Sunday, December 24, 2006

Preparing for a new season

Well, Christmas is upon us and it’s over a week since my last choir performance. As usual, I am exhausted after a busy term and looking forward to two completely free weekends. I seem to be able to keep the energy up during term-time, but then my body realises it’s holiday time and just falls into a heap! Time to take a well-earned rest for two whole weeks, but already my mind is turning to the week after New Year when I will have to begin planning songs (and new ideas!) for next term. It’s a task I look forward to: finding songs from countries which we perhaps haven’t done before; making new arrangements of songs that I’ve recently discovered; trying to put a new slant on some of the old repertoire; developing my arranging skills by taking some simple songs and making them work for a choir; thinking up new ways to keep the choir invigorated and to help people develop confidence in their voices; coming up with new challenges for the choir so that we have something to aim for.

Unlike many choirs who might start preparing their Christmas concert in the summer, we try to leave things until at least November. This means that we only add two new Christmas songs to our repertoire each year. We now have about a dozen Christmas songs in our repertoire, so if you come and see us in 2020 we should be able to manage a complete concert of seasonal fare!

This is one time of year when most people sing. Even those who don’t think of themselves as “singers” find themselves singing along to well-known carols. Of course, way back when there was far more community singing going on. Nowadays though somebody might try to start a song and even if other people recognise it and sort of know the tune, it’s almost guaranteed that nobody remembers anything beyond the first verse. Which is one reason I started these choirs in the first place. I love to sing with other people, especially in harmony, so I figured that if I taught a load of people the same songs, at least we’d have some repertoire in common. This is indeed true, but it did take a long time before somebody could start off a song and all the other parts joined in without having to find their words, or stand next to someone in the same part, or check the starting notes. In fact I remember the very first time it happened in Coventry. A bunch of us had gone to the pub as usual after our Wednesday session when somebody began the call to a Georgian song that we knew. Whether by luck or judgement we’ll never know, but it was roughly in the right key and all the other choir members there were able to join in. A magic moment and one which I will always treasure.

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Chris Rowbury


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