Following my tone deaf pilot scheme, The Choir who can’t sing came into being in January 2012.
Every fortnight, first thing on a Thursday morning, I have the genuine privilege of leading Hymn Practice with the whole school (c.420 willing pupils?!) To their credit, the school as a whole is very receptive to my encouragement, at least in spirit – but in reality, it’s hard work. I am prepared to leap around and make a complete idiot of myself [much to the embarrassment of two of my sons] and I like to kid myself that the pupils enjoy this! However, there is no escaping the fact that teenagers don’t like to embarrass themselves, and on the whole, energy levels can be very low. In particular, teenage boys are inclined to ‘sing’ where they speak ie. pretty sub-sonic level on a monotone, some two octaves away from where I’m aiming at!
So one Thursday morning in late November, I issued a challenge: “I am starting a choir for boys who can’t sing. I think I can give you a gift which will go with you through the rest of your lives – if you’re interested, come and see me to arrange a 10 minute one-to-one assessment to see whether you really can sing or not.” The response was amazing; everyone was talking about it, and I was collared by some most unlikely characters who asked me whether they really thought I might be able to teach them to sing.
At our first rehearsal in January, we had some 25 boys and male staff, ready for a challenge! The first attempts to sing a few unison notes were hilarious, and it struck me how odd it must be for a bunch of lads, most of them serious sportsmen, to be standing in formation singing 5 note scales (or trying to!) I had such admiration for them at that moment, all stepping out of their comfort zones to come with me on this experiment!
Our first song: Lean on me by Bill Withers. In four 30 minute rehearsals, we had a fine performance ready to go! Transposed to suit our range, we had everything – first line humming, verse and chorus, call (soloist) and response (in three-part harmony!), a bit of clapping (on 2 and 4) to get the chorus going, and then a cheesy key-change to really turn up the heat for the final chorus! So on 10 February, just before Valentine’s Day, we performed our song to all the girls in the school! Their screaming and cheering was confirmation that they enjoyed it, and as we filed out, each throwing a red rose into the audience, the future of the Choir who can’t sing was sealed.
We meet each week now, just for 30 minutes, and our next performance will be at the Benefactors’ Dinner (black tie event) on the eve of the opening our Monkton’s new Music Centre. Repertoire: Shine by Take That, and I love it when you call by The Feeling.
The flip-side? At every spare moment of every day I have boys knocking on my door announcing that they are here for their singing lesson! [I’m not even a singing teacher!] They are hooked, and each one of them is keen to pick up a few more tips between rehearsals. This is a wonderful way of improving the whole choir, and it is working, but it is labour intensive. But it is also some of the most enjoyable time in my week! more