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Singing and Amateur Musical Societies in General

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  • Don't rely on getting "spotted"!
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      14.07.2002 22:25
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      So I saw Jill's request for everyone to write about their favourite thing, and I thought "what a marvellous idea". But trying to pick a favourite thing hasn't been easy. In a nice way, coz when I think about it, I seem to have lots of favourite things. Unfortunately, I have already written ops about lots of them (moggies, Buffy etc.), and people had beaten me to it with other ideas I had (like music in general). So last night I embarked on a search to parts of dooyoo I had never visited before. It was quite an adventure, and I read some interesting ops along the way. Then it came to me in a flash of inspiration: singing. I could write an op about singing, and Jill has given me the excuse to ramble on a little about one of my favourite things. I love singing. I'm not particularly good at it, and I have no secret aspirations to take part in the next round of "Pop Idol" (apparently I'm too old now anyway), rather, I just enjoy it. I've always loved music, (hence considering writing an op about that). Indeed, in answer to the silly question "Would you rather be deaf or blind?" I would have to say blind, as I couldn't possibly imagine life without melody. And for me, singing kind of comes along with my love of music. As a child, I used to sing along with records long before I ever really knew the words - I just used to make them up. Or do my best attempt at what the words might be. My mother recalls me liking "the song about the baby lions". It was in fact (I am very ashamed to admit) Boney M's "Rivers of Babylon". Hey, I wasn't far off! I also used to drive my family mad by singing along to the music in the car. I still do that in fact. Come with me on a long journey and you'll see I just can't help myself. The guy in the Mars bar ad has nothing on me. At school, I joined the school choir and sang a few solos at our annu
      al performances over the years. At 13, I was "Rumpleteaser" in "Cats", at 14 I sang "Light of the World" from Godspell, and at 15 "On My Own" from "Les Miserables". It was wicked fun. I was absolutely terrified, opening my gob to a hall full of parents and just keeping my fingers crossed hoping something vaguely tuneful might come out. But when it went OK, the buzz was absolutely fantastic. I can see why people get off on performing, especially when they know they're good! In more recent years I have done a few buskers nights with a friend of mine who plays guitar. Nothing special, just a couple of numbers here and there. I know I'm by no means the best there, but it's an enjoyable experience. It's also an opportunity to share some great songs with people that they may not have heard before. Assuming I do them a smidgeon of justice, that is! Of course, you don't have to perform to enjoy singing. You can sing anywhere - in the shower, on the toilet, in your front room with your speakers blaring. I wouldn't recommend singing along to your personal stereo on the train though - people tend to look at you a bit funny. Singing can be an uplifting experience. When you're in a good mood, there's nothing better than sticking on your favourite funky grooves, singing along and bouncing around, although it's probably best to do this in the privacy of your own home. It can also make household chores less tedious. When doing the housework, play bouncy music and sing along - the time flies and you'll be finished before your CD is - unless you have a really big house. I also find music can be a cathartic experience. In far less happy times of my life, I have found listening to songs that capture my mood and singing along can really help let all that emotion out. In a way, for me it helps me work through the feelings I'm feeling.
      I can think of times in my life when I'm really not sure I could have got by without music. Never be embarrassed to sing. If you enjoy it, who gives a toss if you can't sing for toffee, just let yourself go. It's fantastic! Personally, although I sing both with and without music, I prefer to be "singing along" to a record. With this in mind, I thought I would finish by sharing with you some of my favourite tracks to sing along to: *** Current Favourites *** Michelle Branch - "All You Wanted" Nickelback - "How You Remind Me" No Doubt - "Hella Good" Heather Nova - "Virus of the Mind" *** All Time Favourites *** Fleetwood Mac - "The Chain" and "Gold Dust Woman" Abba - "SOS" Suzanne Vega - "Luka" Kate Bush - "Babooshka" Live - "I Alone" Heart - "If Looks Could Kill" and "Black on Black". So there you have it. My favourite thing is singing. What's yours? Jill Murphy asked me to write about one of my favourite things to help her celebrate her fourth anniversary of cancer-free living and to remind ourselves of all of the nice things in the world. It takes more muscles to make a frown than to smile you know. If you'd like to join in, whether you've only just joined dooyoo, or you've been here ages, you're more than welcome. Just write about one of YOUR favourite things, make your title "A Favourite Thing: [your choice]" and include this paragraph at the foot of your opinion. And post before Friday, 9th August. Best wishes to you Jill with four years of cancer-free living, and thank you for giving us the opportunity to share some of our favourite things with you and the rest of dooyoo!

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        17.02.2002 03:54
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        I was always in the school choir way back in the dim, distant past, and have always enjoyed singing in the bath, and when I'm picking the raspberries (yes, honestly!) So about ten years ago, when my children were still at school, a message came home from the music department asking for parents to join an newly formed adult section of the school choral society, with the intention of joining up with the senior school choir at concerts etc. My daughter was already a member of the choir, albeit she sang soprano and I'm a definite alto, bordering on tenor. I duly filled in the form, and sent it back, and within a few weeks we were called in for a get-together, to see if there were enough of us to make it viable. There were! We were never a large choir, but Thursday evenings were an enjoyable escape from the everyday things in life, and we began to put together quite a few pieces of music. In the beginning, we simply joined in with the pupils at Carol concerts, summer concerts, in fact any time the music deparment were called on to do something, we would go along and join in. Gradually though, over the years, things changed somewhat. Although there were a number of us who joined initially, very few new members seemd to have much interest, so it got to the point where we were part of a school choir, yet none of us still had children at the school. This didn't really matter; we carried on rehearsing, and it kept us in touch with the staff at the school who we had got friendly with. The Head of Music at the school was also the Musical director at a church about ten miles away, and it was suggested that not only did we join in with the pupils at school, but that we should learn different pieces, and join in with the church when they had a musical evening. This too escalated, and these days there are usually members of at least 3 churches, plus those of us from the school who all come together once or twice a
        year to put on a full scale Choral work. The music we have learned over the years ranges from Lennon and McCartney, Simon and Garfunkel right up to our biggest piece to date: The Requiem by Mozart. I once sang this at the Central Hall Westminster, whilst still at school, so it was a real thrill to be doing it again, even though I sang soprano way back then! It can be a great thrill to take part in these massed choirs, and be able to really belt out a tune alongside so many others who are there just for the pure pleasure of singing. To date, the large Choral works we have done are the Mozart as stated above, The Faure Requiem, which we now sing every year for All Souls Day, The Stainer Crucifixion, The Vivaldi Gloria, and, my absolute favourite, the Requiem by John Rutter. The last one on that list is an absolute joy to take part in. The music is beautiful, and somehow the whole thing comes together into an extremely ear-pleasing piece. I suppose the fact that my daughter sang the solo soprano pieces at one of our performances also added to the enjoyment of taking part! We are at present attempting to learn the second half of Handel's Messiah, including the Halleluja Chorus, with the intention of joining the churches some time in May, round about Whitsun. I have to say I find it very difficult at first, because I don't read music. I know how long a note is, and I can tell whether it goes up or down in pitch, but when it comes to reading sheet music, I am totally dyslexic! I have to put my finger on middle C (yes, I know where that is!) and count up the lines and spaces to work out what the other notes are! I had piano lessons for 2 years, have sung for over 10 years now, but I just cannot do it! And this is somebody who teaches children with reading difficulties! Instead I have to learn the alto part off by heart, rather than read the music as we are singing. It probably takes me longer to get fam
        iliar with a piece, but I know that once I've learnt it I am not going to forget it, or become muddled whilst I'm singing. Sadly, the Head of Music is no longer at the school, and our numbers have dwindled down to 6 because of this. We still meet on a Thursday at each others houses. We still intend to join in with the Churches when they hold their music nights. But somehow it isn't the same. We are, as a group, currently looking round for an established amateur choral society or choir in our local area, but as yet haven't managed to find one that is convenient for all of us. So for the moment, we will continue to keep our voices oiled on a Thursday night, and join the larger group when we can. None of us want to give up singing. We have become a close knit group who have now been together for over 10 years, who enjoy "proper" singing. If you love singing, and are toying with the idea of joining a choral society, then I'd say do it. Now. There are too few people out there who appreciate the great choral works. Help to keep them alive by learning them and singing them for other people's enjoyment. Being a member of this sort of group also introduces you to many different choral works, which you may not come across otherwise. If I never sang another note, I would at least be able to look back and say "I once sang in that".

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          17.02.2002 01:21
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          • "Don't rely on getting "spotted"!"

