New user? Register here:
Email Address:
Password:
Retype Password:
First Name:
Last Name:
Existing user? Login here:
 
 
News >

Pastimes: Join the chorus

YOU ARE one of 80 voices and part of a wonderful, musical animal responding to your leader, the conductor. The orchestra blasts away, your shared spirit soars, the audience is hooked. You might be a chorus of Israelites, Priests of Baal, angry townspeople, holy women, or even a Storm. The adrenalin thrill of the concert performance is the reward for your many dedicated rehearsals.

It all started with the hard grind of note-bashing: the mystifying little black dots and time signatures on the score, and the conductor’s unreasonable assumption that you are going to produce music from it. But, with teaching and cajoling, what seemed impossible at first becomes gradually attainable and finally — wow! Was that really us?

My first seriously choral experience was in a performance by north-London schools of Handel’s Messiah under David Willcocks. Having rehearsed separately in our girls’ school, we were thrilled to join the huge choir, with tenors and basses booming around us. We felt professional and obedient, transformed by this brief relationship with a real conductor.

I’ve also sung in university choirs, amateur opera, church choirs, even in a medieval banquet, in Latin, German, Italian, French, and even Irish — not necessarily very well, but delighting in the challenge.

Not everybody in a choir can sight-sing, or sing like a nightingale. Not all choirs audition their members. You need to be able to listen, both to yourself and others: to concentrate on singing your own part and not be drowned out by the basses, to control your urge to chat to your neighbour. You will be asked to produce funny noises to stretch your vocal cords, make huge efforts and take risks for the music’s sake. And because of that, a bunch of ordinary people will become passionate and artistic.

The downsides? Choir members are expected to promote their own concerts, possibly to sell tickets. Audiences may have to sit on hard church pews or stackable seating (often unstacked, and then stacked again, by choir members). Tell them to bring a cushion.

Choirs keep term times and have weekly evening rehearsals — more at concert-times. Usually for concerts, women wear long black skirts and white blouses, and men wear dinner jackets.

Members pay an annual subscription to pay the musical director, accompanist, soloists, and orchestra. Henley Choral Society, to which I belong, has the usual structure of committee, AGMs, and audits; we also hold friendly fund-raising events. We have given some super concerts, and commissioned new works.

Some examples of subscriptions: North London Chorus, £140 a year ("sometimes reduced for members on low incomes"); London Oriana, £100 first year, £150 thereafter; Highgate Choral Society, £180; East Cornwall Choral Society, £75; Henley-on-Thames, £60.

Search the internet for choral societies, and you will find hundreds of them, calling out for new members, especially men.

 

Job of the week

Principal

West Midlands

PRINCIPAL ST ALBAN'S ACADEMY Lead an outstanding high-profile school in Birmingham St Alban's Academy serves the Highgate area of Birmingham. It is part of the ARK Schools group, a network of ...  Read More

Signup for job alerts
Top feature

It’s not all religion’s fault

It’s not all religion’s fault

In her new book, Karen Armstrong argues that violence comes from a deep-seated 'warrior ethos' rather than from religion. She talks to Cole Moreton  Subscribe to read more

Question of the week
Should the seal of the confessional be absolute?

To prevent multiple voting, we now ask readers to be logged in. This is free, quick and easy, honestly. Click here to login or register

Top comment

Clergy are ‘more like Old Labour than New’

A survey commissioned to support debates on the future of the C of E yields some interesting results, says Linda Woodhead  Read More

Fri 31 Oct 14 @ 15:11
Canon Alan Billings, Labour Party candidate, elected Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire. http://t.co/iydy5Z0tDj

Fri 31 Oct 14 @ 14:53
'Positive action' is being taken to create a pool of women ready to be considered for the episcopate http://t.co/mDg7mlOLfo