On Saturday I went to my first ever “Come & Sing” experience with Streatham Choral Society (or in fact any choir). Not quite sure what to expect when I pushed open the doors to Streatham Space, the new theatre and community hub by Streatham Hill station, it was fantastic to see the place absolutely full of singers, all clutching music, cups of tea and buzzing with anticipation for the day ahead. Chatting to people in the queue for registration, I realised that not only were there lots of familiar faces but lots of new ones too, some local and some from as far afield as Yorkshire, Dorset and even Germany!
During the morning we were divided into three groups according to our various abilities and spent 45 minutes in different sessions: music theory, voice coaching and consort singing. It sounded quite daunting but our tutors, Richard Leach, Mary Walker and Calum Fraser, made everyone feel welcome and at ease, really emphasising that although we were there to learn, it was also a real opportunity to try things out at a more relaxed pace than a normal rehearsal.
Singing is a Whole Body Exercise
was one of the things I remember Calum saying and it was certainly true during the workshop! We learnt some new warm-up exercises, the importance of good posture and supporting our singing. We practised sight-reading, putting the theory we learnt with Richard into practise and learning to really listen to everyone around us. By the end we were able to start singing with barely the wave of an arm from Calum to bring us in! I think the highlight of the morning for me was learning some tricks of the trade from lovely soprano Mary, who even managed to get us altos to sing a top A, merely by bending our knees!
The afternoon saw a complete change of pace as we were joined by even more people, now keen to get stuck into Handel’s Messiah. We started at full pelt, singing our way through the choruses, trying to put everything we heard learnt that morning into practice. At times it was almost a little overwhelming but, as always, Calum had the right word and tactics to keep us on track and in time. Thanks to him and all the people who had (maybe) sung the Messiah a few times before, we were really able to produce a great sound during our informal performance at the end.
All in all, it was a really fun and fulfilling day. We outnumbered our audience by about ten to one (!) but the point was more that so many people got together, filling Streatham Space to the brim, with the sound of Handel’s Hallelujahs rebounding against the walls. Who knows what people on their way to and from the station on a Saturday afternoon must have thought?
I think we all echo the comments of two of our singers who said, “A big thank you to all of you for the huge amount of work you put in organising yesterday's event. It was a great success, very enjoyable and a tribute to your enthusiasm and organisational skills. Can't wait for the next one!” (Jane M).
Personally I also agree with Tish who said “I really enjoyed it and learnt lots too. I just hope I will remember everything I learnt …“.
So all in all, a massive thank you goes to Calum for designing and implementing the initial workshop concept, to Mary Walker and Richard Leach for their sessions and support, and to the committee for their time and energy to ensure that events such as this can run!
All photos courtesy of Mimi Chambre.