I'm from a family that sings. My parents sang all the time when I was a small child and I can recall singing along with them from the back of the car. At primary school there was a choir of older children that I looked up to and wanted to emulate. I suppose that's where the interest started. I did all the usual primary school singing activities, Christmas carols and big singalongs... I think I liked it more than most of the other children! My second school had a great little singing group and I think that cemented my sense that singing was something fun.
Archaeological evidence shows that humans have been making music for tens of thousands of years. Singing bonds people together, exercises a range of muscles and makes you feel happy. The camaraderie of communal singing is of benefit to people - you don't get that when listening to a CD no matter what style of music. You don't even get it in karaoke because that's focussed on individual performances. It's mostly at football matches and religious gatherings that people sing en masse with no thought of their own ability. I think it's important that people feel free to sing and that there is somewhere for them to be heard. People can feel very isolated and singing is an excellent way to combat that.
I think choirs are becoming more and more popular. We have a great choral tradition in this country. Speaking to other choral directors in the country I get the sense that there has been a gradual shift in people's attitude towards choirs. Numbers are up and there are a wider range of choirs than ever before: gospel, rock, church, barbershop, beatbox, you name it.
I think it's important to lead people gradually towards more and more challenging repertoire. It's vital to sing music that people know and love but that shouldn't be at the expense of tackling the amazing music written for choirs. I try to show people why I'm enuthusiastic about the music and how it can be something they can enjoy too.
Our performance at Watford Colleseum was an incredible moment. An audience of over 1000 people and a terrified choir who rose to the challenge.
A passion for singing is the vital ingredient in any performance. As an audience member you want to know that people love getting together to sing. In the best choirs they sing music that suits their level. On top of that you need inspiration and a lot of hard work.
All my choirs have been very different but I love the great choral works such as Handel's Messiah, Mozart's Requiem and the St Matthew Passion by J.S. Bach.
There are obvious health benefits as well as it being excellent for your state of mind. It's good for the whole body - posture and breathing. And of course it's a rewarding challenge that everyone can undertake. But the most important factor is what it does for people's confidence; it lifts people in ways that no other activity can.
Don't go in for something that you aren't ready for! Choose your choir carefully. Take deep breaths. Nerves tend to play havoc with your breath and can leave you feeling light headed. Remember that your voice is not YOU. It's just a collection of bits of muscle and cartilage with air blowing through. People may judge your voice but it shouldn't be a judgment on your personality as well. Finally singing is something that needs to be worked at; you don't arrive at a wonderful sound without some practice and some advice. Everybody has to start somewhere.
There's great excitement about singing in South Oxhey and I'm certain that won't diminish. I need a long rest after working so hard in South Oxhey!
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