Louise Taylor asks if the time has come to release your inner songbird
This month countless choirs will be singing their hearts out up and down the country. Perhaps you love to sing, but can’t read music? Or were shushed as a child, told you couldn’t hold a note? Does this mean singing is off limits? No.
“People frequently tell me that at school they were told to stop singing because they couldn’t sing in tune”, says Charlotte Woodford, director of local choir Singing in the City. “This is most unhelpful. In my experience most who claim they cannot sing in tune, are singing in tune, or can do so – more easily – when relaxed and focussed. Likewise, people who’ve always sung in tune can be helped to further their capacity to listen, connect with others, express more freely and fine-tune their musical abilities.”
Singing in the City is open to anyone, regardless of whether they’ve been singing confidently for years, or keeping quiet for decades! No sheet music is used and there are no auditions.
“I was attracted by the no audition policy” says Barbican resident, Romney, who joined Singing in the City (his first choir) three years ago. An added draw for Romney was the local venue – “on my route home!” City worker, Rosie, whose office is based in the Guildhall, also finds the venue convenient.
Rehearsals are held at St. Botolph-without-Aldersgate Aldersgate Street EC1A 4EU, on Wednesday evenings from 6pm – 8pm.
But is mere convenience what keeps them coming to choir every Wednesday night? No. “The people are wonderful” says Rosie “it’s a really inclusive and friendly group who enjoy singing together.” “A very sociable bunch”, adds Romney. While fellow choir member and City tour guide, Fiona, says, “The choir is very welcoming – One of our director Charlotte’s skills is to be utterly accepting of everyone.”
Each term the choir works towards a public performance, learning a varied repertoire of world folk and popular music sung in 3- or 4-part harmonies. Choir favourites last term included Wash Me Clean, the Kenyan pop song Jambo Bwana and beautiful Welsh hymn Calon Lan. Next term’s repertoire may include a Japanese sea shanty, a British folk song, traditional songs from Zimbabwe and Serbia, an American spiritual and the 1988 pop hit ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’.
“You don’t have to be amazingly musical”, says Rosie, “the songs are fabulously varied and all taught by ear – the choir director sings each part and we sing it back.” Fiona says, “Singing in parts requires quite a bit of focus and attention, it’s relaxing – you can’t be thinking about other stuff. Gradually through the term it gets easier and the sound we produce improves. It’s inspiring to be part of a group who work together to produce something better than any of us could make individually.”
“It’s a great experience”, says Romney, “we’ve performed in different venues across London (including two choral festivals and our director’s wedding). Our weekly rehearsals are two hours in which you don’t worry about anything other than singing in harmony.” Fiona concurs, “Choir provides a little oasis of calm and relaxation during my week.”
Could this be the moment to embrace your inner alto? Is it time to let that timid tenor take the plunge? Why not let your beautiful deep voice boost the choir’s basses, or your soprano notes soar? You can dip your vocal toe in the water when the new term starts on Wednesday 14th January. Every newcomer gets their first session free. Just come along to St Botolph-without-Aldersgate at 6pm, or a bit before.
You can hear the choir sing on Wednesday 10th December at The Gresham Centre St Anne & St Agnes church Gresham Street EC2V 7BX. The concert starts at 7.30pm. Doors open 7.10pm and admission is free. Donations are optional, in support of the Gresham Centre’s musical education work with children.
For more information go to www.singinginthecity.co.uk call 07828 413 484 or email firstname.lastname@example.org