In January 2012 Monkton’s Choir who can’t sing came into being, and the last two years has certainly been an extraordinary and transformational learning experience for all concerned, me included. Although the members of the choir have changed – few now remain from the original group – the basic vision remains the same; a safe place for boys to learn to sing, and indeed to enjoy singing. Last term we sang Robbie Williams’ Angels in whole school singing practice, and at the end of term we sang a medley of Christmas songs as part of the Big Band Christmas lunch in the Dining Hall, to great critical acclaim (okay, I made that last bit up, but we enjoyed it!)
There is no doubt in my mind that the project has made a huge and positive difference to the way in which the whole school views singing, but that doesn’t change the fact that in Chapel services our singing is still variable – sometimes teenagers just don’t feel like singing! What is apparent, however, is that the girls have felt left out. So much so that there has been increasing demand for a girls’ choir!
So this term sees the launch of the Girls’ Choir. I’m still not sure what to call it, but I’m pretty sure that it will be different… The choir is open to everyone, regardless of whether they can sing or not, so in that respect they will be the same; but I’m not expecting so many girls who have genuine pitching difficulties, although I am prepared to be surprised on that count. However, I do hope that the choir attracts some girls who are reluctant to sing, due to confidence issues, as this is something which I have discovered to be perhaps even more crippling that a simple lack of elementary pitching skills. Either way, I’m excited to see how things develop as the term progresses; after all, this is new to me too. Before Monkton, my experience with choirs was very much restricted to a largely sacred choral repertoire with choirs who are prepared to read the dots off the page, whereas now I find myself exploring a much more spontaneous style with just the words (and sometimes not even those) and a lot of collaboration from the choir members themselves. “How does it go next?”
Looking back at where we’ve come from (as traditionally one does at New Year), things are unquestionably on the move with regards to singing at Monkton. The Chapel Choir did a marvellous job at the carol service in Bath Abbey in December and are beginning to sound much more refined.
We have a Chamber Choir of some 12-14 voices who sang for the Advent Carol Service at St Michael’s in the village earlier in December, and who are able to tackle more complex repertoire. The quality of whole school singing is on a upward curve, particularly notable in the House Music competition. In addition to this, the Monkton Combe Choral Society, relaunched four years ago, is thriving and now has some 130+ members who come to Monkton every Tuesday to do battle with a major choral work!
My ultimate vision? The whole school, staff and pupils alike, singing full voice in Chapel with great commitment, enthusiasm and joy. Will we ever get there? I doubt it…. but meanwhile the journey is an exciting one!