alexis in command, ready to inspire, that the Esk Community Choir did wow the audience and clearly, the adjudicator who awarded us with Gold!! Well, in truth, we did share first place with the brilliant St Mary’s College Show Choir and though it has been said that the best substitute for experience is being 16, on this occasion it was clear that being part of this amazing 40 year old choir was the only ingredient required for that feeling of triumph. So triumphant in fact that on this night we came away punching the air having been awarded GOLD for each of the Choir’s performances.
Performing in front of both an audience and judge can be confronting, but strange and wonderful things can happen when courage wins over insecurity. Just ask the handful of Choir Members who throughout the eisteddfod gave inspiring solo, duet and trio performances over many categories of vocal competition amid some of the district’s finest talents. All dug deep to find the power of “me” and received very encouraging reports, many achieving placings. However, that sort of courage can never be measured in awards; it’s what one does with it that enriches one’s life. Though this writer is loathe to single out names, special mention must be made of Di Chaplin and Eric von Nida who each entered six different solo and duet categories, not forgetting Esk’s little rising star Nedi Granzien who was awarded the Girls’ Championship Trophy for 13 yrs and under for her superlative efforts.
However, please pardon the cliché when I say that we could not have done all this alone because it is true. Gratitude in spades must go to accompanist, Margaret who is as kind and giving as she is gifted at the piano and to Alexis whose patience and guidance through scheduled as well as numerous unscheduled practices brought all Esk performers to a level beyond expectations; whose encouragement and belief could make flowers bloom on stage; who has covered approximately 800 kilometres over the course of a week to give the gift of her sensitive and meticulous accompaniment and encouragement to each of her performers making our songs leap off the stage into the hearts of the audiences allowing us to believe that nothing is impossible.