Sunday, March 29, 2009

Getting the best out of your choir 1: moderate or martinet?

This is the first in a series of posts about Getting the best out of your choir. The whole series looks like this:

  1. moderate or martinet
  2. not too gentle, not too tough
  3. the moderate choir leader
  4. preparing for performance PART 1
  5. preparing for performance PART 2
  6. self-reflection

Martinet. Interesting word that I’d not come across in ages and had forgotten what it meant. In case you’re in the same boat, a martinet is a strict disciplinarian, someone who demands exact conformity to rules and forms. Whereas a moderate is person who is reasonable, temperate, judicious, just, cool, steady, and calm.

Which of these two types of person gets the best out of their choir?

I was listening to BBC Radio 4 in the car last week and caught the very end of Ken Clarke’s Jazz Greats. He and Pete Long were discussing clarinettist and bandleader Benny Goodman, and that’s where the word martinet popped up. Clarke said that Goodman insisted on:

“absolute perfection … you had a martinet making them work all the time and rehearse in between each gig”.
Pete Long told a story about Goodman in the 1970s making his band rehearse just their bows for three whole hours!

Obviously how you work with a choir depends on the aims of that particular group. A barbershop choir with a competition coming up will rehearse in a very different way from a choir that doesn’t perform and is just for fun. But I wonder, which kind of choir leader will get the best results out of a choir: a moderate or a martinet?

I’ve written before about my belief that a patient and forgiving approach to choir leading gets the best results (Calm down dear, it’s only a song!). But I do know that this doesn’t suit some choir members. They would prefer constant drilling, attention to detail, rigorous accuracy, focus on a small repertoire of songs, being told when they are ‘wrong’, etc. etc.

I’m sure it’s frustrating for some singers when I say “That’ll do” and we move onto the next song when clearly the first song needs more work. But I try to balance the need for quality, variety, fun and rehearsal by not dwelling to long on any particular song.

In some circumstances (e.g. competition, recording a CD, high profile performance) it is important to pay attention to all the details (tuning, dynamics, blend, etc.) and to rehearse the material well. However, there are very different ways of doing this!

There is the choir leader who becomes quickly frustrated when things don’t go right, who has unreasonable expectations of ‘perfect’ singing, who shouts when the choir aren’t improving quickly enough, who drills one section repeatedly whilst the others are standing around getting bored, who puts the fear of god into the singers in case they should make a tiny mistake. Yes, this is one way of going about things, but I really believe that it won’t create the best results. Also, choirs who are led like this tend to always be working on tenterhooks which is quickly detected by an audience who then also find it hard to relax and enjoy the concert.

Surely it would be better to create an environment of team-work, an atmosphere of calm and focused work where people are pulling together and where mistakes aren’t punished but just recognised as a necessary stage along a path towards a better performance. Surely such a calm, forgiving, reasonable, trusting atmosphere will bring out the best in people?

In the Radio 4 jazz programme I mentioned before, Pete Long also said that:

“Goodman was a martinet, but Jimmie Lunceford was a great teacher”.

Great teachers get good results because they bring out the best in people, they demand high standards but encourage people to believe that those high standards are achievable and within themselves already, they leave the music-makers with skills, self-awareness and understanding that they can apply to other situations rather than blindly drilling one particular piece of music. I would like to think that good choir leaders are also good teachers and that the whole choir moves forward as a team of music-makers who are constantly improving.

At the end of the jazz programme, Clarke says of Goodman:

“But when we listen to the music we can forgive some of the severity with which he treated the odd erring sideman.”
This is a case of the ends justifying the means, but personally I completely disagree. There is no need to be severe and abusive when trying to get the best out of people. It is inexcusable and should not be tolerated!

Next week in Getting the best out of your choir 2 I’m going to look at why there are different kinds of choir leaders and suggest that there is a middle way between mouse and martinet.


Chris Rowbury's website:

Sunday, March 22, 2009

How to have an English sing-along

And I mean English … not Irish or Welsh or Scottish. How is it possible to have an unplanned, spontaneous and genuine gathering of people who sing together?

I was listening to a broadcast from 24 May 2008 of a BBC Radio 3 programme called World Routes which included a session from the London Bulgarian Choir.

The presenter asked the choir’s leader Dessislava Stefanova:

“Why is there such a strong choral tradition in Bulgaria?”

