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My First Office Choir

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Last week I was finally added in to a Christmas choir e-mail. I thought I’d give it a go.

I pictured a grand room with a piano. Where would this be in an office block? When I went to the reception, the man said “it’s in Conference room 2, down the corridor to your left”.

In there stood a grey-haired man in a tweed jacket. It was a small room with a long table in it and lots of chairs. That was it. We introduced ourselves and I asked where the toilets were.

“There’s only one on this floor” he replied “disabled loo. It’s down the corridor to your right”. The lights were off and he didn’t know where the switch was, so I went across in the dark. Thankfully the lights were on down the corridor and it was round the corner, past cycling clothes on hangars.

Gradually the room filled and we all sat down. I was surprised as this constricts the diaphragm. Hardly ideal.

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A cleaning lady popped in “is it cold in here? cos the fan’s on, yeah that red light. Press that button if you want it off”.

The lady next to me explained “the boiler broke yesterday”. But the room was so small that it was really warm.

One lady was saying “soprano? sit on that side please”. I am an alto so I was sitting opposite the “enemy”. Sopranos are always more numerous and drown us out. They also get the majority of the tune.

Suddenly a bottle-blonde lady wearing glasses crashed in carrying a massive piece of what looked like metal. She set the keyboard up at the end of the table.

Our choir manager introduced herself. “Sorry if I am patronising” she said, “I last managed a choir about 7 years ago and they were all kids.”

“Do we have any tenors?” None of the three greying men replied. Next to Mr Tweed sat Mr Choirmaster wearing a meticulously ironed black suit and crisp white shirt, with glasses perched on the edge of his nose.

Next to him was Mr Tenor, wearing an imperious expression and sitting bolt upright.

A Scottish lady said “well I’ll just have to be tenor again, like last year”. Jonathan, you’ll have to join me again cos I can’t manage all the low notes”. The bass grumpily agreed.

“Hopefully there’ll be more next week” a lady said, “38 said they were interested but we only have 15 here. Still, that’s a lot more than last year!”orchistra-300x204

“Right has everyone got their orange and green books” The younger manager in the floral summer dress asked. Everyone got their immaculate “Songs for Choir” books out. I was given one by Mr Tenor to share – that hadn’t been on the e-mail.

Suddenly we launched into sight-singing. The petite alto blonde and I were just trying to sing from the same hymn sheet, launching into tunes without a keyboard clue. Us three altos were singing as loudly as possible but we were deafened by the shrill sopranos. We were also singing the wrong notes as neither of us were great at sight-singing. That’s Grade 6 theory and part of the reason I stopped there. We struggled to negotiate the atonal scores of John Rutter. He should have left carols alone.

Mrs Choir Manager said “I can’t play the piano very well so I’m just helping you out with the note bashing”. Later, “oh I can’t play that bit so sing it instead”. At one point Mr Tenor said “oh I have a great example of how this one goes! listen everyone I’ve got a recording of us singing it down the pub”. Mrs Choir Manager tried hard to hide her annoyance as Mr Tenor held his Apple Iphone aloft. The sound was tinny and although we tried to sing along we had to stop after a few bars.

I enjoyed my chaotic choral meeting. If you can hold a tune join one, it’s great fun and a good way to meet people.

Click here to listen to some classic choir carols.

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The Magic of Music

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“Musical” wrote the piano examiner and I nervously represented my teacher at a pupils concert.  When I was a baby I had a piece composed for me because I would stop crying whenever my parents’ friend played the grand. Today I was reminded what an emotional difference it can make.

My parents were being negative at each other and I’d tried unsuccessfully to intervene. Suddenly I decided why not play some tunes. I’m not talking aboutimages (2) turning on the radio and cranking it up – our tastes are completely different and this would probably have exacerbated tensions. But we all love the sound of the piano. So while they separately sulked I played dad’s favourite composer – Mozart. Then I played one of mum’s favourite tunes by Ludovico Einaudi, who I am exited to be seeing live next week. 2549108_f520

By the end of the pieces mum and dad were still in different rooms but both were smiling and looked more relaxed. The power of music astonishes me. When you’re tense it helps you relax, you can express your feelings and it’s a tremendous release. But it also has a ripple effect amongst your audience – as the sound washes through them you often see them sharing the mood. It allows you to take a step back from your busy life and lose yourself, even just for a moment.

Playing an instrument has been proven to be good for the brain, increasing intelligence. It has been shown to increase IQ by seven points, so it’s good not just for relaxing your mind when you study. The piano is my constant companion. Unlike man’s best friend the dog, it needs no feeding or expensive vets bills, just the occasional tuning. It may be but an object, but it is always there for you no matter how you’re feeling. Reading music is a skill for life and an instrument can be yours forever. When I was younger, piano lessons and practice were chores. But now I am pleased my parents encouraged me. The foundations were laid for me to build on and the better you get, the more engaging the manuscript.

Music can unite, it’s a common language and says so much more than words. So if you’re feeling angry, if you’re feeling upset, listen to some upbeat music or play a piece you can get lost in. It won’t solve deep-rooted problems but it will help you deal with them better.

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