Devon-based Take Note Community Choir has been taking the Edinburgh Fringe Festival’s choral scene by storm – and it’s no surprise why.
Having travelled all the way from Tiverton to perform at the Fringe, this 30-strong choir has been filling the churches of Edinburgh with songs from their Devon Knows How They Make it so Musical concert. Performing a medley of stirring, soulful and captivating musical songs in three beautiful venues – Canongate Kirk, Stockbridge Church and St Cuthbert’s Parish Church – they’ve certainly left their mark on the Fringe.
And amongst all the music, they’ve raised a substantial amount of money for charities in Edinburgh that work towards reducing homelessness.
Rayburn’s Copywriter, Jade, went to see two of their performances – led by Musical Director Katy Baker – and recounts the choir’s first performance at Canongate Kirk.
Walking up to the church, I hear the choir before I see them. Music fills the streets of Edinburgh as they rehearse just outside the main gates of Canongate Kirk, giving passers-by a reason to stop and listen.
Watching them in between songs, I pick up on subtle things like two friends sharing a joke, glances of reassurance and a shared sense of readiness. There’s something comfortable about this group of singers that immediately puts you at ease. An aura of support that’s almost palpable. But the thing you notice the most is their undivided attention to Katy. With the church filling up fast, I walk in and take my seat.
Wearing a red dress and matching heels, Katy stands at the back of the church with the choir before they break into their first song, ‘Sing with Joy’. Heads begin to turn as she leads them down the aisles, creating an almost ‘surround sound’ feel. As they walk on stage, it’s a striking image of red and black, with accompanist Abi Pring at the piano and Katy at the helm.
No one’s rushing to get on stage before the song finishes, no one’s shuffling around. They’re slick with impeccable timing.
Making it a family affair, Katy and her husband, Nick, and their two boys all play their part in the choir. Whilst her eldest sings and her youngest plays the cajon drum, Nick introduces the choir with witty home truths about Katy. And this strong family bond extends to the entire choir.
They ease the audience in with their medley of Andrew Lloyd Webber songs, followed by a powerful rendition of the ‘Circle of Life’ with a delicate flute solo by choir member, Siobhan Gilroy. Next they introduce sign language to their performance of ‘True Colours’ – a simple yet effective addition that keeps their concert as visually entrancing as their voices.
The choir leaves the stage and they finish their first half with two solos by Emily Searle, Italia Conti undergraduate and former student of Katy. After announcing she’ll be singing ‘Don’t Rain on My Parade’ from Funny Girl, my first thought is ‘she’s going to be good.’ And I’m not wrong. Emily sings with as much passion and emotion as any professional, with a voice that’s so lyrical she makes each note seem effortless.
After a performance that Streisand herself would be impressed with, she draws the audience in even more with ‘I’ll Be Here’ by Ordinary Days. Whilst I’ve never come across the musical, it’s a moving song with a heart-warming message, which leaves everyone hanging onto every last word.
The choir returns to the stage with a rousing performance of James Bond’s ‘Skyfall’. Now this is what I love about this choir. Their programme is so accessible – there’s a song that everyone knows. And whilst ‘Skyfall’ isn’t strictly a musical, it doesn’t matter. It fits in so well; bringing a refreshing new dimension to their concert.
Next, moving songs from Les Misérables fill the church, reintroducing Emily for a brief solo amongst the medley, before bringing their concert to a close with some favourites from The Greatest Showman. It’s a fitting end of high-spirited, high-energy songs with the deep backing of the cajon drum, played by Katy’s youngest son.
Applause erupts from the audience made up of over 100 family, friends and Fringe-goers – an impressive number for a group performing for the first time at the Fringe.
Sitting there, I feel a strange sense of pride wash over me. I’m not from Tiverton, I don’t know this choir; yet after this concert, I feel like I do.
Praise echoes through the church, whilst hugs and infectious smiles bring about a post-performance buzz. After chatting with some of the singers, I catch Katy – perhaps the loveliest person you could meet – who speaks with such warmth and friendliness. Then it hits me, this must be the ‘community choir effect’ – this pride I’m feeling – and the fact that they’re just a lovely bunch of people.
They’re a family in every sense of the word and, through song, leave their audience feeling just as part of it.