Dessi replied:

“In terms of the authentic choral tradition, it is because this was one of the main ways in which people socialised – through song”

Also on the programme were Joe Boyd and Max Reinhardt who were recommending some of their favourite CD recordings from Eastern Europe. Their wide-ranging discussion included talking about the differences between village harmony singing and the more professional, often gypsy, musicians who might play at weddings and other celebrations.

It was quite clear that throughout Eastern Europe (and probably many other countries), there are still many, many communities where the everyone sings together on a regular basis. It is typical for individuals to have up to 40 or so songs in common, so very easy for groups of people to break into song.

But in England? When was the last time you had a spontaneous sing-along other than at a football match or at a pub karaoke session? Have you ever tried to start a group singing only to fizzle out half way through the first verse because nobody can remember the words? Or you launch into what you believe to be a well-known song only to be met by confused silence as nobody joins in with you?

Community singing used to be a big pastime in this country (see Singing from the same hymn sheet, Singing together and Should singing together be a guilty pleasure?). But every now and then it dies out and people try to revive it. The last time a really big initiative was launched in the UK was in the 1920s. That was perhaps one of the last times when the majority of people knew a whole bunch of songs in common. Even now, most people know some of these same songs: “Pack up your troubles”, “Bicycle made for two”, “It’s a long way to Tipperary”, “What shall we do with the drunken sailor”, “My bonnie lies over the ocean”. But they often can’t sing them right through without the lyric sheet!

The other week I tried to set up a singing evening with a bunch of friends. OK, it wasn’t entirely spontaneous, but the idea was that we would gather at someone’s house with the intention of having a jolly good sing-along. I asked people to bring instruments if they had them, and a song to share.

Worrying that it might be hard to get the evening going, I prepared a set of lyric sheets with around 20 songs, mainly from the 1960s (we are all of a certain age!). I certainly didn’t want to ‘lead’ the evening, but on the other hand knew that it might take a while to get going. In the end, a couple of people got guitars out and off we went.

I had hoped that:

  • the evening would go very smoothly
  • people would spontaneously start singing and everyone else would join in
  • we would have plenty of songs in common
  • there would be no long, awkward silences
  • there would be a variety of repertoire, some songs with instruments, some without

However, it didn’t quite turn out like that!

  • not everyone knew every song that I’d put on the lyric sheets
  • sometimes the guitarists introduced a song that was not on the sheet, but nobody knew all the lyrics
  • people were very nervous about initiating a song
  • people began to rely on the guitarists and it became a little bit like a ‘performance’
  • the focus was all on the lyric sheets and everyone appeared to forget all the other songs that they might know
  • most people were very self conscious and a little scared of starting a song off, even though most of the people were in choirs and had sung in public

If you’ve read this far, you might be expecting an answer to the post’s title: How to have an English sing-along. Unfortunately I don’t have the answer! I was hoping some of you out there might have some good ideas on how to make a sing-along evening work better.

Can you think of ways of making such an evening go smoothly without it being led too formally?

Why do people end up being so self-conscious, even amongst friends?

Should I just give up and accept that for us, singing together is no longer part of our culture?


Chris Rowbury's website:

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Why do you sing?

I came across an interesting article on Canada’s CBC Radio 2 blog the other day. It was entitled Why do you sing? and attracted several comments from people outlining their own personal reasons why they sing.

Although I’ve posted here not long ago about why people join choirs and singing groups (There are plenty of good reasons to sing), I’ve never really looked at why myself and others like singing in the first place, in whatever form.

I’m going to outline a few reasons why people sing, and tell you about my love of harmony singing, but I’d love to hear about your own reasons. Do leave a comment and tell me why you love to sing.

expressing what we feel

One of the comments on the CBC blog was “To sing is to express being alive”. There are songs for every occasion: sad songs, happy songs, angry songs, love songs. Singing is a way of giving voice to a strong emotion and sharing it with the world. It can be a means of communicating our feelings to others, but also a way of giving ourselves comfort and solace in difficult times.

feeling good

Many people realise that singing can make you feel good. But I’ve also found the opposite: feeling good can make you sing! Often when I’m engaged in something physical and pleasurable like walking or cycling I suddenly notice that I’m singing. It is a natural expression of the way I’m feeling.

