THE Manama Singers, one of the kingdom’s most iconic community institutions, has bounced back from oblivion with a stirring performance at an expat venue that has offered the choir a home to help rebuild itself.
The 20-plus strong group of passionate vocalists put on a ‘thank you’ show to entice newcomers to join them, highlight their new rehearsal venue and show off their musical versatility at the same time.
To the delight of all concerned, ‘An evening with The Manama Singers’ at The Dilmun Club in Saar sold out three days in advance, despite major competition less than half a kilometre away at the Bahrain Rugby Football Club which was hosting the latest Trib Fest.
“We were overwhelmed by the support shown,” said Jo Mings, who took over the musical director’s role only seven months ago. “The Manama Singers are back with a bang, here to stay and planning to grow!”
In recent times the multi-cultural group of enthusiasts from all walks of life have been rehearsing choral works at St Christopher’s Cathedral in Manama but the cost of hiring a community room and then parking issues in the vicinity looked like being the final straw to break the proverbial camel’s back.
The Manama Singers’ renowned ‘wall of sound’ looked all set to crumble as they were also bulldozed by a large number of expat members relocating or returning home. “It really suffered with the movement of people, good singers and great choir directors coming and going, and when our last choir director left last summer, we thought, what are we going to do?” admitted Jo.
“Trying to regrow it would have proved too costly if we had stayed where we were.As a group of like-minded people, who wanted to sing and have fun, we were determined to see how we could keep it going.
“We have chosen to sing really fun material and engage with audiences.
“We hope it’s going to attract more singers and build, regrow and regenerate the reputation of The Manama Singers.”
Fortunately the Dilmun Club stepped in when general manager Stephen Chartres heard about their plight. “We are very much a community concern too and the Manama Singers have been well-loved stalwarts of the expat community for so many years,” he said. “When we heard they were looking for a venue we offered them the Dilmun Club as a home to help them re-establish themselves.
“It’s a match made in heaven … in fact listening to their voices is a heavenly experience! We urged people to come along and watch them perform and join them too. The more the merrier!”
And, on Friday night, they did just that in their droves with the club’s Candles Restaurant & Function Room packed to the rafters with more than 100 guests settling down for a sumptuous four-course meal, welcoming drinks and fine music.
“We were absolutely thrilled that so many people came,” said Jo, who started singing in church choirs at the age of eight and took over as a conductor in the English town of Rochester in Kent a year before moving to Bahrain in 2016, where she now works as an American Express portfolio campaign manager. “The fact that the show sold out three days in advance was fantastic.”
Only last year, when the Manama Singers played a concert in Manama, GulfWeekly’s reviewer Christine Hassan sadly noted … ‘there were almost more of the choir than audience …’
The Manama Singers lived up to Jo’s promise of delivering a fun-filled format last Friday evening and showed off their versatility with everything from Queen’s We Will Rock You, Ben E King’s Stand By Me to Sting’s Fields of Gold and Leonard Cohen’s moving Hallelujah.
Jo’s French sweetheart, Chris Diciolla, an osteopath at the American Mission Hospital, took on the role of master of ceremonies, and even played the role of a farmer in a musical sketch.
They bravely offered a song book allowing the audience to join in with numbers of their own choice, such as Neil’s Diamond’s Sweet Caroline and Pharrell Williams’ Happy, with choir members stepping out amongst the diners to encourage and lead the singing.
The crowd also called for Abba’s Mamma Mia on the day the band announced a comeback with two new songs, 35 years after their last single.
By coincidence, the Swedish pop group were formed in 1972, the same year a group of amateurs living in the kingdom first joined together as The Manama Singers.
Two great comebacks are now on!
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Stanley Louis Szecowka
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