‘I get so excited about singing; I feel so at home in this choir.’
So said one of our new members at the second of this year’s choir workshops at Westbury Park Methodist church on March 19th. She joined forty of us who were keen to learn new techniques and improve our sound.
Nick, sporting his England rugby shirt, led us off with some vocal exercises, encouraging us to raise our eyebrows to prevent flatness of tone. This was followed by music and movement as we marched around, mingling with others whilst keeping hold of our line and sequence of When the Saints, Swing Low and She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain.
‘Great venue with good acoustic’
Anneliese then took over the helm and gave us a whistle-stop tour of German pronunciation. We now know our hard and soft sounds, are expert in the umlaut and certainly will never again mistake sorrow for song (leid and lied) or wine for Vienna (wein and Wien). The Brahms Requiem will have a new lease of life.
‘Good opportunity to improve.’
Fuelled with new ability, we did some more sight reading of the Brahms, Nick encouraging us to be more like children and not be afraid of going wrong or making mistakes. Just have a go. He illustrated this with a story by the ‘creativity expert’ Ken Robinson who has a tale about the three kings at a children’s nativity play. The first king said that he brought gold, the second myrrh and the third one announced, ‘Frank sent this’.
Nick reckoned our sight reading was getting better and finished with a compliment: he knows when things are going well because he is both enjoying himself and realising the progress that the choir is making.
Jonny took over in the afternoon in preparation for the Upton competition. His warm-up emphasised the importance of the role of the diaphragm, and we practised some silent breathing exercises using a constant stream of air, gradually lengthening every breath (which we all achieved I may say).
This continuous stream of sound was the theme for our practice with Can You Feel the Love Tonight when we concentrated on holding notes for two and a half beats, Locus Iste, keeping the loud passages loud, and Goodnight Sweetheart. We debated whether we should perform this song with a click and a swing of the arm. The jury is still out.
We finished with a first – a warm down, which Jonny recommended we do after rehearsals. Everyone reckoned we had experienced a really good day and we went off feeling inspired and looking forward to the challenges of our next rehearsal.