I got satisfaction rocking with Mick and Keith

Singing with the Rolling Stones was unforgettable, says Jane Macarthur

I’m shaking and sweating as I descend the stairs into backstage blackness. Somewhere a few metres behind me, Mick Jagger shouts, “Thanks to Voce Chamber Choir and the  London Youth Choir!” and a few metres beyond that, some people yell their approval. Twenty thousand people. In 50 years, the Rolling Stones have never performed “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” with a live choir: we’ve just made rock ‘n’ roll history.

By we, I mean Voce, a London chamber choir with around 25 members that was founded by Suzi Digby OBE in 2003. Our last concert was at St Peter’s Eaton Square, to an audience of a few hundred classical-music lovers who clapped politely when we finished Duruflé’s Requiem. Gareth Malone, presenter of The Choir, carolled with us not long ago, and we’ve sung for Rod Stewart and Russian royalty. But the Rolling Stones? This is new.

At the start of November, we performed for Matt Clifford, the Stones’ musical director. We had to prove we were good enough for the job, that our consonants were crisp and that our sopranos could manage to hold five bars of top C . “It’s going to be loud,” he told us repeatedly. “You’re used to the acoustics of a nice church. When the O2 is full of screaming people, and Charlie’s on his drums, and you’ve got the keyboards, and the backing vocalists, and Keith, Ronnie and Mick all blasting out… There ain’t no acoustics. You’ll have your headset and it’ll help but really, nothing can prepare you. Nothing.”

Our next rehearsal was at Wembley. In the semi-darkness, the band ambled on stage. Cool as you like, in tracksuit bottoms and a collared shirt, Mick took control. Keith, Charlie and Ronnie chatted quietly, fags dangling from their lips. We began our unaccompanied intro: “I saw her today at the reception…” A minute later, the band kicked in and my tears welled up. Even in rehearsal, Mick gave everything to his performance, mirroring the suggestions of the choreographer who stood in the pit in front. Towards the back of the stage he had two items on a metal stand: a bottle of hand sanitiser and a box of tissues, covered with images of provocatively dressed women. Was the box decorated by a dedicated intern or does Kleenex make a saucy tissue holder just for Sir Mick? I wasn’t close enough to tell. It was later that afternoon we were told the Stones had never performed the song with a live choir before. Keith’s verdict? “Damn cool.”

I feel far from cool as I arrive at The O2 a week later and discover that Mick has sent us all T-shirts – tour logo on the front and a unique message on the back: “You can’t always get to sing with The Stones – but I did.” We get into our black evening wear and wait to be called.

The band finish their main set on schedule and, after a few minutes huddling in the wings, we ascend the stairs and take our places for the  encore. In the pit beneath us I see a few of the Stones’ children, smiling and waiting expectantly. The stage lights go up, and then it comes, the roar, as the fans instantly recognise the famous melody. We’re probably meant to be looking demure and  choral but when Ronnie blows me a kiss, I enthusiastically return it.

Meanwhile, Mick handles the crowd with practised energy, looking wonderfully nonplussed when a black bra lands at his feet. And then we’re singing again, joining with the band for the song’s glorious, climbing  finale. In total, we’re onstage for around six minutes. It seems like six seconds, and I imagine I’ll be talking about it for the next six decades.

Voce’s ‘Carols by Candlelight’  is on 16 December (vocechamberchoir.org.uk)

Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

    Please save my husband

    As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada
    Birthplace of Arab Spring in turmoil as angry Tunisians stage massive sit-in over lack of development

    They shall not be moved: jobless protesters bring Tunisia to a halt

    A former North African boom town is wasting away while its unemployed citizens stick steadfastly to their sit-in
    David Hasselhoff's new show 'Hoff the Record': What's it like working with a superstar?

    Hanging with the Hoff

    Working with David Hasselhoff on his new TV series was an education for Ella Smith
    Can Dubai's Design District 'hipster village' attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?

    Hipsters of Arabia

    Can Dubai’s ‘creative village’ attract the right type of goatee-wearing individualist?
    The cult of Roger Federer: What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?

    The cult of Roger Federer

    What is it that inspires such obsessive devotion?
    Kuala Lumpur's street food: Not a 'scene', more a way of life

    Malaysian munchies

    With new flights, the amazing street food of Kuala Lumpur just got more accessible
    10 best festival beauty

    Mud guards: 10 best festival beauty

    Whether you're off to the Isle of Wight, Glastonbury or a local music event, we've found the products to help you
    Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe

    A Different League

    Unai Emery’s passion for winning and eye for a bargain keep Seville centre stage in Europe, says Pete Jenson
    Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey - Steve Bunce

    Steve Bunce on Boxing

    Amir Khan and James DeGale’s remarkable Olympic performances were just the start of an extraordinary journey
    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf