Guest blog – the alto who can’t sing

Ann teaches Biology at Monkton, and so knows about my Choir who can’t sing project which I launched some 4 years ago now. Last term she stepped out way of her comfort zone and joined Monkton Combe Choral Society. I am full of admiration for her courage.

I was thrown out of the primary school choir aged 10. The choir master walked along the row listened carefully and beckoned me out. I didn’t pass the audition for the secondary school choir. My daughter has tried to stop me singing whenever I open my mouth. I could never tune my violin (bad choice of instrument). So I have been understandably unconfident in my capabilities in the singing sphere. And yet, when I’m happy, I whistle or sing – it just bursts out. I sing in church, the volume and the confidence slowly having increased over the years and my sense of “I don’t care, I’m just going to let go” increasing as I get to the age where I am less concerned about what others think of me. And yet, to join a real live choir that gives public performances seemed like a big thing. What if I was found lacking again?

Three things encouraged me to join the choir. One, I love Handel’s Messiah and have sung along to the tune part (not having a clue as to whether it was soprano, bass, tenor or whatever). Two, there are around a 100 people in the choir, so I reckoned I could hide and just open and close my mouth at approximately the right moments. And three, George says there are no auditions for the choir – you just have to be able to “sing approximately the same notes as the person standing next to you”. So I thought I’d take him at his word. “Approximately” gives quite a bit of scope!

Unfortunately there had been a few weeks of rehearsals before the summer break which I had missed. So it was straight in. I had to figure out where the alto line was in the score. (I had no clue whether I was alto or soprano so had to sing a few notes to George). I had no idea of the range that a soprano covered, or an alto. I tried to position myself in the middle of the altos as I knew that if I was too near another part I wouldn’t be able to hold the line. I gropingly followed the person next to me. Often I had no clue where we were and had to sneak a look at my neighbour’s page number. I am hopeless at counting so tried to work out the place we were to come in from the soprano line. But what note to come in on? That was the hardest part.

The rehearsal CD with the alto line picked out was like gold dust. Unfortunately I didn’t get it till quite late and because I’m busy (confession time), I never actually sat down with both the CD and the score together. So I learned the alto line, but couldn’t always figure out the words that went with it. Another confession – I was so busy trying to follow the music that it was only two weeks from the performance (under George’s urging) before I took my eyes off the page and actually watched the conductor. What a wally am I! He actually brought us in most of the time! What a revelation!

So by the performance I was far from perfect, but I had had fun rehearsing, I had the tunes on the brain and I was humming away all the time. I think I’ve cracked it! (The fear bit). Thanks George!

Ann Stuart writes her own blog, Sense of place at Monkton, well worth a look!

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