          Well I'm not one to blow my own horn. Good job really, I don't play the horn, I sing! If you've read any of my other wise words (ha ha!) you'll get the picture that I'm quite musical. I've been singing with a local choir (on and off) for over 10 years now, and two years ago decided I'd branch out. I really was quite good at drama at school, and would rather fancy having a go again, possibly taking it to a professional level, but to start with would join a local Amateur Dramatics company. Here's my experience of how I became involved... Stage direction: Main actress looks whistfully up and stage right. Fade through smoke to flashback sequence... Unfortunately I am one of life's procrastinators and this idea got shelved. One day while surfing the Internet trying to find out some local sports scores, the website had a links page which I wandered onto - I'm a sucker for seeing what sort of links are on particularly local sites! And lo-and-behold was a link to a company which put on musicals and shows at the local theatre. Ideally I'd wanted something with a bit more of an acting bias, but as I could and enjoyed singing, thought why not? I dropped them an email, and within half an hour had a reply from the Chairman of the group saying "come down tonight, we're having the first rehearsal for the next show!". Off I went, a bit nervous expecting that it was going to be full of pretentious madams, prima donnas and everyone knowing everyone else. How wrong could I have been? There were a few of us there for the first time, and the Members Secretary was very welcoming. She explained how it worked. Basically the group puts on a variety show at a local school each October, a bigger variety show at the theatre in February, and a named musical come July/August at the same theatre. To join the society costs £30 a year, which allows you to go to rehearsals. I was told that I had a couple of rehearsa
          ls to make up my mind whether I wanted to join or not. After that time, if I decided to stay on I would have to pass a short audition and pay my subs. On top of that there were "show contributions" that are payable for each show. If you don't pay you don't get on stage, it's that simple! Show contributions are usually £30-35 per show, but that varies on a society-to-society basis. Anyhow, I joined in the first couple of rehearsals no problem, and felt that I'd quite like to be involved. I did my audition piece, which is basically anything you're comfortable with singing. I chose "Summertime" from Porgy and Bess, a piece which I'd studied for one of my exams and one which most people know. I passed and was admitted to the group. The first show I did was the variety show at the theatre. We started off doing Thursday evening rehearsals, but towards showtime the rehearsals were often on a Tuesday evening and a Sunday as well. Depending on whether you wanted to audition for a solo or group song depended on whether you had to turn up on the odd Tuesday, but it wasn't usually for the full rehearsal time, often just 10 or 15 minutes and then you could go. Yes I know I'd said I already auditioned, but that was just to join the group. Every show you do, if you are after a solo or group number you have to do a separate audition so they can pick the best singers for each piece. For the summer musical, you also have to read from the libretto so they can assess your acting ability too. There are also opportunities to take part in dance numbers, although there are more in the variety shows than the musicals. One of these days I might take up tapdancing again! Getting the costumes together is always a bit of a trial. The musicals often have professionally hired costumes, as there are more performances and the tickets sell a lot faster. That said, most of the shows are usually sell-outs, so we mu
          st be doing something right! For some of the other chorus parts and the variety shows you will be a given a list of what costumes you need to provide. This is where it can become expensive, but with a bit of clever management life can be made easy. It's often possible to provide your costumes from your own wardrobe. Specialist costumes can be hired in or provided by the costume mistress who happens to own a Fancy Dress Hire company! Other than that, I beg borrow and steal costumes, or go hunting round charity shops and jumble sales. That way it doesn't always cost that much, and I always try to buy items that I know I'll wear again. It's also worth getting together with some of the others in the group to swap costumes and discuss what you need. I always try and keep an eye out for other cast members' outfits when I'm shopping. Different societies have different policies and ways of running things. I guess if I were to look at joining another society I would certainly try to watch one of their performances beforehand. I didn't with this group, and just got lucky that they are a very professional group. Last summer we performed "Me And My Girl" to a packed audience, and hope to do the same this August with "The Music Man". Amateur societies the country over often find it difficult to get people to join. A lot of this stems from the fact that people of my generation don't generally go to the theatre, or if they do it's for more high-profile extravaganzas. Many people miss out some very quality performances in local theatres - everyone started somewhere, and many plays often tour the country before they hit the West End. And if you do decide to join a group, don't think that you're stuck with them for life, particularly if you don't get on. Amateurs, like professionals, will chop and change between often two or more societies depending on what performances are being put on. This can ma
          ke life really hectic though, so try not to bite off more than you can chew to start with. The last couple of days before a show can be the most hectic. The current one we're doing starts tomorrow afternoon, matinee at 4pm. For that we rehearsed Tuesday, Thursday and this afternoon with the band. We have to be at the theatre at 11am tomorrow for a dress rehearsal between 12 and 2, then ready for the matinee at 4 and an evening performance at 8. That's three run-throughs in one day - so you have to be fairly dedicated! When the time comes for the actual show, though, it's all worth it. The lights, the applause, the sense of a job well done! It's the culmination of months of hard work and the most important thing of all is to enjoy yourself and have a laugh. I guess I'm lucky to be part of a really good, friendly, society, although regrettably other commitments often have to be dropped in favour of rehearsals. You still come back for more, though! You may be thinking "That sounds interesting but I can't sing, dance or act". Well, not everyone can. You'd be surprised at the number of companies who are interested in people with musical ability, perhaps with an instrument, perhaps you are a conductor or accompaniest? Perhaps you'd be interested in helping with costumes, or on the day there's always room for people to help out "front of house" selling programmes or backstage... The possiblities are endless, so don't be frightened. If you're interested in helping out, approach your local company. The worst they can say is "no", but most groups will be ecstatic that someone wants to do those jobs. Remember, a lot of people who join amateur groups are extrovert and egotistical - you have to be to a certain extent to get up there on stage in the first place! Inevitably I shall think of more gems to add to this piece in due course, but in the meantime I'm doing my
          best to avoid ironing my costumes tomorrow and making sure I don't forget anything. Particularly my words! :o) End flashback sequence. Actress sheds a small tear, looks down. Fade to Black.