Sometimes the last thing I want to do is to sing. But because it’s my job, I turn up at the singing workshop and before I know it, I’m singing (because I have to). After just a few bars however, I notice my mood lifting considerably. Singing should be part of the national health service!

private vs. public

Lots of us sing in the shower, while we’re hoovering, as we’re changing the beds. We sing alone in the house or the car. Nobody can hear or see us and we truly let rip (and think of ourselves as the best singer in the world!). But put us in front of other people and we soon clam up.

As soon as other people are present, we think that we are being judged in some way on our performance. This often affects how we sing and can sometimes be a big obstacle to allowing others to hear our song. On the other hand, there are people who sing because others are listening. They are born to perform and need an ‘audience’ to hear them.

singing together

Personally, I don’t like singing on my own. The reason I sing is to enjoy the harmonies, so I need other people (or a radio or CD playing). I sing because I love the relationship between different notes being sung at the same time. I love the way that harmony singing creates something which is greater than the individuals involved. It makes a separate thing which can’t be done alone, which needs all the participants, and yet no one participant is controlling the final result.

This can be a bit of a problem for me because if nobody is around, I can’t sing with any great pleasure! I need to have people to sing with, and they also need to know the same songs as me in order to join in.

work, rest and play

There are also wider cultural and societal reasons why people sing. There are many rituals in life which involve singing: weddings, funerals, religious services. Some cultures involve singing in their healing practices. Often when large groups of people come together for a shared activity (football matches, outdoor concerts, feasts), singing arises.

There are many examples of songs associated with work activities (work songs). Not only do these songs relieve the boredom of the work (often repetitive in nature), but can help synchronise work actions (chopping, hammering, waulking, reaping, pounding, hauling), help lift the spirits, and create a sense of community (“we’re all in this together”).

deeper meanings

There is a more fundamental reason underlying why we sing. Steven Mithen in his book The Singing Neanderthals: the origins of music, language, mind and body suggests that song and dance came before language. Mithen posits that music-making is a fundamental aspect of the human condition, encoded into the human genome during the evolutionary history of our species.

why do you sing?

So there are some reasons why people like to sing. But why do you sing? Do let me know by leaving a comment.



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Sunday, March 08, 2009

Singing the same note – differently!

The other week I was teaching songs by ear at a workshop as I normally do. There were a couple of women who seemed to be having a hard time catching on to their part. They were all over the place and seemed to be singing at random. Then it clicked: they weren’t able to find the right starting note from my voice. But when I sang the note to them at the pitch I wanted them to sing at (i.e. very high in my own range) they were spot on. I wish I’d picked this up earlier in the workshop!

But what does this mean: ‘singing at the pitch I wanted them to sing’? And why do some women get confused by my singing voice and others don’t? Do men have the same problem when women are teaching them by ear? And what on earth does ‘octave’ mean any way??!! This post is an attempt to answer some of these questions.

Pitching from the other side of the fence

You will have noticed that men generally have lower speaking voices than women. We become used to this from a very early age. This is usually the case with their singing voices too. This is such a familiar thing that we don’t really notice it.

We can understand each other’s speech with no problems. It doesn’t matter whether someone has a low or a high voice, the meaning carries across. But when the meaning is communicated by the pitch of the voice (e.g. when singing, or when speaking a pitch-based language such as Chinese), then all sorts of misunderstandings can occur.

If, as a man, I sing a note to a woman somewhere in the middle of my range, then she often automatically compensates for the fact that men’s voices are lower than women’s by responding with a note that is in the middle of her range. She will not be singing exactly the same note (i.e. at the same frequency), but she perceives that it is the ‘same’ in some sense. When I sing higher in my range, she also sings higher in her range. And when I sing lower, then she will sing lower too. We probably won’t ever be singing at the same pitch/ frequency.

Similarly, if a woman sings a note in the middle of her range to a man, then usually the man will respond with a note in the middle of his range. He will automatically make an adjustment for the differences between men’s and women’s voices. He won’t attempt so sing exactly the same note/ pitch/ frequency, but a note that he perceives to be the ‘same’.

So far so good. But some people don’t make these automatic adjustments. They try to match the exact pitch of the person singing to them. This means that men will try to sing very, very high (and usually fail) when trying to match to a woman’s voice, and women will try to sing ever so low (and usually fail) when trying to match with a man. This can be the source of a mistaken belief that someone can’t ‘sing’.

