One of the things I love most about my love of musical theatre is the fact it has instilled in me a love of singing. I was in the choir at secondary school, and whilst at university I was involved in the drama society where I’d occasionally audition for the musical, or sing at our charity events. It gave me a great buzz and a boost to my self-esteem in a world where as I was (and indeed still am) at a disadvantage physically because of my condition that I did have an instrument I could use and have fun with whilst everyone around me were good at sports and doing the things I’ll never be able to do. I’d be the first to admit I’m not particularly good at it, but I enjoy it immensely and love nothing more than randomly bursting into song at spontaneous and sometimes potentially inappropriate moments!
My time at university was the most liberating of my life to date. Physically and mentally draining for sure, but a time I thoroughly enjoyed as it gave me a taste of having a more independent, purposeful start to adult life away from home. When I returned home to Bristol, amid the seemingly endless tedium of jobhunting (a sadly continuing saga) I needed something to focus my creative energy on and keep up with the sense of a better social life I had built on over those three years in Cardiff. I found it hard and still do, given that Bristol isn’t the easiest city to negotiate when you’re confined to four wheels. After some extensive research, I figured it would be fun to return to my choir days and set out to find one I could join. I started with Rock Choir, and though I did enjoy my time with them, various factors led to me deciding to leave. Fast forward to 2013, and I’m sitting in a concert of another local choir, Riff Raff. It was during their rendition of Gotye’s Somebody I Used To Know that I decided I wanted to join them, so a few weeks later I went to a taster session and had a great time, all the while knowing that it was pretty much a given that I was going to join.
An a cappella pop & rock choir that endeavours to be the most exciting experience you can have with your clothes on, Riff Raff began life in 2010, founded by Elaine Wilson and Joe Blench, with a group in Clifton. Since then, Riff Raff has gone from strength to strength, and also has groups in Southville, Bishopston, and Fishponds. Elaine teaches with Oli Poole on Mondays and Tuesdays, and Wednesday/Thursday teaching is handled by Douglas V. Watts and Helen Ostafew, bringing our combined membership to just shy of 300 people over the four days. I’m a Wednesday Riff Raffian (my chosen nickname for us) and I always look forward it being midweek; there’s something that’s really special about the energy that singing in a choir creates, and still to this day I watch back our performances and am consistently amazed and impressed by the intensity of the sound we create. It was a joy being in a room full of like-minded, funny, welcoming people again who I can share a passion with, and bring joy to others while we do so. Our recent escapades include throwing Pyjama Party rehearsals for Children In Need where we raised in excess of £2,000, and performing at Bristol’s annual Make Sunday Special and Festival of Song events.
It’s a joy being in a group full of like minded, funny, welcoming people again who I could share a passion with, and I love the ethos of Riff Raff: an open door policy – no auditions, and no sheet music, making it accessible to all. Anyone can sing – and can do it well – given the right guidance. Most of the arrangements we sing are done by our talented teachers (who also double as Reduced Riff Raff), but from time to time our members also try their hand, with particularly awesome results, like this one!
And here’s another of my favourite arrangements to date, Somebody to Love by the almighty Queen!
I’d love to have a go at arranging something myself, but I’m not terribly au fait with how to do it well and too indecisive when it comes to songs. One day…
Summer 2016 is going to be a pretty momentous year for us over at Riff Raff, in that we’re performing at Bristol’s prestigious Colston Hall! Our biggest concert to date is a bit of a trip down memory lane for me having performed there with my school choir, but I’m still massively nervous and of course: thrilled to bits! We’re having our very own Grand Night Out in to help raise money for Wallace and Gromit’s Grand Appeal on Sunday, 24th July!
Some of my friends are already making the trip down from Hertfordshire and beyond to support me, and for that I’m incredibly grateful. I’d love it if more of you could come along too.
You can get tickets directly from the venue here
Or if you’d like to come, let me know and I can get you some at a discount!
To keep up to date with all our adventures, go to:
Follow us on Twitter: @RiffRaffChoir