how to teach 420 teenagers to sing!

I’m never quite sure whether I enjoy Thursday mornings! Once again this morning at 8.25am I found myself standing in front of 400+ teenage boys and girls, charged with entertaining them for 20 minutes before the real business of the day starts. Let’s sing! Yeah, right!

At Monkton the pupils are never hostile to singing, in the way that I remember from my own school days at Wellington, and indeed in taking the occasional hymn practice at Rugby – scary! Docile might be more accurate, or just plain passive. It can take a little while to get them going. This morning I managed it, which got me going for the rest of the day!

I have nailed my colours to the mast in the past two and a half years. The pupils here know that I am prepared to go to any lengths to show my enthusiasm for singing; singing falsetto is a cheap trick, holding on long notes for a jolly long time also does the job, and excessive jumping and wild gestures are par for the course! The frustration comes when, having done all this, all but the converted still just sit there and enjoy the entertainment, failing to realise that I want them to join in!

Singing is a physical thing, and I believe that gesture can really help to persuade the body to get going in the vocal department too. So this morning, entirely unplanned, I suddenly decided that to bounce up and down on our toes might get us going a bit. Great sight, 420 students all bouncing up and down on their toes. And then we sang Thine be the Glory, still bouncing!! The result was amazing; for the first time in quite some while, the Chapel really rang with resonant voices all around [hey, good alliteration!] And even standing still again, it was as if the whole school had woken up a bit and decided to commit a little more to the task ahead of them.

I have a vision of a Chapel where 400+ young voices fill the space with the loud, passionate and uninhibited sound of singing. Standing between me and that vision is teenage inhibition, and not much else I suspect. I don’t think I’m going to  get there, but as I often tell myself – vision first, then work out how you’re going to get there! The Choir who can’t sing has been a hugely enlightening experiment so far – they believe that they can do it, indeed they realise now they can do it, because they know that I believe they can do it. I’m guessing that’s quite simple psychology, but it seems to be working. The big question at the moment is, can this work with a group of 400 rather than twenty something? This morning was, in a small way, a step in the right direction. more

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One response to “how to teach 420 teenagers to sing!

  1. Pingback: Chamber Choir: developing the vision | music@monkton

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