Wednesday, April 3, 2013

C is for Community Choir

If you read my first post in this A-Z Challenge in which I wrote about adventure, you may recall that I alluded to new adventures / challenges for me in the world of music. Well, that’s what this latest post is about.

My interest in music developed while I was in my teens. While most of my peers were busy bopping to the output of Status Quo or the Bay City Rollers, I was happily listening to the great classics and to the big band sounds from the 40s. By the way, this statement is not a judgement on the musical tastes of my fellow teens. On the contrary, it is more a reflection of how conservative I was as I grew up. These days, however, I am more likely to be found listening to U2 or Dire Straits than to Beethoven or Bach. I often wonder what my erstwhile colleagues are listening to at this stage of their lives. But I digress.

My own personal musical journey began mainly as an armchair interest. My first practical steps (aside from a couple of failed attempts to learn piano) were taken at the age of 21 when I was invited to join our parish Folk Group. It was all jeans and Icelandic sweaters and it was great fun! It encouraged me to take up acoustic and bass guitar – the latter quite accidently when the group bassist handed me his instrument one day and said “here, play this – I want to get back to the 6-string”. I just about managed to keep my head above water!

Fast forward to the present day – the Icelandic sweaters a distant memory – and via many other musical experiences that I will write about in a later post, I find myself at the outset of a new musical adventure. Last month I took the first steps to set up a Community Choir in our town. The reasons for doing so are many and varied but consider this – in the UK, singing is the second most popular activity after sport. Yes, thanks in large part to the efforts of programmes like ‘Last Choir Standing’ and the Gareth Malone reality series, choirs have become cool!

Leaving aside the cool factor, singing is an activity that plays not just to the physical but also to the emotional side of us. As such, many people find it a tremendously beneficial holistic experience. But what exactly do we mean by a ‘community’ choir? In short, it is characterised by being open to all and having a sense of community about it. There are no auditions (everyone is able to sing to some degree), it is not affiliated to any particular culture, organisation, church or style of music, no prior musical knowledge is required and people are not excluded on the basis of age, race, gender, disability or sexual orientation.

Of equal importance to the music though, is the sense of community. It will be important that we develop this aspect of our new choir for the benefit of the members. But a community choir can and should also be an important focal point within the wider community. There is the potential to give back a lot to the local area in terms of public performances, fundraising for charity, representing the community locally and nationally in choir festivals, to name just a few of the opportunities.

All of this will take time to build up but as I said in my post yesterday, it is important to ‘be brave and begin’. That’s exactly what we have done – made a start. And what a start! We decided to recruit initially by word of mouth – no poster or media campaigns. In my mind, I would have been delighted with fifty singers showing up on the first night. We had over sixty. By the end of the second rehearsal, we had ninety names on the register. Phenomenal – and we don’t even have a name yet!

So, that’s my latest adventure – a community choir. Now, if you will excuse me, I must rush as I have a rehearsal to prepare!

* Today's photo is a shot I took, not of a choir director, but a conductor of a junior orchestra that played last year outside our local library. I call it 'Bum Note' as someone seems to have played something to displease her. I hope I look a bit happier than this when I stand in front of my choir!


  1. That's an excellent photo John. Really captures the moment. Hope all goes well with the new choir. Hope it sounds as good as twitter Christmas single!

  2. 'jeans and Icelandic sweater' haha,I love that image. Scarlet to say I was a Bay City Roller gal..shang a lang.. Glad I wasn't in that choir, she looks like she's ready to whack the poor child!! :p Great post John.x