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  • Writer's pictureTanya Lawrence

And so it begins...

First rehearsals are always something of a conundrum for the Musical Director. We don't know how many are going to actually turn up. (The number who have booked is always more than actually make it through the door.) We don't know the ratio of men to women, Baritones to tenors, Sopranos to Altos, experienced to inexperienced. We just don't know.

So planning a session that will be enjoyable and fulfilling for attendees is something of a challenge.

 

That being said I always keep it front of mind that many potential choir members arrive feeling a little apprehensive and often with a very low opinion of their singing ability.

 

Unsurprisingly, at our first “proper” rehearsal of the Fylde Coast Veterans Choir, Fleetwood and Thornton Team, this lovely group of ex-military veterans, an even mix of ex-army and ex-navy, showed exactly the same broad characteristics as a “civilian” novice choir.

 

The age range went from early fifties to late seventies and most had not sung in any formal setting since primary school. Only one knew what voice part he was, and that was because I'd told him at a previous, informal singing meeting!

 

What struck me the most though, was the ever present concern around not being  “good enough” to join the choir. It used to be that this mindset was most apparent in men. However, in recent years, I've heard equally as many women state that their voice is “awful” and that they have no musical talent whatsoever.

 

So, how to begin modifying the mindset of these rare and precious people for whom I have so much admiration and to whom all of us owe so much? The first thing to bear in mind is that even turning up to a first choir rehearsal requires a level of bravery.  This particular group, understandably,  may not see it that way. However, singing is such a visceral, personal thing that even making the simplest of verbal noises in a group setting can rapidly induce feelings of vulnerability. Obviously, there's no actual physical danger as such but all humans instinctively fear rejection. And that's a might powerful fear.

 

So, reassurance in the first few moments is key. My co-director, Jackie's warm and welcoming presence helps people feel less nervous in those critical first few moments. Her interaction with people as they settle into the rehearsal room, allows me to observe who is perhaps feeling especially nervous. That helps me judge exactly how to begin our warm up. 

 

Jackie's also a very competent singer, so deploying her in the ranks helped to encourage the shyest  people to join in the  warm-up as we embarked upon our maiden choral voyage.

 

Just as in “civilian” groups, veterans' low opinion of their singing ability is very rarely accurate and this novice choir was soon making a very decent sound as we  tackled “The Wellerman”  and “He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother”. Two very popular staples in the western choral world.

 

So, I'm looking forward to guiding these intrepid folk on their journey towards a first performance. It's what I have – all I have – to give back for their sacrifice and service. I've long dreamed of creating a point of emotional connection between military veterans and the general public. Last night, I believe we moved just a small step towards that momentous day.

 

If you or someone you know would like to come and experience a rehearsal, just email us at harmonychoirblackpool@gmail.com, or find out about our upcoming try-out events.



The start of Fylde Coast Veterans Choir is represented by a road ahead with the word 'Start' in the foreground.
The Start Of Fylde Coast Veterans Choir

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