This is not too much of a problem when women sing very high notes in their range, or men sing very low notes, because we know that trying to match them is doomed to failure. But when we are dealing with middling notes, then confusion can arise. Do they want me to sing exactly the same note as they are singing, or do they want the equivalent note in the middle of my range?

This becomes even more complicated because some people think that just because they perceive two notes to be the same, then they actually are the same! If a man and a woman are singing a melody in unison together, then it can appear to the singers that they are singing exactly the same notes, whereas they will actually be singing an octave apart (more on the idea of the octave later).

In fact, when a man and a woman sing exactly the same note at the same pitch, it can feel very, very strange and unfamiliar!

Singing with the opposite sex

When I first sang in a small group with women, I found it very hard to stand next to a woman and sing. If I had to match her pitch, it felt at first like I was singing really, really high, but she was singing low! It took me a while to learn to feel comfortable and to perceive that we were actually singing the same note.

You may have come across this if you sing in the tenor section of a community which is often mixed men and women. I often find myself as a choir leader having to give out two starting notes: one low in my range for the women (who then sing low in their range), and one at the absolute pitch, high in my range, for the men. Then the men and women end up singing exactly the same note, but often perceive it to be different!

You might also find something strange when singing harmony with a member of the opposite sex. For example, a female alto and a male tenor might sing together. In absolute terms his harmony will be below her melody, but he may well perceive it to be higher than hers. This is because he will be singing high in his range, whereas she will be singing low in hers. And vice versa for the woman. It takes a while to get used to!

The same note sounding different!

To make matters even more complicated, two people of the same gender, singing exactly the same note (i.e. identical frequency) can appear to be singing different notes! This is something to take into account when considering the blend of voices in a choir.

For example, in a female harmony trio, the woman singing the middle part can sometimes appear to be lower than the person singing the lowest part because of the quality, texture and placement of her voice. This is connected with the concept of tessitura that I mentioned in last week’s post (what part do I sing?). Although two women may be singing the same note, for one it might be slap bang in the middle of her comfortable range, whereas for another it may be at the very lowest limits of her range and be rather uncomfortable to sing. This can make the two singers sound very different, even if they are singing the same note.

What is an octave?

Some community choir leaders whose choirs don’t use written scores and who don’t assume any musical knowledge on the part of their singers, often feel the need for some shorthand to creep into their rehearsals. If everyone understands “the harmony is just a third above” or “we need to have more of a crescendo at that point”, then it can save a lot of explanation. Jargon is simply a shorthand agreed between a particular group of people, and can be very useful. However, we can’t assume that everyone knows the same shorthand terms!

Many choir leaders use the term ‘octave’ as a shorthand. Personally I find this one of the most difficult concepts to explain to non-musical folk, even though it makes things much, much easier when talking to the tenors for example! If someone is pitching in the wrong place, it’s great to be able to say “No, you need to sing an octave up” or “The women will be singing in the lower octave for this part”.

All sound, including the singing voice, is made up of sound waves. We refer to a note as being ‘high’ or ‘low’ (although when considering a piano, for example, this could equally be called ‘left’ or ‘right’) depending on how often (or frequently) the sound waves hit your ears. Technically, the higher the frequency of a note (the faster rate at which the sound waves hit your ear), the higher it sounds. Similarly, the lower the frequency, the lower the note sounds.

Frequency can be measured in terms of number of vibrations or oscillations or waves arriving per second. In music, however, we tend to refer to pitch instead of frequency, although it is actually the same thing.

Any note that is double the frequency of another is said to be one octave higher. In music, such notes seem to have such a special relationship to each other that they are given the same name. For example, a note that is an octave higher or lower than a note called ‘C ‘ is also called ‘C’. Similarly, a note that is one or more octaves higher or lower than a note called ‘B flat’ will also be called ‘B flat’.

The reason that notes an octave apart have such a special place in music is that they appear to sound like each other (which is why they are given the same name). However, this is a factor of the musical tradition that one comes from. In Corsica, for example, because of its traditional harmony singing tradition, the interval of a fifth (that is, five notes apart in whatever scale you are singing in), as well as the octave are said to be the ‘same’ note because they appear to sound the same.

I’m sure many of you will have had the experience of singing in perfect harmony with a melody only to have a momentary doubt that you are, in fact, singing the melody by mistake because they fit so well together. For a brief moment, it appears that you are singing exactly the same notes!

