Saturday, June 23, 2018

Choiring Along

I haven’t updated in a while, but that doesn’t mean I’m not doing anything. I’m actually a lot busier now than I have been in a long time. It’s just that I’m not doing anything you’re likely to be interested in.

Aside from our calendar of social engagements (bit of exaggeration there) and random domestic emergencies (broken windscreen, waiting for a mattress to be delivered and then wondering how we’re going to get rid of the old one), the activities filling up the bulk of my time include writing and singing, and I realize these activities are of little interest to anyone not A) currently writing a novel, or B) actively engaged in choral singing.

I have, therefore, elected to talk about my choir, figuring you would prefer that over me talking about my writing, in much the same way as you might prefer to be stripped naked, tied to a fence and beaten with a rosebush over, say, being dipped in a vat of hot oil.

Recall that I was accidentally promoted to the office of Choir Director after volunteering to be a temporary instructor for the foundering Show Choir. Then Show Choir abandoned us and threw me into the deep end and, well, here we are. But, I hasten to add, it is a good place.

The first weeks of being a pretend choir director were, as you might expect, a bit rocky. Aside from me not knowing what I was doing, numbers were a worry. We bumped along, flirting with single digits for a long time. On one occasion, only seven people showed up for choir practice. Seven people are not a choir, they are a septet.

All through that time, when every week looked as if it might be our last, I kept thinking: “If we get our numbers up to twenty, then we will be a real choir.”

Eventually, our numbers grew to a baker’s dozen and I accepted a booking at the Horsham Day of Music, which seemed to galvanize the choir. Fear is a powerful motivator.

Long story short, we had an outstanding debut. The choir performed brilliantly, and we managed to hide our shortcomings—which included having only an alto section—through creative arrangements and careful song selection.

It was a triumph, and they were justifiably proud, but it left me with the problem of what to do next. And on top of that, because of our public appearance, we—incredibly—gained another member. And another. And another. We now have, at last count, twenty members, over half of whom know me only as The Choir Director instead of that guy form the tenor section who got a little ahead of himself.

I would agree that, having a real choir—with Soprano and Alto sections, even—means I am, in fact, a real choir director, but that still doesn’t mean I know what I’m doing.

I see this as a critical time for the choir. Having gained so many members in such a short time, it is essentially a new choir, and that means I need to up my game. As such, I’m putting my newly acquired music theory knowledge to the test by arranging songs into two-part harmony, which is a challenge for both the choir and myself.

It’s a fine line to walk, making the choir challenging enough to hold everyone’s interest, but not so challenging that it drains the fun out of singing. I suspect finding and walking that line is the goal of every choir director. And it isn’t easy, because it’s never the same. Some choirs like to be stretched, others prefer to just have a nice sing-along, and if what they’re doing doesn’t suit them, they’ll walk.

And having finally achieved the goal of acquiring twenty members, I can’t afford to lose any.

This is one of the songs we did at our debut performance. The video was taken by the husband of one of the members and it demonstrates the disadvantages we faced. We were a small choir, singing outside to a group of not-always-interested people. Still we held our own and, for the people standing directly in front of us, we produced a good sound.

What is missing from the video is my introduction, explaining that, because it was an all-female choir, I would be taking the tenor parts.


  1. You are such a talent. That was great. And funny, as ever.

    1. Naturally, having written about finally attaining the "20" members, one of them quit.

      Sods Law.