About 12 months ago, I sat in a pub with a couple of friends and amongst other ramblings someone tabled the idea of starting a rock and pop choir in our local village, one of a small cluster of 3 villages in the Cotswolds.
With a very much tongue in cheek approach we decided to give it a go with myself on guitar, Mervyn “the maestro” on piano, and Gordon as choir leader. We were totally uncertain as to how we were going to proceed and although we are all musicians, none of us had any prior experience of leading a choir.
We put out a couple of announcements in the village magazine and were totally up front about our expectations, which were quite low to say the least. Our inaugural meeting was back in October 2017 and we were astounded at the turnout of over 20 people who turned up with a wild look in their eye and a keenness which told us they wanted to sing some loud music, or at least open their mouths and see what came out. We had mocked up a few numbers to try and from that moment we were up and running. Since then, we have grown in membership to over 60 people, we have developed a repertoire of over 30 songs and we get regular attendances of over 40.
Whilst we are proud of the achievement and the response we have had, what is really significant about the choir is that it is underpinned by a number of key principles which we have tried hard to honour as we have developed.
The choir is collaborative, in other words, we make decisions as a group and whilst the 3 of us might be leaders giving shape and direction to where we are heading, we try where we can to gain buy in and support from the whole group whenever decisions are made about song choice or performances.
We are determined to be inclusive so there are no auditions or musical snobbery. If people want to join, they can. It is amazing how many people say “Oh I’d love to join but I can’t sing to save my life” yet week after week we see them belting out John Bon Jovi in full cry. Yet again, it substantiates the theory that people are actually full of talent, they just need the opportunity to demonstrate it.
Finally, it has to be fun. If rehearsals become too intense, we loosen them up with some lighter numbers, if energy sags, we throw in a quiz or an ice breaker, if we see a number is unpopular, we take a vote and throw it out.
I have been amazed to see 40 people walk out of the room on a weekly basis with a smile on their face – they go home uplifted, buoyant and happy, high on their own endocannabinoids and what is more they have done it all for themselves (albeit with a little light leadership behind the scenes!)