The Georgie Insull Singers – an inside story…

Published in the Majorca Daily Bulletin
Sunday 2nd November  2014
Photographs by RACHEL FOX

Georgie arrived in Majorca after travelling the world with her naval husband.   Teaching in Australia and other places the Navy took them to gave her vast experience of releasing musical talent in choirs and solo singers.  Georgie played a double bass bigger than she was and sang and acted in many a musical production.  ‘Hello Dolly’ was written with her in mind but Barbra Streisand got there first…  So legend has it.  Life in retirement in Majorca was supposed to be one of rural life, golf and pleasure.  That sounds idyllic but the wheels turned here for her as it has done for so many and serendipity got in the way.  An introduction to Conway Jones, the musical maestro of Majorca changed her and a new chapter started.  Conway was running a Choir as well as Centre Stage and local schools music. When Georgie joined his choir he soon saw in her someone who could take the adult choir and develop it into a new brand.  He was delighted when she said yes and took on the group.  This is how, in 2002, the Georgie Insull Singers was born.

The stories of the dozen years of the Georgie Insull Singers are legendary mainly due to the musical experiences they have had and the people who make up the group.  Belonging to a choir is very trendy these days thanks to Gareth Malone and his popularising of workplace and community choirs.  Georgie was ahead of her time in developing such a group in Majorca .  The singers are a diverse group of people who have one thing in common – they love to sing.  Georgie is a music teacher at heart and tries to make it easy for her choir to sing.  Twice weekly rehearsals together with CD’s of the parts they sing so that learning can take place at home is the deal.  She has a huge expectation of the choir and the time commitment is daunting.  The years programme is of three public performances for charitable causes. Singing for at least a dozen weddings in locations all over the island.  Being a part of the funeral services for so many in Bon Sosec and other locations in Majorca .  Then there are community requests to sing at hotels and golf clubs to celebrate English events.

The Anglican Church in Palma give the choir rehearsal space and for that privilege the Singers augment the Church Choir on occasions when a larger group is needed  – such as Christmas, Easter and Remembrance Sunday. Some of the singers belong to the Church choir but the majority don’t.  The Son Armadans location is the place that the voices from all over the island gather. They come from Portol, Soller, Bunyola, Santa Eugenia, Alcudia, and all the surrounding suburbs.  Have voice will travel is the motto of this group and the travelling is another show of commitment to the choir.

It is said by some that the Choir spend more time together in a year than close families do and that is probably true.  The extended family relationship that grows is a ‘warts and all’ experience and they put up with one another’s ‘little ways’.  Experts in these matters say that choirs are made up of divas and soloists and that there are very few who truly want to sing as a choir.  That is the challenge for good choir masters and mistresses as the Holy Grail is to get the choir to sing with ‘one voice’.  Georgie records the singers and plays back to them examples of when they are or are not singing with the ‘one voice’ and to achieve this altered state is what they all aspire to.

The talents of the group are worthy of a mention too because the stories of each and every one of the members is worthy of a page to itself.  The organist and accompanist for weddings is Dee Wade.  She must hold the world record for the number of weddings she has played the music of the Queen of Sheba for.  Dee is a very talented lady and her destiny was to play the organ.  In her home as a child in Yorkshire a fully piped organ took pride of place.  There was an inevitability of her families musical tradition being passed on. Weddings are very special to Dee she plays the music while the guests are assembling – this can be for anything between ten minutes and forty-five – depending on whether the bride is going to be fashionably late.  She accompanies the hymns and the choir performances and then pays the bridal couple out with gusto.  She can have played the organ for over an hour for each wedding – no mean feat.

The choir is kept in order by the lovely Tracey Peneranda – she has carried keyboards and electric cabling up winding staircases in churches on behalf of the choir for the last twelve years.  She is the glue that keeps it all together and makes sure that everything is under control.  All records are kept by Tracey – I do believe she even has a register.  She knows if the members have made the required number of rehearsals in order to allow them to sing at a concert.  This is a well oiled machine that works because of the dedication of people who work behind the scenes.

Georgie’s pleasure in life apart from enjoying the ‘shout’ at the choir is to see the development of her group.  It is daunting for new people to turn up at an established choir’s door and knock to gain admittance. Then to have your voice judged is more than some can stand – except that is not what it’s all about.  Georgie is a teacher at heart and wants her singers to improve from where they currently are so she needs to be able to hear their voice.  The notes that have an airing in the church on Mondays and Wednesdays are often not fit for purpose but that’s when the work begins.  The choir sing for almost two hours each session and always go home feeling they have made progress.

The organisation for weddings and events starts with one word and that is ‘yes’ and it’s that word that gets the choir into all sorts of wonderful places.  The Church on the hill in Déjà is a frequent venue for fashionable weddings.  Singing in Palma Cathedral for the beautiful wedding for the family of one of their choir members was a real pleasure.  The Royal Palace of Almudaina was another fine edifice for their music in 2014.  This choir enjoy fabulous venues and locations in Majorca thanks to the power of their music.

It was also a ‘yes’ that got them singing a Christmas Flash mob in nice Price Supermarket.  It was a yes that took them to a smart Bar Mitzvah in a Portixol location for another flash mob performance of the Chattanooga choo choo.  It was a yes that started them cruising round the Med on The Island Escape and other fine ships to sing in the Anglican churches in Europe .  Georgie and the girls have sung in Rome , Florence , Cannes and many other locations spreading the word that music is alive and well and living in Majorca .  One week the choir were also the entertainment on the cruise shop and ran a choir workshop and performance for the guests.  The Georgie Insull Singers do not know from one week to the next what they will be asked to do.  This week’s negotiations are all about supporting the cast of a Christmas Carol to be performed in Palma in December for 12 performances. Who knows what’s next – the singers are all very philosophical about it. It all adds a richness to their lives that they wouldn’t be without.

The Georgie Insull Singers will be singing at the Service of Remembrance next Sunday and have been learning two beautiful, poignant songs for the occasion. ‘The Ephesian Prayer’ is one and ‘For the Fallen’ is the other.  Moving anthems that will stay in their heads long after the service is over.  That’s how all the choir feel about the music they learn – it sticks with them and replays in their heads.  Then it’s on to the rehearsals for Christmas and their charity concert at the Anglican Church on Friday 12th December 2014.  The programme, as always will mix the old and the new – many people believe that their Christmas starts with this concert and the communal singing and acting of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

The Georgie Insull singers are an institution in Majorca .  They celebrate happy and sad with the people of our Island , they raise money for charity and they have fun.  The niggles of life don’t hang around when you are giving your all to the music is their experience.  They are proud to be part of the team and they are determined to continue to try and strive to be ‘one voice’ for Georgie.

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