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Royals rescue Knights – how our retreat was almost beat

It’s one of the high points of our year. A weekend retreat where we do nothing but sing and learn how to be the best we can, from some of the finest coaches in the country.

That was the plan for our opening event of 2018. A comfortable hotel in the countryside with a full two-day programme – and an ample supply of fine ale. It wasn’t till we were unloading the risers that we heard the unhappy news: our guest coach had been forced to cancel due to a family emergency.

We were on our own – or so we thought.

Step forward our neighbours and friends, the Windsors.

No. Not the posh ones, but our music mates, the Royal Harmonics chorus of Windsor who – by pure chance – had booked their retreat for the same weekend, in the same hotel.

It’s also a happy coincidence that we recently appointed Sean Bui as our chorus director. Sean conducts several choirs – including the Royal Harmonics. Within an hour, our chairman Al Lines, Sean, assistant directors and the Royal Harmonics had cobbled together an impressive programme of shared resources.

It began with Neil Horchover, RH bass and Performance Judge at the BABS annual convention, helping us to connect more effectively to the songs we sing.

Then a couple of sessions with the irrepressible Becki Hine, Director of Song of Atlanta chorus and acclaimed international coach. Director Becki’s other half is the renowned arranger-director-baritone Clay Hine who was leading the RH’s weekend coaching, and who also directed the end-of-weekend performances by both choruses.

Myths debunked

Day Two brought a really useful session with speech and language therapist Kirsty Bui about how to take better care of our voices, and debunking some favourite Barbershop myths. Good news: it’s OK to be a cheese-eating barbershopper unless you’re lactose intolerant. Bad news: water is better for you than beer.

For the remainder of our retreat we were treated to the talent and sharp wit of RH coach and 3-times BABS gold medallist Stuart Owen, whose dad Chas happens to sing bass with the Knights. That led to an interesting moment when Stuart had to tell his dad he wasn’t doing it quite right…

In between the training sessions, an evening’s entertainment of cabaret (starring our own Assistant Director Trevor Pearce) and a splendid afterglow with Knights and Windsors in close-enough harmony after a glass or two of beer.

We couldn’t have done it without them all. Thanks everyone.