Anne L Ryan reports on Women of Note - Parkside Community College Hall, Parkside, Cambridge 18 May 2007

Artist Visiting Cambridgeshire
An evening of song with WOMEN OF NOTE led by Charlie Thomson at Parkside Community College Hall, Parkside, Cambridge.

With a light heart and a cheerful spirit, Women of Note entertained a full house in Parkside Community College Hall on Friday evening, 18 May 2007. Arranged against a beautiful backdrop of rainbows and umbrellas, the choir invited us to escape the summer rain, teasing us with a programme of songs from just about everywhere. Nickomo's Welcome to Heaven started us off, and was swiftly followed by Down to the River, a gentle arrangement by Charlie Thomson, the choir's leader, creating a relaxed mood. This flourished on Misirlou, a Greek folk song from the 1920s, which had an enchanting quality about it, even though Charlie Thomson had suggested, tongue in cheek, that if we wanted to hear an alternative version we could look up the one by Dick, Dale and the Deltones!

The programming had a sense of the eclectic. One minute it was a traditional gospel number: I woke up the Morning with the Sun in my Heart, the next was Dolly Parton's Jolene. This contrast epitomises the music of Women of Note. They sing what they like, and nothing escapes their interest. A touching lament called Namahoi from Sarajevo by Susannah Darling Kahn, or a blues number called Moaning written by Bobby Timmons, who played with Art Blakey. He died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1958. I tuned into the chorus repeating with them, 'Yellow, Yellow', which in my mind's eye I thought referred to Timmon 's illness. I discovered later they were saying 'Yeah, Lord, Yeah, Lord'.

The best bit was encouraging the audience to participate. This worked well on Everybody Loves my Baby - my - baby - cares - for - me, written in 1926 by Spencer Williams and Jack Palmer. Mingling amongst the audience, notated women led each part of the song, encouraging us to tune in and sing together triumphantly.

They finished up with two songs from the 1960s, These Boots were Made for Walking, and You're my World, the hit for Cilla Black in 1964. Introducing the song, Thomson said that he never liked it, but when he was working on the arrangement, it grew on him; he commented, ‘time does interesting things - it breeds tolerance and changes your perspective!'

As I was leaving, outside, I heard a few people still humming ‘- my - baby - cares - for - me'; this sums up the evening. Memorable tunes, forgotten or perhaps, mis-remembered, relived and rekindled and given new life. Their next concert is set for 27 January 2008.

Women of Note emerged from Talking in Tune, Cambridge's natural voice singing network which is led by Rowena Whitehead. They have been singing together for more than twelve years and comprise 21 women, or so. They get together every Tuesday night to the sing the songs they love. They have been working with Charlie Thomson, Director, for the past three years. New members are welcome and should make contact on: 01223 357027 or 501908.

Writer: Anne L Ryan

Photo: Francis Pullen