I’ve worked for LIPA 4:19, an academy for 4 to 19 year olds thats run within The Liverpool Institute For Performing Arts since October 2015 but this term, I took over their Singing Company. These are more advanced classes for those who want to focus more on their singing. For the first term, I just decided to throw some really complicated arrangements at them and see what they could do and they didn’t disappoint! Now, I’m so glad I did that because on Friday evening, I got a very exciting phone call…
Friday evening, I received a phone call that Paul McCartney had requested our Singing Company to sing along with his famous Christmas song ‘Wonderful Christmastime’. As you can imagine, it took me by total surprise but when asked if I thought we could pull it off in the extremely short amount of time we had, I had no doubt we could! Thats where this adventure began!
The next day was the last teaching Saturday of 2018 and our staff night out. It was also the day I received the sheet music for our Paul McCartney gig, of course, I still went out! At one point the song came on and we all got a bit excited, I couldn’t relax completely because at 1:15pm the next day I would have our first and ONLY two hour rehearsal to teach 20 children 4 part harmony and get them comfortable with the arrangement. We would be performing in front of 11,000 people in a sold out Echo Arena! Paul McCartneys long awaited homecoming gig! NO PRESSURE.
On Sunday morning, I woke up at 7am to start learning the arrangement and becoming comfortable enough with the harmonies so I could teach them quickly and have enough time to go over the whole song multiple times. As I suspected, they children (and their parents!) were so excited but ready for action! We learnt the whole arrangement in 1 hour and, thankfully, we had plenty of time to sing the whole song through lots of times. Everything ent to plan, but that didn’t stop me from worrying for the next 4 nights…
It felt like weeks had passed before Wednesday finally arrived and we all met at LIPA, the atmosphere was electric. We didn’t have a rehearsal before we left and tried to have a sing on the coach journey, not the best plan as we couldn’t hear a thing. That just made me worry more. The next time we would sing it would be on stage with Paul McCartney at his sound check. NO PRESSURE.
We arrived at the Echo Arena and were met by Paul McCartneys manager, who gave us all our backstage passes. I don’t know who was more excited, the staff or the chidren. Definitely the staff! We were told to wait on the bus so we could watch Paul arrive and things got even more exciting as he got out of the car. We were then shown to our dressing room, complete with a table full of treats for us.
Soundcheck next and I wasn’t sure what to expect from the super famous man we were about to meet but he didn’t disappoint in the slightest! He made sure he shook hands with every single one of us and chatted at length to me about how he wanted the choir to sound “like a party on the stage”, even joking that he was trying to make himself feel better when I said I was relieved he didn’t want them to be “perfect”! His band were more than accommodating and made us all laugh with their sense of humour, especially his amazing drummer who was dancing around as we were singing. We ran the song a number of times as they were using 17 mics, an amazing feat by the tech crew, even though we did experience a very loud episode of feedback at the beginning, ouch! II had a lot of crew and management team express how they though the choir sounded great and a lot of thanks was given to the whole team. Such a fantastic feeling, we really pulled it off! Now all that remained was the performance in front of an actual audience.
As we arrived back to our dressing room, there was a knock on the door. “Sir Paul would like you to have these.” We were all given a t shirt each from merchandise and pizzas were ordered for everyone while we waited as we wouldn’t go on until the very end. The staff took it in turns to take some children to watch the show from the back of the arena and it went so fast! Before we knew it, we were lined up ready to be escorted to our position at the side of the stage.
In a blink of an eye, the children were on stage in front of 11,000 people. Thats when it started to snow and I got a tear in my eye and pride just poured out of me, the children had never sounded so good and the crowd went wild! I will never forget that moment. It has to be one of the best moments of my life. And here they are…
And in a flash, we were boarding the bus back to LIPA. At this moment, I felt drained but of course, the children absolutely buzzed all the way there! I drove home, poured a glass of Prosecco and thought “Did that REALLY happen?!”. All of the worry and pressure I put on myself, not only over the last few days but throughout my time working in this industry feels worth it. And I would do it again in a second, call me any time Paul ha!