Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Mission Impossible?

So whose crazy idea was this? When I decided to join the Loughborough Male Voice Choir, I foolishly thought I could take a few months to settle in, learn a few songs and maybe contribute in some small way to a concert later in the year. What I really didn't bargain for was jumping feet first, well and truly into the deep end within a few short weeks!

Yes indeed, any thoughts of sitting out the Loughborough Male Voice Choir's  April 9th concert with the Stevenage Ladies Choir have been soundly dismissed by Ruth, Anna-Ruth and Caroline. Amy on the other hand merely utters three letters - L.O.L. whenever mention is made of my singing, which for those unfamiliar with 'text speak', isn't entirely complimentary. I mentioned to Chris Hill that I was now being persuaded to 'go for it' and sing in the concert. While I feel that I am only able to partially sing most of the songs, Chris says that it would be acceptable for me to sing the sections that I confident about and 'do a goldfish' and not sing the bits that I don't know, which gives me some comfort at least. This plan should work fine provided that I can stand behind someone nice and tall to disguise the fact a bit.

Oh dear! Last Thursday's rehearsal shattered that hope. Chris had the choir up on the stage mid-rehearsal, just to get a feel for it and who should I end up standing behind? Only the supremely talented tenor, Lyndon Gardner and another gentleman (whose name I am yet to learn), who both happen to be probably the two shortest members of the whole choir! This means that my goldfish impression is going to be in full view of the entire audience. Sigh.

But on the plus side, at least I might look the part. After finding Chris Higgins' spare choir blazer to be several sizes to big, Saturday was spent searching Loughborough's finest boutiques and charity shops for a suitable (and inexpensive) navy blazer and light grey trousers. Greenwoods had just the right colour but not the right size of trouser, but Oxfam came up with a very nice navy 'Ted Baker' jacket. A quality garment it certainly is, but it's not strictly a 'blazer' and it doesn't have shiny buttons. And it is a touch too big, so I will take it along next Thursday and see what Chris and 'the lads' think. A Sunday afternoon visit to Fosse Park found a perfect pair of grey trousers from good ol' M & S, so I'm nearly ready. All I need to do now before Saturday 9th is learn how to sing. Step forward, one Caroline King nee Sharpe!

Her mission - should she wish to take it, is to knock this raw but enthusiastic singing rookie into something vaguely acceptable to the listening ears of Loughborough, all in the space of  a mere week. A 'Mission Impossible' if ever there was one and surely beyond even Caroline? Well, the gal is obviously not afraid of a challenge and Saturday April 2nd saw my second singing lesson with her.

While the first lesson sought to find out whether there was any singing potential at all, this time we got to work on my complete lack of technique. There is clearly more to singing than opening one's mouth and making a noise. The thing that has troubled me most since I started on this journey into the unknown is that I probably sound like a singing Peter Kay! My Boltonian roots are reflected in my accent and I fear in my singing voice. To give you an example, in 'Thank you for the Music', there is the line: "Who can live without it, I ask in all honesty". Now, I just knew that this sounded horrible when I sang it and stopped in my tracks. How on earth do you sing the words 'without it' and make it sound good? The answer it would appear is in the vowels and to not try to pronounce all the words as I would normally speak them. I need to sing 'arrrrrrsk' rather than my 'asssk' and to smooth out my Boltonian 'with-ow-tit' into something more like 'with-arr-date', if that makes any sense at all?

One note that I had been previously struggling to get to adequately was the top 'F' of 'Mu-sic' in the last line of each verse. To manage this, Caroline simply got me to open my mouth wider. A pretty obvious suggestion for singing anything you would have thought, but it did feel a little ridiculous. Caroline did assure me that it doesn't look as ridiculous as it feels and lo and behold the note was reached with ease. However, pronouncing the 'mu' part of the word means pursing one's lips, making it impossible to open the mouth wide, surely? Well, yes, but the trick is not to get hung up on the word, but to get the note first and foremost. It's this fascinating stuff that makes it all so interesting. I am now all the more aware of my short comings as a singer, but I do believe I will be able to do a decent job with a bit of effort and perseverance. I don't think Nat King Cole or Pavarotti would have too much to worry about if they were alive, but if I can produce a sound that complements the choir rather than ruins it I'll be happy!

The important thing for me on Saturday will be to not expect myself to get everything right. After such a short time in the choir that would be expecting way, way too much. I will just try to relax and enjoy it!

Cheers for now,

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