The octave is therefore a very difficult concept to explain to those with no musical background. I have heard myself say things in the heat of the moment like: “It’s the same note, only higher”. Which is, of course, nonsense when you think about it!

The perfect match

So next time you are teaching or being taught by a member of the opposite sex and are finding things problematic, take a moment and think about where you might pitch your voice to get the ‘right’ note. Don’t make assumptions. My own choir are now used to being led by a man and pretty much all of the women make automatic adjustments (though there can be the occasional difficulty with the tenor part!). So when Michael Harper, a counter tenor, came to run a workshop and sang every part at the correct pitch, it momentarily freaked the tops out who were trying to sing somewhere in the stratosphere before they realised what was happening!



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Sunday, March 01, 2009

Everybody has a place in the choir

… and there is a place in a choir somewhere for everybody.

Frank joined our choir a while back. He hadn’t sung for ages, but gave it his best shot for a couple of sessions. Then he wrote to me saying that although he’d had a great time and thought the choir was fantastic, he wasn’t going to continue because he couldn’t always produce a note accurately and he felt that he didn’t have much of a vocal range.

I wrote back to say that pretty much everyone else in the choir was in the same boat!

This led me to think about the experiences that people have when they first join a choir and the assumptions that they bring with them.

Will they have me?

Most people who have not trained or had singing lessons think they can’t sing. I tell people that I earn my living by running choirs and singing workshops based on the principle that everyone can sing, but they are quick to let me know that they are the exception and can’t sing a note.

This is the first obstacle for someone joining a choir. They assume that everyone in the choir can sing much better than them, and that they need to be of a particularly high standard to even have the gall to think of joining such an auspicious group of people as a CHOIR. Of course, there are professional choirs out there, and choirs who audition their members. But there are also many, many community choirs, non-performance choirs, open-access choirs, choirs who sing for fun, choirs who don’t even call themselves ‘choirs’, and so on.

There will be a choir out there for you who will embrace you with open arms and whose members’ singing skills are pretty much the same as yours. Do your homework first though. If you are really inexperienced and under confident as a singer, then probably not a good idea to audition for the local professional ensemble! Start small.

If at first you don’t succeed …

You may join a choir and not feel at home. Every choir has its own ‘flavour’ and group dynamic. The repertoire may not interest you; they might move at a learning pace that’s just too fast (or too slow) for you; they may insist on using written music and you may not be a sight-reader; they might be a performing choir whereas you just want to have fun. Whatever the reason, the first choir you join may not suit you. It’s nothing to do with you, just the wrong choir. Try another one until you feel comfortable.

New kid on the block

When you first join a choir you will assume that everybody knows more than you and they are much better singers than you. This is partly because the people already in the choir are used to the musical director’s strange ways. They’ve indulged him over time and are familiar with his foibles and teaching methods. They are aware of the kinds of songs he introduces. They are used to the warm up and way in which the choir stand (or sit) to rehearse. This is simply a matter of unfamiliarity so you’ll need to give it a few weeks before you begin to feel comfortable.

However … there is a very good chance that everybody else in the choir feels as under-confident as you! Even though they’ve been in the choir for a few years, many members will feel that they have limited range, difficulty learning the tune (and the words), are not as good a singer as the other people in their part, don’t have a particularly beautiful voice, etc. etc. But what they may be good at (and this is something I try to drum into my own choir) is to behave as if they are great singers and know what they’re doing. Just by pretending like this, they come across as confident, able singers with not a care in the world. You will learn this trick too!

I always make a point of starting each new term with completely new songs that nobody in the choir will know. I point this out to any new members, so the first few weeks are a completely level playing field and everybody is in the same boat. This helps newcomers to relax a little and discover that even the old hands take a while to learn new material and stumble badly sometimes!

Will you be my friend?

It can be a little daunting joining a large group of people who already know each other. It can appear at first glance to be a bit cliquey and hard to break into the group. Yes, it’s true that many choir members have become friends, but it’s also true that the basses, for example, won’t know all the altos, and vice versa. People also look cliquey in each part because they’re often worried about getting things wrong so cling together for mutual support!

Every choir that I’ve ever run is super-friendly and make new members welcome very quickly. They’ve been there themselves at some point in the past. A choir is all about team work, especially if it’s a harmony-singing choir. So no new individual is a threat, rather they are extra support to existing members. And who knows, maybe the new member can pick things up quickly and help the others!

What part do I sing?

