Bear with me today as I explore a topic I honestly don’t know much about, but which after a recent experience, I feel drawn to talk about. Today I want to unpack singing and choirs, as forces which can uplift us on both an individual and community level.
So, as part of this path I find myself on this year; stretching myself with new endeavours and hobbies, I decided it was time to give singing a go. Why singing over anything else, well there are few reasons, but definitely not because I am musical or have any natural singing ability at all… In fact, whilst I absolutely love listening to other people sing, I am very self conscious of my own voice, and aware of my inability to clap a beat, remember lyrics, or hold a note haha! Rather, it’s the refreshing presence of my best friend Eb and boyfriend Sean, who have brightened my life in the last few years with their uninhibited and unapologetic singing that prompted me. They use singing to express themselves, for comfort and for company, and beyond anything to do with talent, I have begun to see the possibilities that singing offers as an outlet for emotion, connection and communication.
My opportunity came in the form of a local women’s choir which I had heard about from people in my community. Setting aside my nerves and trying to embrace the immense sense of vulnerability I felt, I attended my first choir session on Valentines Day. The experience was something quite magical, to be so warmly welcomed by a group of diverse women whose only clear common denominator was the desire to sing. It affirmed to me that there are good things to be realised from putting myself in less than comfortable situations, and more than that, the ability of singing to transcend age, background and personality.
Once we were broken off into four different groups; high and low melody, and high and low harmony, I was able to relax more, letting my voice mirror as best it could, those around me. It proved a great exercise in learning through listening, and highlighted how I would benefit from emulating this more in my day to day life. This same point was brought home to me later, as I watched in wonder as one of the quieter woman moved the group with an incredible solo; exemplifying how less-heard voices can shine when louder voices aren’t dominating.
It was obvious too upon settling in, that the quality of my singing didn’t really matter at all; whilst we all play a role, the whole of the choir is greater than the sum of individual voices. This feeling of being apart of something bigger than myself and surrendering to the movement of the group, is something special, something that I have come across rarely in my life, and something I am motivated to continue coming back for.
Whilst I didn’t leave the choir last week feeling particularly more confident or skilful in my own singing ability, I left there feeling uplifted and invigorated; from the bodily act of singing itself, from connecting with a new group of interesting women, and from riding the current of emotion and energy that our voices created. Sean’s words to me “singing is good for the soul” have definitely landed with me, and I’m excited to keep seeing where this path takes me. On a wider note, this experience has also made me reflect on something I read last year about the Choir of Hard Knocks; a choir which formed in 2006 for people experiencing homelessness and disadvantage. It described how through being part of a regular choir, the attendees began to develop new relationships, build up their conference, and 10 years on have a much greater livelihood including decreased homelessness and increased employment. Since then, it has also inspired a worldwide movement of ‘street choirs’.
So there you have it, choirs really are binding and powerful forces in our lives and communities, choirs really are cool. Voices need to be heard.