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            05.12.2001 16:51
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            Amateur singing groups abound - rare is the town that does not have some sort of vocal outlet. Singing groups manifest in many different forms, and all have different approaches, styles and require different levels of ability. Mot towns have musical societies as well, from brass bands to orchestras. If you want to make beautiful music, there should be every opportunity to do so. Singing first then.... Almost anyone can sing presentably with a bit of practise. The voice is a musical instrument available to all of us, and only a very few people are so tone deaf that they cannot use it. (I know of several very good singers who are deaf in one ear, so anything is possible.) Right, an overview of some of the singing activities out there. Amateur operatics and dramatics - most towns have one of these, they usually put on a show once a year. You can expect Gilbert and Sullivan and musical style shows, which usually require choruses and soloists. From what I've seen, these are prone to cliques, and can be hard to get into. Choirs - normally these are based around churches, but not always. Church choirs sing for services, weddings etc, they rehearse weekly and all you do is Christian stuff. A good level of ability is required, being able to read music helps. Some choirs specialise in producing concerts once or twice a year, these are more likely to handle classical choral pieces. Some require an audition, some are less rigid, look around to find something that suits your level of ability. There are a few novel choirs out there - there's a pagan choir, the London Gay male voice choir - make sure you pick something that suits you. Music. (this first one overlaps a bit with singing.) Sessions and folk clubs. These are not quite so common, but many towns do have them. Sessions tend to be for musicians, but some will welcome vocalists as well - worth checking to find out. Sessions tend to cover irish musi
            c, English folk, country and western, blues and jazz, so find out what sort of styel you are delaing with. Some sessions will do a bit of everything. Sessions usually run in back rooms of pubs and don't cost much. Folk Clubs are all about singing and playing traditional music and are usually quite welcoming. You can sing on your own if you are feeling brave, or just join in with other people's choruses. You need to know the right sort of music, but it isn't hard to get hold of. Orchestras - some towns have their own orchestras, chamber orchestras or stribg quartets, these tend to play classical music, and you will need to be a god player (ideally with exams to prove it and be able to read music, expect and audition. Shows - many operatic societies need musicians, and these usually practise and rehearse seperatley for the greater part. Show work is really good fun if you are in the band. Brass bands - more common in the north than in the south, tend to play some classical and soemthing that can only be defined as 'brass band' music. You either like it or you don't. Church bands - some more modern churches use congregation members to make up a church orchestra - this can include guitars, keyboards, drums, violins, anything really. If you are involved with that sort of church, it is well worth considering. Jazz, Blues and country clubs - you do get them occasionally, usually in larger towns, and they work much like folk clubs, as far as I am aware. Many comunity groups have their own folk varients - I don't know much about this, havign only my own English ethnicity, but I conscious of quite a few groups of people exploring their own folk traditions, so if youw ant something a bit off the beaten track, there are groups out there doing African music, eastern European stuff, Asian music - it depends a lot on how multicultural your area is. If you want to play, you will need your own
            instrument and a fair amount of talent. There's a lot of fun to be had making music for pelasure - you can meet some excellent people, and it is a reasonably cheap leisure pursuit once you have got your instrument (or even cheaper if you sing.)

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              17.08.2001 02:20
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              About three years ago I moved 300 miles across the country to Poole in Dorset. I made a new start, with a new job, house and friends. When I was younger I use to sing and dance in competitions in my local area (and against Mel B!) but being young and in a world full of critics and bitchiness, my confidence faded and I left. All I have ever wanted is to sing and dance and enjoy it, now, is that too much to ask? After moving here I started singing lessons and I know that singing is one thing I totally enjoy. I also needed to apply some focus and so I joined a local amateur society for some fun and frolics (and a way to meet people). I'm not going to mention the name of the society I joined because it isn't relevant but for some reason all amateur societies seem to be the same, full of cliques. There are a certain few who are always picked for parts and we all have to go through the hideous charade of an audition process, knowing full well who is going to get the solo parts anyway! It’s a joke to me. I find the whole thing depressing instead of something to enjoy, it's making some people very unhappy. What I don't understand is why they are like this, its an amateur society, we don't get paid for performing, we PAY to perform and yet enjoyment is taken out of it by pretentious and 'Prima Donna' members! If I win a big sum on the lottery I am going to start my own society and it will be free from cliques, 'Prima Donnas' and prejudice. It will bring more enjoyment and expose the real talent and not just those who 'throw the bottle out of the pram' If they don't get picked!

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