About 100 years ago, I was a primary school teacher, keen to get the best out of the children I taught singing to with accessible language and analogies. I had, originally set up the Liberty Singer business not as just the freedom to sing, but also creating sewing projects on my singer sewing machine with Liberty fabric. While I don’t sell my sewing any more, I still hold a dear place in my heart for fabric.

So, how does this relate to singing?

Last Monday, our fab community choir The West Bridgford Liberty Singers met for their usual rehearsal.

I’m being a little more picky about the balance of sound at the moment – talking about shifting people to different ‘colours’ (vocal parts for those of you who understand choir terminology better) and creating a blend of volume and tone. When I mix audio for virtual projects, I have the capacity to change the volume of the singers – we needed to work on how to do this live.

My Reds are my highest singers – the sopranos. They take the highest harmonies of my arrangements so NOT the tune as traditionally so in choirs. I want a soft, shimmering sound from them (which isn’t easy when you’re singing at the top end of your range) so I requested they sing like chiffon. Imagine this fabric, so soft and light, wafting along on the breeze, light and purely for decoration and delight. Give it a go?! The difference it makes to the overall sound of the choir is really noticeable and much brighter.

Our Yellows are altos and have the tune in my arrangements. The politely refer to themselves as ‘the smug yellows’ because of this (you should see their faces when they don’t get it on occasion!) Their fabric needs to be lovely quality, robust and yet special. I chose Liberty Tana Lawn Cotton for them.

As you can see, this fabric is gorgeous and not a flat yellow. I have many, many yellow singers and this gives depth and flavour to the sound, represented here in colours. (It’s also the case that nobody is one pure colour or voice part in a choir – it’s where you’re happiest and feel most comfortable singing).

Ahhhh the greens! Another set of lovely altos singing a slightly lower harmony. You could easily miss this part out but it adds another layer to a song when they sing their harmony parts. I had originally said they were a lovely green linen, but they objected and wanted to be velvet. I relented. I do listen to my singers sometimes! The lush deep velvet I imaged presented itself as this amazing jumpsuit…… and the voices that it linked to were classy, sophisticated and yet had depth. I love it. I might actually buy it. next time you’re singing, apply velvet to your voice – does it sounds different? Who does it sound like!?

And last but NEVER least – our Blues. Traditionally tenors so this is where the guys all sing (The Blues Brothers) as well as our Tena-Ladies. It’s the low part but the total foundation to my arrangements. I’d originally suggested corduroy but they wanted denim (handy as I have one song arranged with 2 blue parts, stonewash and dark) Imagine denim – heavy and dependable, solid and steady. This is what’s required from the low end of my choirs. Essential and yet stylish too.

Of course, there are some songs where we all need to be a bit more denim or a bit more chiffon and the intricacies of leading this in rehearsals gig and concerts isn’t always easy, but if I talk to my singers using words and analogies they can relate to, the sound I get back from them shows they’ve understood and we can move on to make fabulous sounds.

Can you relate to this? Or do you think I’ve totally lost the plot!?