Tag Archives: music

Solent Male Voice Choir

On Saturday 18th August, at 7pm, the Lumen Church will be hosting a summer concert alongside the BPMA exhibition currently on display there – The Post Office in Pictures.

Staying with the postal theme of the exhibition, we are delighted to announce that performing at the Lumen will be the Solent Male Voice Choir – also known as the Postman’s choir! This remarkable group of postmen formed the choir in 1961, whilst working at the Head Post Office in Portsmouth.

Solent Male Voice Choir

Solent Male Voice Choir

The idea came about when the postal workers found out how much they enjoyed singing whilst sorting the mail, and went on to form a choir. The original name of the choir was the Portsmouth Post Office Choir; whilst the name of the choir and its members, have since seen some changes, they are still proud of their roots as singing postmen. On the night they will be singing an eclectic repertoire from Verdi to Elvis Presley. There will also be a special ensemble performance in honour of the postal theme of the evening, of ‘Return to Sender’.

Before and after the choir performance, visitors will also be able to view The Post Office in Pictures exhibition on display at the Lumen Church. The exhibition showcases 30 iconic photographs taken from the vast archives of the BPMA, dating from the 1920s right through to the 1980s. The photographs focus in particular on the intrepid and unusual conditions often faced by postal workers as they deliver the mail. It is certainly fitting that both the exhibition and the choir can be enjoyed together, on what promises to be a fantastic evening.

Solent Male Voice Choir

Solent Male Voice Choir

The photographs in the exhibition are as pioneering as the postal workers they portray. In 1934 the General Post Office (GPO) established its Public Relations Department. Headed by the entrepreneurial Sir Stephen Tallents, its aim was to promote good relations with the public, to provide a guide to postal services, and to gather and interpret customer use and opinion to help shape the work of the GPO.

One of the key tools used by the PR Department to reach and engage with the general public was through photography. In order to supply the Post Office Magazine with interesting, professionally-produced photographs, members of the GPO Photographic Unit began to accompany the magazine’s journalists, creating visually appealing, informative and often humorous articles recording daily life in Britain.

From pastoral climes to the industrial heartland of the county, The Post Office in Pictures shows the Post Office doing what it does best – serving the nation in times of need and in times of leisure.

Please join us for what promises to be a fantastic evening of music and photography.

Doors open at 6.30pm on Saturday 18th August. The Choir begins at 7pm, with an interval scheduled. Free entry, donations welcomed. Visit our website for further information on the event.

The Post Office in Pictures exhibition runs at the Lumen Church until August 31st 2012.

Britten Films: An Exploration

The young Benjamin Britten wrote:

1936… finds me earning my living – with occasionally something to spare – at the GPO film unit… writing music and supervising sounds for film

In 1933 Britten became a member of the General Post Office film unit, which was originally set up to produce sponsored films relating to the GPO’s activities. As a result of Britten composing the music for the short films, there was a quick turnaround time and this helped Britten to refine and nurture his compositional tools.

The nine short films he worked on – covering subjects ranging from postage stamps to pacifism, the abolition of the slave trade to the electrification of the London-Portsmouth railway – are wonderfully made and fascinating historical documents. For example, Night Mail is a documentary about a London, Midland and Scottish railway mail train. The rhythm of the poem imitates the stages of the train journey, where the increasing rhythmic pace throughout the poem symbolises the acceleration of the mail train.

A still from Night Mail showing the mail train on its journey

A still from Night Mail showing the mail train on its journey

Britten’s music brilliantly reflects, amplifies and underpins the screen images with scores of rich variety and invention. It is a celebration of composer’s craft and filmmaker’s technique, an insight into 1930s Britain, and a snapshot of the art of propaganda before the term became besmirched forever by the extreme forces of political repression.

Aldeburgh Festival will be screening Britten’s nine GPO films in June with a live orchestra in the event Britten Films. Before the screening commences there will be an illustrated discussion, Britten Films: An Exploration, looking at the astonishing artistic collective which was the GPO film unit and how some of Britten’s very first professional commissions were to leave a powerful impression on his future creative life.

For more information on the events visit www.aldeburgh.co.uk or phone 01728 687100. The website’s ‘visiting us’ page helps you find out about where to eat, where to stay, and how to find us of course. Tickets can be purchased from the website and through the box office on 01728 687110.

Leanne Cox – Aldeburgh Festival

The Projection of Britain: A History of the GPO Film Unit is available from the BPMA Shop.

Classic Album Covers stamps

Today Royal Mail released the first new set of commemorative stamps for 2010: Classic Album Covers. Design was the theme of the first set of commemoratives for 2009, British Design Classics, and so the art of the album sleeve designer, rather than the music, is focus of Classic Album Covers.

10 stamps featuring classic British album covers.

The album covers featured are The Division Bell – Pink Floyd, A Rush of Blood to the Head - Coldplay, Parklife – Blur, Power Corruption and Lies – New Order, Let It Bleed – The Rolling Stones, London Calling – The Clash, Tubular Bells – Mike Oldfield, IV – Led Zeppelin, Screamadelica – Primal Scream and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars – David Bowie.

Like stamps themselves, album covers are pieces of art which everyone owns and enjoys. It is also appropriate that as more and more music is downloaded, and the album cover – indeed the entire concept of the album – becomes less important to music consumers, that the classic covers from a time when the album was king are celebrated.

Royal Mail selected the covers of 10 classic British albums by researching dozens of polls and listings of best album covers, and then consulted the editors of some of the UK’s leading music publications, together with designers and design writers. The final selection features albums from the Rolling Stones’ Let it Bleed (1969), to Coldplay’s 2002 album A Rush of Blood to the Head.

There has been much debate online about the selection of albums featured on these stamps. Why no Dark Side of the Moon or Beatles? Royal Mail’s Philip Parker gave the answer to the first question on the Creative Review blog. Dark Side of the Moon was too dark and “the operational equipment that sorts mail would not have been able to ‘read’ the phosphor that is overprinted, and hence would have rejected the mail”, he said.

Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury on a stamp, 1999

Freddie Mercury on a stamp.

As for The Beatles, their albums were celebrated on a set of stamps in 2007 (the Norvic Philatelic blog has the details). Interestingly, The Beatles stamps were only the second British stamps to celebrate popular music. The first was a stamp featuring childhood philatelist and Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury, part of The Entertainer’s Tale, released in 1999.

Classic Album Covers is now available from Royal Mail’s website.