On Saturday, about a million of us descended on London, all committed Remainers, demanding a Final Say on the Brexit Deal, which even as we marched was being debated in Parliament with as much dissent as usual.
But the Yorkshire Remain Voice Choir had come to sing. We had permission to commandeer Wellington Place, right next to Trafalgar Square, and sing below the Duke of York Monument. And that’s what we did.
We’d come into being about two years ago in two ways. Over in York for Europe, Martin and Gill were crafting clever lyrics with a view to starting a Remainers’ choir. And in North Yorkshire we began to sing at our street stalls. Arnold conducted a few singers, a tuba, and a guitar. Small beginnings …. but now it’s county-wide, with members from Settle to Sheffield – almost 80 miles apart. Dozens play their parts. Composing lyrics; practising; arranging; securing singing spots; keeping song books up to date; booking coaches.
We have SODEM’s support in London, and an official photographer in Bedford-based Chiara Mc Call. We’ve sung all over Yorkshire, in London, even (thanks to Louise in South Yorkshire) in Brussels. Whenever the going’s got tough, we’ve had North Yorkshire’s Richard S’s boundless enthusiasm and hard work to keep us going. These days, apart from the original small team, we have a Yorkshire band’s worth of brass, and drums and various stringed instruments.
In London on Saturday, we had a large and pretty much captive audience. Slow-motion marchers inevitably listened – enthusiastically – as they passed. Many stopped off specially to listen, applaud and join in too. Demonic Cummings and Boris Johnson, those two splendid images fresh over from Germany, unsurprisingly pushed off towards Trafalgar Square as we began.
There are thirty eight songs in our repertoire – all, with one exception, pastiches of well-known numbers. Our signature number is of course:
‘We’ve come from Yorkshire just to say (just to say)
Your Brexit deal is naff…‘(to the tune of ‘On Ilkley Moor’, naturally).
But we can do other folk songs:
‘What shall we do with….‘, not a ‘Drunken Sailor’, but ‘this Rotten Brexit?’
…..drinking songs: ‘I’ve been a Remainer for many’s the year’ rather than the more traditional ‘Wild Rover’.
We can do Old Time Musical: ‘I’m forever European’ (‘I’m forever Blowing Bubbles’).
Radio Two standards such as ‘Delilah’ ask:
‘Why why why deceive us?
More lies won’t appease us’.
We can reference American traditions:
‘We’ve had quite enough of Brexit it’s a con’. (‘She’ll be coming round the Mountain’)
While ‘The Battle Hymn to the Republic’ becomes ‘Our eyes have seen the threat to all the freedoms we hold dear’.
Hymns too …. ‘Bread of Heaven’, and the Last Night of the Proms (‘Land of Hopeless Tories ‘).
There’s one song in our repertoire that’s not original: ‘Ode to Joy’. It moves many of us to tears every time we sing it.
Brexit or no Brexit (no Brexit please!) we’d like to continue. A pro-Europe Choir and Band for Europe?
Photos and videos labelled ‘CM’ are by our wonderful friend and supporter Chiara McCall. Follow her on Instagram @chichi76.myreflection