Sunday, 13 March 2011

Fifty percent Welsh

For those that aren't aware of it, the slightly obscure spelling of my Christian name is down to the fact that half my blood is welsh. And, as everyone knows it's genetically programmed into every welsh person to sing. Welsh babies on emerging from the womb don't cry, they SING! So maybe this is the reason for my sudden path towards singing super stardom? You can only suppress your natural instincts for so long...

Whoa, hold on there! Let's not get ahead of ourselves. It was only a month ago that I went along for my first taste of a rehearsal with the Loughborough Male Voice Choir. For the first rehearsal after their Kegworth concert, I pledged to go along and check them out. On arriving at Trinity Methodist Church I met Chris Hill the Choir's leader and inspiration. I had previously encountered Chris through his work as Enchanted's pianist, so at least there was one familiar face. To say I felt like a fish out of water would be something of an understatement but hey, I was there! Ruth and Anna-Ruth were already at the church themselves for a singing lesson with Caroline so were witness to the fact that I had indeed actually turned up.

As choir members arrived there was a common response along the lines of 'Ooh, a new member? Great, are you a tenor?' Now this question was not as easy to answer as you might expect. At this point I had absolutely no idea what I was or indeed if I had any singing ability at all. 'But you do enjoy singing though I presume?' Again, not particularly easy to answer. I do enjoy singing to myself in the bath when I'm positive no-one else is listening. Would I enjoy singing in a choir? Somehow, telling the chaps that I was looking forward to finding out, seemed a rather inadequate answer. Anyway, Chris agreed that maybe 'bass' was a good place to start and just see how it felt. 

First of all Lyndon Gardner, the choir's voice coach and a tenor of some repute kicked off proceedings. This I thought would be the easy bit! Err, wrong! Lyndon's warm ups seemed almost like a memory test which on a Thursday evening of an exhausting week, was proving way beyond me! At least I wasn't alone in losing it somewhat, and the more we all messed up the more hysterical the watching Chris found it.

As luck would have it, tonight was the night when five new songs were being handed out, so everyone was in the same boat as me. As we collectively staggered through Abba's 'Thankyou for the Music' it was quite amazing to see how what was initially a chaotic mess transformed into a quite impressive sound. To my delight, one of the new songs was the Tony Christie classic 'Amarillo'. I'm afraid I just couldn't help but slip into 'Peter Kay' mode and all thoughts of singing bass went completely out of the window.

So, my first taste of singing in a choir turned out to be quite a lot of fun and left me wanting more. I still didn't know whether I was bass or baritone, but at least I  felt reasonably confident that I wasn't going to embarrass myself totally and maybe had a half decent voice.  It never entered my head to not turn up the following week, but when I did I got the the distinct impression that very often, potential new members never make it to a second week! When I arrived for week two it seemed to mean to several of the chaps that I was there to stay. My 'details' were recorded and name duly added to George's register. I had arrived! I must say right now, that I couldn't have been made more welcome by everyone. The willingness to simply let me have a go without any audition and just see if I enjoy it is quite wonderful really. Anyone else out there in Loughborough who is similarly curious about singing should do likewise I reckon. What have you got to lose?

It is glaringly obvious at this early stage, that I've got a heck of a lot to learn. Apart from a short period attempting to learn to play the bagpipes about four years ago, it is something like 30 years since I have read music to any degree and I've forgotten so much. I've never before read music with four parts plus the piano part laid out together on the same sheet, so I have the annoying habit of starting on the bass line and then carrying on to a completely different part and getting totally lost. But, practice makes perfect and Rome wasn't built in a day . . .

To help me on the way, the choir's website has a members page where 'mp3' and 'midi' files of each part can be downloaded to aid the learning process. These are excellent and should prove invaluable at least when I decide which seat to sit in - bass, baritone, or heaven forbid tenor? After week three's rehearsal I was coming to the conclusion that I really needed the advice of someone who knows, to determine where my voice lies, if indeed it lies anywhere within a choir. Who better than the extraordinarily talented Caroline? So, a singing lesson was arranged for Saturday 5th March. Oh Crikey!?!

How on earth was this going to turn out? Was I going to embarrass myself again in '1970 church lesson reading' fashion? Gulp!

I'll let you know the outcome next time.


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