‘British History & Personal Nostalgia’ – Ophrys

Inside Stories, Episode 10 [HMP Rye Hill, September 2019]

Ophrys gives a bright and vivid account of Harmony on the Hill’s performance at a special concert for British History Month at Rye Hill. Despite some brief setbacks, the group rallies together and creates some moving moments for the watching audience with a range of well-known, stirring numbers.

British History & Personal Nostalgia

Before we even met our leaders, there’d been debate as to whether Harmony on the Hill – now a raggle-taggle band of 12 stalwarts – were to meet in the chapel as usual or at visits. Our most attentive member assured us it was visits, and so to visits we went. There were now 15 of us in the room waiting for Pete and Gina. Rose and Jodie had swelled our ranks. The tricky number we were to perform first was ‘Liverpool Street Station’. If we did it properly and we had practised it heaps the four parts would provide the words of the title one after the other as we stopped – if you get me. 

It was all about a “girl he did love” who’d “given him the shove” cause he was too “low for her station”, but involved taking Mogadon for the poor chap to get to sleep. It’s a tragic story and no good end to it, and I have to say neither was there to the performance as Robin usually brightly on the ball overran our part and we were chided by the audience! Robin & Michael & I, the culprits, blushed just a little. 

This awkwardness didn’t last long, as ‘Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow’ by Fleetwood Mac and today, us, went off like a rocket and we finished with a mighty “Don’t Stop!” reminiscent of the Charge of the Light Brigade. Wow! Gabriel’s ‘Rise’, a moving number in Gabriel’s hands & an interesting one in ours, had our three soloists – Sean, Michael & Robin – putting all they had into their solos & boy they had a lot! When it came to the chorus –

“Look at my life / Look at my heart

I have seen them fall apart

Now I’m ready to rise again

Just look at my hopes / Look at my dreams

I’m building bridges from those scenes …”

– the soloists were moved, the choir was moved and, looking out, the audience was moved. We swayed in British History and personal nostalgia. So far so good. 

The last number, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, has been variously attributed to Gerry & the Pacemakers and Bill Shankly, the 60s manager of Liverpool Football Club. It was actually written by Rodgers & Hart for the show ‘Carousel’ in 1955. An emotive number & one difficult to divorce from football despite Pete’s appeal to the audience to do so. There were looks of genial good humour, I have to say, & some sang along but one or two gripped their knuckles in repressed tribal fury & glowered at us. As true pros we ignored this & sang like, like – well, I’m not sure what we sang like but no one threw anything at us & everyone applauded at the end so it must have gone down ok – mustn’t it?