Choral Holidays - Singing in wonderful locations

Posted under: "Music Related Blog"

Feb 7, 08:15 PM

What will the standard of music be like?

I’ve had quite a few enquiries from people who are wondering what the standard of music will be like on our choral holidays. Will it be too easy and fail to present a challenge to the more experienced singers or, from the other end of the spectrum, will it be too hard for the less experienced?

The short answer is that any Choral Holiday will begin with a wide range of music of varied degrees of difficulty to see how we get on. Some we will use and some not.

Generally speaking, because my way of working is about building confidence and about expression, I tend to find that a few confident members in a choir will help the less experienced to become confident. It’s very rare for an experienced person to feel that they are being held back by the less experienced in my choirs because, whatever level one is at, there is always scope to learn to present it in a new and more “honest” way.

If I may give a couple of examples. in my church choir there are a handful of people who can honestly say they read music;they are in a very small minority, and yet the choir has achieved amazing heights, singing anything from Palestrina masses to Howells & Leighton in some of our greatest cathedrals. Three ladies who joined with no musical ability at all and little voice told me on several occasions that they could never envisage singing harmonies and yet, last year, there they were singing the 2nd soprano line in the very tricky Howells Collegium Regale Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis in Lincoln Cathedral, with no problem at all, being heard perfectly well against 13 other sopranos and the rest of the 40 strong choir.

Likewise, on a Singing Holiday that I led last year in Umbria, I had a tiny choir of largely inexperienced singers singing some quite tricky music in a short concert at the end of the week. They couldn’t believe how far they had come. One lady, who had been very unsure of herself at the start of the course, phoned me a couple of weeks later to say how she had found herself a lone soprano at church one evening, shortly after the holiday and couldn’t get over how confidently she dealt with the situation.

I believe that on a choral holiday, the less experienced will learn from the experienced, while the experienced learn to express themselves in a way in which, generally speaking a choirmaster will not be able to or have time to teach them.

I have found that being an active opera singer has greatly influenced the way I teach and train choirs, and the effect is not only in terms of the sound and vocal technique of the singers, but the emotional commitment with which they sing. I see all music, even the most simple piece, as being a drama born out of the composer’s need to express the words in a way which was meaningful to him/her. We, as singers, have to look in the music for what the composer was really trying to say through the way he/she set the words, and then express those feelings from deep within, even if they aren’t feelings to which we would personally normally lay claim. Working like this can be incredibly moving for singer and listener alike.

I believe passionately in the power of singing to have an effect way beyond the confines of music and I believe that people’s lives become happier and more awakened when someone helps them to stir the sense of freedom that really singing, from somewhere deep within will give them.

So, don’t ask whether the music will be hard enough for you to see it as a challenge or too hard for you to keep up with. Of course I will pick suitable music for all eventualities. But rather, ask yourself if you are ready for the challenge of learning to express music in a deeper way than you have experienced before. When it happens it’s the most incredibly joyous feeling. I invite you to come on a Choral Holiday and find out for yourself.




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