You may think – well of course she did! She sings in choirs all the time! But this isn’t the case. I run choirs and that’s very different to singing in one!
Tim Allen runs BeVox – a series of three choirs in the Midlands. His Nottingham choir is right on my doorstep and he invited me to go along and see how it works. Tim visited my choir a few months ago with the same idea. We are part of a Creative Choir Leader group online run by Beth Morgan who encourages collaboration and sharing of good practice along with a whole host of other lovely things! I wouldn’t have met Tim otherwise.
The first main difference is that Tim uses sheet music. He arranges the songs himself, as I do, but has the capacity and skill to create sheet music for his singers (sometimes, he creates sheet music for my arrangements too!) I can read music, of course I can! I have clarinet and piano qualifications but I don’t really read for singing. As I’ve mentioned, I’m not a trained singer but I can follow when the notes are going up and down and how far these gaps are so I can just about manage. Luckily for me, Tim’s wife Toni was sat behind me and although quite a long way away, it was sufficient for me to hear what I should’ve been singing! (Thanks Toni!)
I really appreciated the way Tim taught the parts to his singers – it’s also fairly impressive that he can sing them all himself – including the soprano (high) parts. Oh, and play the piano at the same time. He recorded the whole session and played bits back to the singers which again was a great idea – they could hear straight away how they sounded and could make any adjustments accordingly. Brilliant.
When I’m leading my choir(s) I’m listening so carefully to what they’re doing that I’m not focussed at all on what I’m singing so I miss the ‘singer experience’. Joining Tim’s choir for the night as a singer allowed me to immerse myself in the singing and it was truly lovely. Of course, I was watching out for singing tips and picked up some ideas which I will take back to my own practice – that’s what these sharing sessions are for! I loved Tim’s positivity and rapport with his singers. I loved the speed at which they processed the new songs and how much concentration they gave to the session. They were very welcoming to me too.
When choirs are set up it’s about so much more than singing. Every choir I’ve ever had has become a community – friendships have sprung up and banter is had. I love choirs for this.
So, that was my Easter holiday homework and I really enjoyed it. Now time to put those good things into practice myself as my community choir returns tonight as one big group – probably over 100 singers. The sound will be immense and I can’t wait!