This was a day that had taken over a year to plan and this will probably be my longest ever blog post as a result.

It all started when Kirsty, our Musical Director, decided to hold a joint rehearsal for any choir members who wanted to attend.  This was in 2015.  The evening went so well and we all got such a buzz out of it that Kirsty organised another one.  This rehearsal was equally as ‘buzzy’ as the first one and that planted the seed of an idea for Kirsty.  Why don’t we get everyone on the stage at a big venue?

The venue was to be the Usher Hall and the date, 25th November 2016.  All of the choirs started to learn and rehearse new songs and to add some polish to older ones.  We had several more joint rehearsals, some with the band, which we all enjoyed.

The months and weeks whizzed by and, before we knew it, concert day had arrived.  I had taken the day off work, as we’d pretty much all had to, and made use of the morning to get some things done.  I then got the bus to Princes Street and headed to M&S to get some food for the day as I didn’t know if I would get the chance to get any later.  It had been cold for a few days and there was frost lying on the ground in sheltered spots, but the sky was blue and the sun shining as I walked from M&S to the Usher Hall on Lothian Road.  I had a feeling it was going to be a good day.  A few days before the local evening paper had also picked up on the show and had written a completely unsolicited article:

Edinburgh Castle in the sunshine
Edinburgh Castle in the sunshine
Usher Hall
Usher Hall, Edinburgh by Kim Traynor – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

We had been told to get to the Usher Hall before midday so that we could be locked in for the sound check and run-through of the songs.  I arrived at the same time as a few others and we eventually found the door we’d been told to enter through.  I found my fellow Soprano 2s from the Leithers and we settled down for a chat and to see if we knew anyone else from the other choirs.

Band sound check on an empty stage
Band sound check on an empty stage

The band was on first for their sound check.  They ran through a few songs, and we joined in when we were allowed to!  The trickiest part of the process was getting 430 choir members onto the stage in such a way that we could all see Kirsty at the front.  We were  called up by choir number and sections (altos 1 and 2, sopranos 1 and 2, and boys).  It took about 45 minutes to get us all on, but it worked well.  We then ran through the entire set so that the sound manager could do his magic.  Kirsty was happy that everything was set, so we were allowed to go and get some food and have a bit of down time before the concert.

Panorama of the inside of the Usher Hall
Panorama of the inside of the Usher Hall

The deadline for being back in the Usher Hall, all set and ready to go, was 6.30pm.  We all tend to gravitate towards our own choirs and sections, so I joined my fellow Soprano 2s from the Leith choir and we ended up in the Filmhouse for something to eat.  We got there in time – 10 minutes later the place was packed with groups from several other choirs.  The poor staff in the Filmhouse didn’t know what had hit them when we all started to order drinks and food.

Duly refreshed we all headed back, this time entering via the stage door (something I never thought I’d do!) and into the Soprano 2s’ dressing room to get ready.  We all sat around chatting and then heading to find a free toilet(!) before heading into the auditorium.  Anyone who had a seat in the choir stall on the stage could go and sit there.  The rest of us sat in the seats in front of the stage but we could only stay there till 7.00pm because that’s when the doors were opening so that the audience could come in.  At that point we all headed up to the stage.  The Usher Hall hasn’t got a curtain, so we had no choice but to be on the stage when the audience came in, otherwise it would mean the audience waiting for 45 minutes while we got into position.

The audience arriving
The audience arriving

I kept an eye on my watch as the minutes ticked away to 8.00pm – show time!!

Set list – I can’t remember the exact order but the first and last songs are right:

  • Rose Garden
  • Can’t Take My Eyes Off You
  • Stuck In The Middle With You
  • Big Yellow Taxi
  • This Old Heart Of Mine
  • Kirsty and Annette’s song
  • Let Me Go
  • All Of Me
  • Looking At You, Looking At Me
  • America
  • You’ve Got A Friend
  • Young At Heart
  • Proud Mary
  • Something Inside
  • Don’t Stop Believing

Kirsty had her usual banter with audience members, and even organised a dance-off between three of them.  She had been worried about us all being able to see her hands while she was conducting us, so she had found some arm extenders with big hands on the ends.  It was funny seeing her trying to work with them – they were too long!  It turned out they were only for show and she didn’t actually use them to conduct us!

Kirsty also decided to take some photos of the audience.  They were asked to be more excited than if they were at a Bay City Rollers concert!  She laid down on the stage to get closer to them and to include as many people as she could.  She’s since found out that she’s in a very exclusive club: Alice Cooper is the only other artiste who has ever laid down on the stage in the Usher Hall during a concert!!

One of the choir members, Caitlin, was celebrating her 26th birthday.  Her Dad was involved in springing a surprise on her – she was dragged to the front of the stage, given a birthday cake and made to stand there while 430 choir members and 2,100 people in the audience sang ’Happy Birthday’ to her.  I later saw her post on Facebook where she said it was the best birthday celebration ever and, while she was very apprehensive at the start, she relaxed and really enjoyed the experience.

Mobile phone lights during the last song
Mobile phone lights during the last song

The concert was over by 9.45pm.  All on a high, we made our way off the stage and back to the dressing room to get changed and head our separate ways.  Some went to find their family and friends who’d been in the audience.  Some of us headed up to the bar for a quick drink and chat before heading home.  I got home around 11.30pm.  It took me a while to wind down and I eventually crashed into bed just after midnight.  The hard core party animals were eventually asked to leave the Usher Hall bar at around 1.00am!

I’ve been to the Usher Hall many times over the years to see bands and never, ever thought I would end up on the same stage as some of my heroes.  I can now see how performing can become like a drug for some people.  The feedback and energy from the audience was amazing.

What an amazing experience!  We may do it again in the next couple of years, but it will never be the same as the first time.1

Oh, and it was also the day my office moved to a new location.