The People Who Never Sang….

 

carol-singers

I think that I first became really interested in ‘singing’ when I was ‘just a wee boy’ in a Junior Choir at our church in Northern Ireland. I came from a family steeped in amateur music. My Mother ALWAYS sang, my Father sang in choirs in church and also in male voices, as well as conducting; cousins, and uncles were singers and an aunt was a piano teacher.

So it was probably not surprising that I would sing in choirs and also learn the piano and organ (reasonably successfully), and the clarinet (unsuccessfully). Junior and senior  church choirs, playing the organ at services, and choral and instrumental composing meant that I was in the thick of what was the great interest of my family, and this was no doubt a large part of their legacy to me.

I was probably about 18 when I was playing regularly at church services , and taking a choir of people old enough to be my parents, and perhaps grandparents! The bravado of youth obviously shaded me from my mistakes, but hopefully I did something right!

After Evensong Lochgilphead

The ‘formal’ Angelus Singers at Lochgilphead…

As you can imagine, many of these choirs required a rigid discipline in attendance and standard of singing to operate well, as we had Church-year timetables, and music, to perform. No good getting the Christmas anthems ready for mid-January!….or having half a choir turn up for the Easter Service!…..or someone hitting a bum note, or a wrong entry!

But there was  a sort of self-selection process going on, where people would not put themselves forward for membership if they felt they had no voice, or a poor one. And it obviously worked well, in that most of the choir-members I met, and dealt-with, had quite reasonable voices.

But, what about the folk who, despite our protests, thought they had a poor voice, or were TOLD by someone that they had a poor voice, or were embarrassed, or did not have the time, or were not tremendously motivated? We obviously never saw them, so there MUST have been a waste of natural talent out there.

Jump forward some decades to Gareth Malone on television, who parachuted-in to various places across the UK to form some type of choir, and obviously left it to underlings to get on with the practices. He would then appear again to conduct some item. It made good television, but not really practical in today’s hectic world!

Meanwhile I had given up full-time organ-playing and was happy to occasionally fill-in, and with there being fewer choirs, that door had been closed. Retirement had come, but I still longed for the heady days of choral music…..but surely that was all history, now, and I had better get used to it……but I was not to reckon on the  U3A, the University of the Third Age, which we only joined a few months ago!

I have blogged about it before, and the great motivation it engenders in people.  Someone had said in passing, in front of a crowded room at our first meeting, that there was a wish for a Singing Group, and that ‘Harry might be happy to start one!’ So there was a challenge! But where to begin?

Now, remember that the age-group range  of the Members probably centres on the early 70’s…..some are in their 90’s! You cannot start analysing and auditioning folk of this age, so the only two criteria would be, could they stand-up (even with help), and breathe?

MANY OF THOSE WERE IN THE CATEGORY OF ‘THE FOLK WHO NEVER SANG’

The interest was amazing! We had 22 with us today at one of the weekly practices, we have 13 pieces on the practice list, and we sing lustily for an hour after some warm-up vocal exercises. Not everyone can come every practice (retirement is busy, you know!) so we are never exactly sure who will be there, but some have been to every practice. No notice is taken of previous experience, musical skills, embarrassment levels, etc, and mistakes are very common. But we are now singing lots of old post-war favourites, and rounds, in parts, and very good they are, too.

I have been given loads of music to look through, by members, so that there is always a new piece every week, of THEIR favourites.

We laugh, we joke, we do little musical tricks, ask them to ‘volunteer’ as  soloists, and have a thoroughly-great relaxing time. Everyone goes away smiling, and making sure they know when the next practice is. And beside all this the voices are really very good!

Personally, I have had a new lease of life, back to helping people find the joy of singing, and this time with no constraints of any kind, on the music, or the musical ability; simply the idea of having fun as a group, and, of course…….they will never be able to say ‘WE NEVER SANG’

P1050874A few of our Singing Group who obviously enjoy themselves in a relaxed atmosphere

(can you spot the 90-year old?)

 

 

 

 

 

Scotland the Beautiful (again) !

I had to head north on Wednesday to the Highlands of Argyll, to the town of Lochgilphead (at the head of Loch Gilp, believe it or not!) and then the interesting little sheltered yacht haven of Ardfern. Local residents had advised that the wind and rain they had recently might prove a hazard on the route, but I felt my journey was necessary, so set off in the drizzle, but the weather improved as did the scenery.

Much of this area had been used for commercial foresting and great swathes of the countryside had been covered with towering firs. As I have been travelling up here for decades, I have seen them growing from young saplings to the majesty which they eventually achieve. As a by-product of this, however, the trees themselves can sometimes become the scenery, as vistas are precluded by the darkness of the forest near the road. What a wonderful surprise it is then, when coming round a corner, to see that an area has been cleared giving a clear view of the lakes and hills beyond.

Whilst the cleared area may sometimes be unsightly for a couple of years, Mother Nature takes over and the natural flora can return.

Might this be a good theme for thinking about life….or is that too philosophical for this time of the day?

St Francis of Assisi in Lochgilphead!

Jack the OrganistWe are very lucky, in that, in two hours on Sunday we were able to travel through some of the most wonderful Argyll countryside (just as the leaves are changing to that lovely russet, the true indicator of Autumn), to spend time in Lochgilphead. We then sang Choral Evensong with the members of, not only Christ Church, but members from other churches. What a great example of ecuminism!

Just now, the Church celebrates the life and work of Francis of Assisi, probably one of the best-known Saints, because of his association with nature. This was reflected in the presence of a number of (stuffed) animals, the organ music (Carnival of the Animals) and the hymns. By the way, Jack the organist was wonderful and, at 80+, plays like a young virtuoso!

It was a wonderful day all through, and as usual, the hospitality was more than we deseved.

Special note has to be made of one of our members who flew back from Dusseldorf on Sunday morning, managed to get from Prestwick to Paisley, sat the whole way to Lochgilphead by car, practised, sang lustily, and then sat the whole way back to Glasgow (actually she did snooze a little!)…without complaining!

Now, how do we beat that?

After Evensong Lochgilphead

      The Angelus Singers at Christ Church, Lochgilphead  7.10.2007