Many people without a musical background don’t understand the notion of ‘parts’, certainly won’t know technical terms like ‘second soprano’, and probably won’t know where their vocal comfort zone is. When someone joins the choir I ask them whether they like to sing high or low. Even that can be confusing. How high is ‘high’? So I usually demonstrate the range for each part of a new song to help people decide.

With a community choir, none of the parts are that high, and none of the parts are that low. Probably nobody in a community choir is a true ‘soprano’ or a true ‘bass’. Most of the men will be baritones (i.e. sitting uncomfortably between the tenor part and the bass part, not truly belonging to either), and most of the women will be altos (although maybe not able to reach either the highest or the lowest alto notes). So in a community choir, the arrangements are usually for an alto/ baritone choir. The tenor part is not too high for the men, yet not too low for any women who want to sing it. In fact, pretty much everyone in the choir could sing any part.

There is, however, a difference between the range of notes you can sing (how high or low you can go) and where you are most comfortable in singing. This latter has a technical name: tessitura. It’s the range of notes that suit your voice, it’s where your particular type of voice feels most comfortable and shows itself off to its best. That is not necessarily the same as the total range of notes that you are able to sing on a good day, but may be more limited.

Melanie in our choir always sings in the tops. She sings in her ‘head voice’ (that is her voice which sounds high and light like a girl in the school choir), although not terribly well to be honest. When we do the warm ups it turns out that Melanie has a wonderful low voice hiding in there. She can hit very low notes in her ‘chest voice’ (the voice that we use in everyday speaking) and they sound wonderful: warm, dark and resonant. That is her natural tessitura. But Melanie doesn’t like singing there! For probably cultural and historical reasons she feels that ‘proper’ singing is when she sing high in her head voice. Ah, well, we’ll just have to let that one go!

Nobody will miss me if I don’t turn up

A choir can be a very large group of people. Even the smallest choirs usually have a more than 20 singers, so with a three-part harmony song, there might be six other singers in the part with you. So who will notice if you don’t show up for a concert? You’re only one voice, and not a very good one at that. Nobody will miss you, six voices sound pretty much the same as seven.

But what if everybody in the choir thought like that? What if the other six singers in your part didn’t turn up because “nobody will miss them”? Then we don’t have a choir! A choir is an organism that is defined entirely by the singers who make it up. Everyone is as vitally important as everyone else. If the singers don’t come, then the choir just doesn’t exist. Every individual’s voice makes a vital contribution to the overall sound of the choir. If it were a different bunch of singers, it would sound different. You do count, you are important, so please turn up to the concert!!!

But nobody here looks like me!

Liz Garnett made a comment on a post called Singing across the age divide that has stayed with me. She said:

“I think a lot of choir membership is driven by people turning up and seeing if the other people in the room look like them.”

Imagine you are a bloke and turn up to find a room full of women, or you are a black woman walking into a sea of white faces, or a 20-year-old surrounded by 50-somethings. It doesn’t feel like your tribe. Maybe you don’t belong. Maybe you shouldn’t be here.

Choirs in general, and community choirs in particular, are egalitarian places. Everybody is equal in status. No one singer is more important than any other. It is an inclusive group of people where you are judged solely by your willingness to join in. So, in theory, there are no barriers of race, age, gender, disability, nationality, language, etc. Oh, to have a truly multicultural choir which spans the generations!

The reality is though that any given choir often reflects the demographics of the community that it is based in. But even then, it may not be a true reflection. My first choir was based in the Midlands of the UK, a region well-known for its multicultural make-up, in a city which has a huge range of ages, races and nationalities. But the choir ended up being predominantly middle-aged white women!

So if you walk into the choir and there is nobody there like you, then see yourself as a pioneer who is helping to mix things up. You will be warmly welcomed and soon made to feel at home. Then one day, when another person similar to yourself arrives at the choir, they will see a familiar face and perhaps be more inclined to stay.

If you stay, you might never leave!

After I wrote back to Frank, he decided to give the choir another go, and now he is firmly ensconced as a bass. If he’s anything like the other members we’ve had over the years, he may well be in the choir forever! I was glad that I’d challenged his assumptions, and I think he was quite surprised to discover that most of the other choir members had the same misgiving as him, even though they’d been members for some time.

So don’t let your assumptions and pre-conceptions put you off or you’ll be missing out on something wonderful. Get out there and join a choir!


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