Sunday, July 03, 2011

How singing together creates communities

Singing together creates a real sense of community. Sometimes a choir arises from an existing community, but other times the creation of a choir builds a brand new one.


Photo by niallkennedy

In most cases people come together simply because they love to sing, but in others there is a real need to join a community of like-minded souls.

My new venture, The OK Chorale, has been going for five months now and people are slowly getting to know each other. There is starting to be a real sense of community with lots of mutual support and burgeoning friendships.

The group is very disparate with people from a wide range of backgrounds and geographical areas. But we do seem to have one thing in common: most of us are ‘incomers’ to the area and weren’t born or raised here.

I was at a conference/ workshop recently where David Oliver (former education director of Folkworks) gave a talk about sense of place and where you come from being very important. He runs a community choir in Hexham in the north east of England.

One week he asked for a show of hands amongst the 70 or so choir members: “Who originally comes from this area?” Only one or two hands went up! Like The OK Chorale, most of the choir members were incomers.

It made David realise that the choir was serving an important role in creating a community for people who otherwise had no roots in the area.

Once upon a time, before people travelled so much, we would be born, raised, schooled, employed, married and housed in the same village or district for the whole of our life. We would feel part of a strong community and would know everybody else in that community as if they were family.

In modern times, that scenario is increasingly rare, but we still crave to be part of something.

That’s where community choirs come in:

  • there are no barriers to admission other than a love of singing.
  • the activity is shared, creating a strong sense of team-spirit and ownership.
  • there is no sense of hierarchy or status – everyone is equally important.
  • there is usually a wide range of views, backgrounds, life experiences and occupations represented.
  • friendships (and even marriages) are made regularly, ideas and skills are exchanged, common experiences shared, memories created.

In short, a choir is a model community.

This ability to create community is so strong that singing is now being used as a community development tool.

Only recently a project has been set up to develop community choirs in locations of deprivation in the UK, the core of the work being community development through singing.

What is your experience of choirs creating a sense of community? We’d love to hear from you, so please do leave a comment. Thanks.


Chris Rowbury's website:

Chris Rowbury


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