Midsummer Music - we always try our best!

Midsummer Music beat the floods of 2007Floods in Upton-upon-Severn March 2007

Saturday 21st July was torrential. Margaret & I had left Malvern in Worcestershire at 7.30am, heading for an event in Cambridgeshire. As we passed through Upton on Severn the river was rising, but the road was passable. As we got onto the M5 everything slowed to walking pace as sheets of rain flooded the roadway. Margaret turned on the radio. It was the local station and the announcer was listing the roads that had become impassable in Worcestershire, Herefordshire & Gloucestershire as rivers burst their banks.

Then came a report of a wedding that was in jeopardy. The groom was at the venue, but separated from his bride in Gloucester, by the flood waters. Our ears pricked up, where was the wedding? Eastnor Castle. Oh no, one of our string quartets, The Midsummer String Quartets from Worcestershire was due to play at Eastnor at 2.00! Margaret got on the mobile to the musicians as I drove. Neil, the viola player, was listening to the radio, but was sure he could get from Worcester to Eastnor Castle. Other of our quartet musicians' were in Herefordshire & Gloucestershire. Each one expressed confidence, and we agreed to talk later that morning.

But what about the Ringerike Ceilidh Band in Worcestershire. In fact we had split that band in two, and Ringerike no 1 was playing at the Moreton Hall, and Ringerike no 2 was playing at The Pump Rooms, Leamington Spa that evening. All the ceilidh band musicians lived in Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire on the other side of the rivers Severn and Avon from both venues in Warwickshire. Both rivers had burst their banks and I was the only one of the musicians on the right side of the river. By this time Margaret had two mobile phones on the go, phoning and receiving calls from all the members of both bands. Internet connections were springing into life, checking road conditions, phone calls were being made to AA and RAC.

As we reached Cambridge we got a call from Esther, who was leading the Midsummer Flute & String Quartet (Worcestershire based) at Eastnor Castle. Both the viola and violin players had tried to get out of Worcester to the Castle, but the roads were impassable. They were trapped! We agreed she would contact the venue and we get to work on finding a solution. More phone calls to other of our musicians.

Then the good news. 1.30, phone call from Esther. The Quartet was at the Castle, including two of our players who hadn't expected to be playing that day, but could get to the castle through the floods from where they lived, plus Bride, who I gather arrived in lorry!

Late afternoon, and heading back to Leamington for the Ringerike Ceilidh Band weddings. Margaret on the two mobiles again. The teams were heading Eastwards, trying to find a way through the floods. It was like a military operation. Margaret was taking reports from some band members who found roads blocked and others who had found a way through by a different route. Phone in each ear and map balanced on lap, she directed the teams to find a way through the floods.

Phone calls to the two venues about the possibility of shifting the times of the ceilidhs, so if only one band's worth of people could get through, they would perform at one wedding then move to another. Phone call back from one venue saying the water had flooded the cellars, and they may have to move to another venue the other side of town. I was just glad that I had the easy job of driving!

The points Margaret was plotting on the map, representing the location of the band members gradually moved, by devious routes, to converge on the venues as we converged from the other direction. It was like the RAF Ops room in a second world war film. Two calls came in, one from one of the Ringerike Ceilidh Band Herefordshire based flautists, who had got back home through the floods that morning on the back of a tractor, but before she could leave with her flute a lorry had floated down the road past her and she was stranded [It was 3 days before a tractor came to get her out!] A guitarist in Herefordshire had tried every route out of their village and all were closed. [They were stranded for 2 days]

But the Ringerike Ceilidh Band was not going to be beaten. The dots on the map converged, two slightly smaller bands arrived at the venues, the brides and grooms got their ceilidhs and all had a wonderful time. Thankfully, at the ceilidh I was doing, the power stayed on despite the water lapping up to and under the building, otherwise we would have had an even more exhausting evening playing totally acoustically.

Every one of these three weddings happened successfully, despite what nature threw at us. We were just thankful that all the other events we were running that day in other parts of the UK didn't have the same weather.

Then there was getting home again. But that is another very, very long story. A thought. We must have an annual Midsummer Music flood survival party for the members of the Midsummer Quartet and the Ringerike Ceilidh Band. What a good idea.