Blog: 21st June Flash-mob

Saturday 21st June was promoted as the Cycle of Songs formal “Pop-up Choir” event, but in fact what all the singers had been working towards, was not only singing in public, but performing as a flash-mob to surprise those in Cambridge market space between 12:30 and 1pm outside the Guildhall. It was great fun and included sticker action!

The day started early with Marcus Romer visiting BBC Radio Cambridgeshire to describe the Cycle of Songs project to audiences, and to hint about the planned ‘popup’ choir event that was set to happen at around 12:30pm that day. You can listen to this below.

The Cycle of Songs team arrived at the Guildhall at 10am to set-up and greet the choir members. Producer, Helen Weinstein, had also visited stall holders on the market, to prepare them for the singing event, to ensure the surprise moves would be supported by the market traders. The Spinney Singers were the first to arrive, followed steadily by an increasing number of individuals that have come together to make up the Cycle of Songs Choir. It was wonderful to have even more members of the youth group ‘Ten Sing’ join the event, with their numbers swelling to 30 participants.

The Guildhall’s Large Hall was soon hosting carers and singers, with over 100-strong choir, all prepped and ready to begin a rehearsal led by Rowena Whitehead, Kirsty Martin, and Marcus Romer. Helen and Sam set out the usual refreshment jugs and cups to keep those arriving on their bikes lubricated on such a hot day! Marcus began the rehearsal by continuing the work he had done at previous sessions in the Cambridge Junction and at the Music Faculty on West Road, choreographing the singers for what would be the flash-mob, created to surprise the lunchtime shoppers in Cambridge market.

Following the practice of their movements and behaviours leading up to the singing, Rowena and Kirsty worked with the choir to polish the songs they have been rehearsing for three weeks, ‘Vela Vela’ and ‘Why We Ride’. ‘Why We Ride’ is a piece Rowena and Kirsty have co-composed for the project. You can listen to the song below:

The sound of singing wasn’t the only music being played that day as partnering organisation CaMEO’s Joe Shaw was leading a rehearsal for a boisterous ‘big band’ brass event. This provided an interesting soundtrack to the quieter moments of the rehearsal in the adjacent room at the Guildhall, but because we had carefully timed breaks between the muscial groups, the two rehearsals were able to practice alongside each other despite a little bit of noisy overlap!
During the rehearsal, Helen Weinstein was directing the cameras to capture the events in stills and footage. In addition, Cambridge 105fm was hosted in the Large Hall to play live to audiences the wonderful rendition of ‘Why We Ride” and conducted a lengthy interview with Helen about the historical inspiration for the songs and to describe the diversity of the artists and singing participants involved with Cycle of Songs this year, whilst Marcus followed up with a description about the choreography and non-sticky logos involved in the performance today.

As the Cycle of Songs rehearsal was brought to a close and the choir were preparing for the flash-mob, the photographer working with the Historyworks crew, Martin Bond, took the opportunity to take some group photos of the entire popup choir. You can find a top picture that captured the popup choir and more photos from all of our rehearsals and events on our Flickr Group here.

The choir members then made their way out of the Guildhall and dispersed around the market and throughout all of the stalls, mixing with the public. With no indication of anything slightly unusual happening, a bicycle bell could be heard amongst the Saturday shoppers. Emerging from the crowd was Tizzy Faller, Cycle of Songs Choir member who is Assistant Outreach Officer at the Cambridge University Music Faculty Education & Outreach, CaMEO. She was riding a distinctively decorated Beano special edition of the Raleigh Chopper.

As Tizzy cycled around ringing the bell she started to elicit looks, confusion, and interest from the public. Then she waived and stopped amongst the crowd. She stepped from off the bike, put it on its stand, and took a Cycle of Songs sticker from her pocket and placed it on the Cambridge map, a large sign piece of street furniture adjacent to the Guildhall. She began singing ‘Vela Vela’ with two other singers quickly flanking her and joining in. Suddenly a rush of enthused Spinney Choir children ran to put stickers on the map too, joined by young people from Ten Sing. They were followed by a mass of other singers doing the same and soon over a hundred singers all stood together on the corner of Peas Hill singing in unison to a delighted group of supporters and passers-by.

The Cycle of Songs choir joyfully performed ‘Why We Ride’ to a growing crowd that were capturing the surprising moment with cameras and phones. A great round of applause was given when the song was finished. The choir slipped away and split up, only to reform 15 minutes later on King’s Parade for a second surprise performance. For this one, Tizzy arrived with choir members from Sing! & Ten Sing, accompanied by a shiny blue tandem, much to the delight of all in the choir. An equally impressive rendition was given and it proved to be a truly remarkable experience for all involved and all those witnessing the event.
After a round of photography, the choir members were all invited by Producer, Helen Weinstein, to have refreshments set up ready in the grounds of Great St Mary’s Church by Sam Johnson, with ever useful help from Stewart the Verger. The early afternoon was spent in animated conversation around the refreshment table, relaxing and reflecting on the event and the rehearsals that had got them there. The hard work and enthusiasm of all involved throughout the process, singers and staff, ensured that this was a wonderful day and a great success.

To read about the event you can visit the Cambridge News website for their coverage of the event, including a slideshow. To access this click here.

Blog: 21st June Flash-mob


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