Hello & welcome to our March Blog, Mad as a March Hare.
It’s been a crazy start to March for much of the country hasn’t it? The Beast from the East certainly stopped us all in our tracks last week. In my neck of the woods, the snow has thawed, the birds are singing, sun feels warm on my face and the daffodils in my window box brighten my mood every morning. It’s a shock and upsetting to understand that so many parts of the country are struggling with running water. I can’t imagine not being able to take a shower for 5 days! And as for the sporty teenagers in my house -ppppphhhhooooffffff…doesn’t bear thinking about.
March is a wonderful month isn’t it? Winter is coming to an end, the mornings are getting lighter, friends seem happier and I find myself with a Spring in my step, ready to face a whole new season and what that might offer. I LOVE people – meeting new folk, reminiscing with old acquaintances, talking to strangers or collaborating with like minded musicians is so important to me. Human beings are social creatures and we need to spend time together; To learn from one another; to actively listen; to co-operate; to inspire; to create harmony. Real time in the presence of another person, in touching distance almost……not just via a screen.
As a choir leader I am constantly looking for harmony and hugely aware of discord. Yesterday I looked up the word “Harmony” in the dictionary. HARMONY ; peaceful agreement and co-operation; to fit in or go well with one another; combination of notes to make a pleasing sound. My role as choir director is something I take rather responsibly. I’m hugely aware of the many personalities in the room at rehearsal each week. Some singers are very confident, their voices are loud and they support others. Some choir members are very active on Facebook or via email and I am invariably involved in some great “conversations” outside of the rehearsal room, I may never get an opportunity to chat to them otherwise. Other choir members simply sign up, show up, sing and go home again. So many different needs in one room for two hours a week trying to create harmony. Human beings all with one shared common goal – to create a harmonious sound and interpret the vision that their director has, often through unspoken gestures. So, how on earth do we do that as choir leaders and singers? The quality which I feel is paramount to the success of a choir is trust. Again, I have turned to my dictionary to share the meaning of TRUST ; confidence in the truth, reliability or a person or thing; obligation arising from responsibility; believe in or rely on; expect or hope. Our voices can sometimes be unreliable and human beings can certainly be irresponsible at times. We must be MAD to even begin to think that we can learn 5 songs in 4 part harmony off by heart in 10 weeks!! But, that’s what we do. EVERY time, trust me.
Working with other musicians has been a theme for me over the past year. Our most recent visiting musician was Kevin Fox from the Swingles singers. He remarked at how well the choir worked together and how well they responded to me as their choir director. It takes a great deal of trust to invite a stranger into a room and ask them to lead a group of 65 singers, all with their own wants, needs and personalities. I am so proud to share that over the past 10 years I have invited many guest leaders into the rehearsal room and ALL have remarked on just how welcoming everybody is. It is my job to create a safe and welcoming space where every voice matters. Where visiting musicians, regardless of fame or fortune can work effectively with open minded, trusting people. Working with Kevin Fox has been a big highlight for me. It took almost a year of quietly planning before letting him loose on the choir members. Preparation and planning can be very time consuming for me. Time which I’d sometimes rather spend making music and yet its worth every moment spent deliberating, procrastinating and waiting. “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail” springs to mind. I may be considered slightly ‘mad’ for planning so far in advance but by doing so it means I can be creative, spontaneous and react appropriately when things take us by surprise – which happens quite often in a choir rehearsal or a performance.
Another moment of great teamwork amongst like minded musicians was working alongside a fabulous team at the Royal Borough of Kingston Big Sing. Four experienced vocal leaders + 130 singers = a an afternoon of harmony, creativity and trust. Did this happen by chance? Of course not….it took many months of planning and communicating by email in advance. Did the leaders rehearse for days before hand? Not at all! The trust we have in one another allows us to have individually practised and bring our own unique personalities and vocal skills together on the day for the good of the group. The singers at the event responded so well. They trusted us and we trusted them. Together we created harmony.
So working as a choir leader can be an isolating place unless I put my trust in others and they put theirs in me. Trust in the singers that the song will come together. Trust that some choir members do their homework on week one, whilst others leave it until much later. Trust that the chatty choir member who emails and shares more personal stories with me can feel assured that despite being a chatterbox I’m not a gossip. Trust that the choir members are invested in the same harmonious outcome, however long that may take. Being in front of a choir or being behind them and supporting them whilst lovingly trusting a guest leader is something I am very proud of. We are all forever learning from, and inspiring one other. Long may music be the vehicle to allow us to show the most trusting, harmonious human beings we can be. My commitment to developing my own skills to be the best singer and choir leader will take my lifetime, of that I am sure.
Until our next blog – trust your instincts, trust you can do it (if you want to), and trust that it will all be OK. Is that Madness? Not from where I’m standing (at the front of the choir).