Sunday, May 16, 2010

The pleasures of being a choir member

I’m going to fess up here: I’ve never really been in a choir.

Munich uni choir

Choir of the Munich University of Applied Sciences by Mark Kamin

When I was a kid in Croydon, I sang with a whole bunch of other primary schools in a big concert at the Fairfield Halls.

We sang The Daniel Jazz (music by Herbert Chappell, lyrics by Vachel Lindsay):

“Daniel was the chief hired man in the land, he stirred up the jazz in the palace band”.

I think it was all in unison. I just remember hearing my Dad coughing in the audience (he has a very recognisable cough) and feeling totally embarrassed.

The only other ‘proper’ choir experience I ever had was at the first Sing for Water on London’s South Bank in 2002. Set up by Helen Chadwick, this project began as a mass choir performing as part of the Mayor’s Thames Festival in London to raise money for WaterAid.

Loads of separate choirs and individuals independently learnt the parts to half a dozen songs, then we all congregated in London and sang them together as a single choir. There must have been about 500 singers at the first event.

My own experience then is very limited. As a member of a large choir I found that it was just an excuse to belt out a melody in unison with all the others standing around me. I didn’t really get a sense of the other harmonies as they were too far away.

Which set me wondering: what are the pleasures of being in a choir?

Since I love harmony, I get huge pleasure out of singing with a small group, or standing out in front of a choir, or being in the audience. But I’m not sure what I get out of actually being in the choir itself.

Next week I want to write about the pleasures of leading a choir, but first I’d like to hear about what you get from being in the choir rather than standing outside it.

Many’s the time a choir member will have to sit out a concert due to illness or absence and they are always totally blown away by the sound we make. It’s usually the first time they’ve ever heard the full effect of the harmonies and the quality of the singing. You can’t hear it as well from the inside, and most singers are reluctant to sit out when they can be performing.

Choirs attract so many people these days there is no doubt huge pleasure involved. So my question is this: what are the pleasures to be had from singing in a choir?

Do please drop by and let us know of your own experiences. I’m not asking about the pleasures of singing (we all know them!), but of being in a large choir (say, 40 singers or more).


Chris Rowbury's website:

Chris Rowbury


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