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Advice for audience coming to tonight's Highland Voices fundraising gig for Cash 4 Kids at Inverness Ironworks

By Margaret Chrystall

The sound of the Highland Voices choir will ring out tonight as the audience at their Ironworks Cash 4 Kids fundraising concert will be invited to join them in Christmas songs and classics.

Musical director Tony Henry with members of the Highland Voices choir.
Musical director Tony Henry with members of the Highland Voices choir.

But on social media the gospel choir reminds their audience to wear a face covering when moving around in the venue and to take a lateral flow test before coming along tonight.

The choir, now in its fourth year, is known for entertaining audiences and supporting many charities across the area with their music.

Back in May, the choir released a music video of Walking On Sunshine to help raise vital funds for Highland Hospice on their Wear Yellow Day. The video was put together by Ben Hesling and Mark Clement.

But before that, musical director Tony Henry revealed that the Covid lockdown had proved a challenge – but one the choir had faced head on.

The musical director said: “It was – there’s no other word for it – a shock, on so many levels. It proved to be very difficult for all concerned. The isolation was the hardest burden to bear, a lot of people, it really did affect them negatively, myself included.

“It was about finding ways to communicate online because we were isolated and we needed to adapt.

“I quickly realised that, not just for my own morale, but everyone in the choir and the general public, everyone found themselves in a situation where they were looking for ways to stay sane – once the novelty of being stuck at home wore off and people had to work from home.”

Tony says that he was already aware of working and communicating onscreen when lockdown arrived.

“I was, because I do have a lot of students because I teach and I work with people remotely as far afield as overseas, so making that adjustment wasn’t hard. But it was certainly difficult for students who preferred learning from me on a one-to-one.

Choir members are ready to raise their voices tonight (Friday).
Choir members are ready to raise their voices tonight (Friday).

“Also, when you naturally perform, you depend on an audience to react to – when you are singing to a camera of course it isn’t the same. You know that remotely people are watching, but you have nothing to react to.

“You have to constantly use your imagination and hope that they are actually ‘with you’ when you are performing.”

Highland Voices were also lucky.

“A very large barn was generously donated to us on Belladrum Estate where we could all be socially distant and could follow the rules and because it was a well-ventilated space we were able to continue to rehearsals on an evening basis – and it grew to be very important.

“Some of the time when the rules demanded it, we had to be two metres apart, but luckily we were in that space so we were able to accommodate that.”

Tony revealed that the number in the choir stays at the same level.

“We never have a maximum of more than 30, it’s pretty constant round that number, and if we fall below, there are always people keen to join.”

Tony, an opera singer and an international recording artist, came from St Albans in Hertfordshire, relocating from London to the Highlands four years ago, living in Dingwall. And as well as being musicial director of the choir, he set up his own singing academy two years ago. He is also one of the voice coaches in the Ness Factor singing competition in aid of Highland Hospice.

And there is a constant flow of inspiration for music to add to the choir's repertoire.

Tony said: “You can hear a piece of music and be inspired, I can listen to something and think ‘My choir could do that!’ or a choir member will come to me with a piece that they would like us to do.“The lead vocalists in the choir are very talented and they are always looking at songs they would very much like to sing.

“They suggest something and we work on them together and work with the choir on them from there.

“There is a constant evolution going on and we are always refining things as we go.”

Tonight’s event is the choir’s latest.

Tony said: “It’s an event where we feel really honoured to be in a position where we can try to not only contribute to raising awareness, but also, if we can, entertain people – and all the money goes for Moray Firth Radio’s Cash 4 Kids. It would be great if people came along. Basically, it’s a wonderful cause.”

Click here for tickets: www.ironworksvenue.com/event/highland-voices

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