Sunday, October 12, 2008

I love to sing, but I'm not leaving the house!

I know quite a few people who love to sing with others, but somehow don’t ever get around to joining a choir or coming to a singing workshop. They know they will enjoy it, singing is very important to them, there’s nothing really stopping them, and yet still they don’t come.

Last week I talked generally about why we avoid things that make us feel good. This week I’m looking at specific reasons why people who love to sing might not join a choir or go to a singing workshop, even though it’s something that they know they will enjoy. These are some of the reasons I came up with. Do please add to the list!

“I can’t sing”
Aha, this old chestnut! A common complaint heard from many people who are very happy to sing around the house for their own pleasure, but would hate to ‘inflict’ their horrible voice on other people. Of course everyone can sing (see Why people think they can't sing). Not necessarily in the same way or to the same standard, but they can sing nevertheless. All the choirs and singing workshops I have ever led are based on this fact and we somehow manage to make a really good sound together. We perform to paying audiences who really enjoy our concerts and have sold many CDs.

“I’m too embarrassed and frightened to sing in front of others”This is completely understandable if someone has not sung in the company of others for a long time. I try always to point out that everyone else probably feels the same and that nobody will be put on the spot and asked to sing solo. The beauty of large groups singing together is that people can ‘hide’ in the big sound and only come more forward when they are ready.

“I think that ‘choirs’ are formal, stuffy and boring”The word ‘choir’ does conjure up images of interminable school assemblies or long church services or rows of posh people dressed up and standing stiffly singing music that we can’t really relate to. However, anyone who watched the recent Last Choir Standing series will know that there are many, many different kinds of ‘choir’, and certainly one that will suit each individual taste. We need to reclaim the word ‘choir’!

“I’ll need to be ‘musical’ and able to read notation and understand music”Some choirs indeed require certain musical knowledge, but there are countless choirs and open singing workshops that don’t assume any kind of musical knowledge or previous singing experience. Lots of these teach songs by ear and never even hand out lyric sheets.

“It will be full of old people!”Yes it’s true: many established choirs tend to consist mainly of people over 40. This can put off younger singers. However, from my experience, I’ve worked with groups whose ages range from 18 to 80 and it’s simply not an issue as everyone is connected by their common love of singing. I’ll be covering the topic of attracting younger members in next week’s post. 

“I won’t know the songs”When joining an established choir they will almost certainly already have a repertoire of songs. The choir I lead, Woven Chords, now has over 180 songs in its repertoire! However, in a one-day workshop, everyone will be in the same boat as all the songs will be fresh and new. Even if someone does know a song already, they certainly won’t know the particular harmony arrangement. In most choirs, new members are gently led into the old repertoire, and every new season starts with songs that are brand new to everyone, so there’s no chance of you getting left behind!

“I’m too busy and certainly don’t have the time to make a regular commitment”This mainly comes from blokes I have to say! I guess many men put their jobs before their own pleasure and leisure. It’s strange how we have many women in choirs who have high-powered jobs and families, yet they manage to find the time to come and sing. Really, is it that much of a time commitment, especially for those who say they love to sing? Two hours a week, or maybe five hours on a Saturday. Surely you can find fit in having a good time in your busy schedule??!!

“Singing together is old-fashioned and usually religious or classical”It may seem to be old-fashioned, but that doesn’t detract from the fun and enjoyment that can be had. Dancing is old-fashioned too and has been around for millennia! Most people know singing together from church or by seeing classical concerts, yet there are many, many choirs and singing groups throughout the country who don’t sing religious or classical music. The choir sessions are fun and vibrant, nothing old-fashioned or dated about them!

“I don’t know how to find a suitable choir or singing workshop”Google is a wonderful thing. Most choirs and people who run singing workshops have websites these days. Just type in ‘choir’ or ‘singing workshop’ and your location and something’s bound to come up. If you definitely want an opportunity to sing based on the main principles that everyone can sing and that you don’t have to have any musical knowledge, then you want a group or workshop run by a Natural Voice practitioner. Go to the NVPN website and search under groups or workshops and specify your location.

“I’m terrible at remembering words and tunes”Me too (see Papa's got a brand new song)! Many people don’t like being in that strange state where they don’t quite know what they are doing and are a bit lost. It’s not a nice feeling. But you have to be patient and allow plenty of time to get a tune and the words under your belt. It’s about trusting the process and making mistakes as you become more familiar with a song. Many people think they can’t ‘sing’ because they imagine that ‘proper’ singers only need to hear a song once before they know it perfectly. They don’t realise that even professional singers can take several months to really learn a song and make it their own. Like most things, learning songs gets easier with practice.

“I’m too scared to perform in public, I just want to have fun”Many community choirs in this country never perform in public, there are also plenty of singing for pleasure groups who just meet to sing together with no thought of anyone outside the group hearing them. Even if you join a choir that performs, it is usually not compulsory to perform. However, as you get more confident as a singer I’m sure you’ll want to share the wonderful sound with an audience!

I’m sure there are many, many other reasons why people don’t join choirs or come to singing workshops. I’d love to hear from people who can add to this list. If we can help to counter these obstacles, we can get more people singing!

Chris Rowbury


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