Monthly Archives: September 2015

Loving the sound of your own voice

singing-1… is quite an unusual condition, I think.  Most people give a start when they hear their voice recorded back.  The answerphone message you left on your home phone, the recorded meeting, the video on holiday.  It sounds different – higher, lower, posher, weedier, growlier, than we thought because we naturally hear ourselves not through the air but through our flesh and bones, which transmit sound in a different, denser, way.

I have been sharing the voice parts for our songs as MIDI files for several years. I like MIDI because it’s small, and simple, and impersonal.  It is a scientifically accurate representation of the pitch and rhythm of a part, so singers have to join in to give it meaning musically as well as adding the words.  That has merit as a teaching tool.

However, Safari stopped supporting MIDI files about two upgrades ago, so anyone with an Apple device could not hear the files without some jiggery-pokery that, let’s face it, was too fiddly to bother with. For months I have known that I will have to record actual recordings – of my own voice – if they are going to be accessible to all the choir members.

I am not a performer. Some musicians are driven by a need to perform, and some are not.  I have never wanted to be on TV or at the Albert Hall.  I love getting lost in Chopin piano pieces all on my own. I love singing with other people but an audience makes it worse, not better. What gives me more of a buzz than anything is  helping other people discover their own musicality and produce amazing sounds.

I privately record all the parts for every song I teach to choir, to feel how they go together and find out the danger points.  But now I have to share them with other people! Teaching tracks for other people to learn from should be spot on for pitch and rhythm, but I should also be breathing in the right places and phrasing it exactly as I want it sung, as well as it having a decent tone and the right vowel sounds.  It takes a lot longer than exporting a MIDI file from my score-writing software and is much more nerve-wracking. I have to share soon for them to be any use, so I cannot keep on listening and correcting.

There are now multiple instances of my voice on this website, which I offer up to you as good enough.  Good enough to help you learn the parts and sing them with conviction – but not perfect, and not the real thing, which won’t exist until the choir sings together in live harmony.

Everybody ready?

appleChoir rehearsals start again next week, Monday 7th September. It’s the usual time and place, 6.30pm at Carfield Primary School, Argyle Close, Sheffield.

Why not come along and join us? We are a friendly bunch.

We will be learning a couple of new songs and extending an old favourite. In October we will be singing in Meersbrook Park Walled Garden for Apple Day (Sunday October 11th). After that, the rest of the term will be spent on our Christmas programme.

This weekend I’m off to Morecambe to spend two days with the wonderful Ali Burns learning how to write songs for a community choir.  So maybe I’ll come back with a totally original song for us. We are definitely getting one of Ali’s Forgotten Carols ready for Christmas this year.


Street Choirs 2015

After the summer break I’ve just been looking at my photos from Whitby and they are very dull indeed. There are no pictures of the sea, of chips or seagulls, or of the other choirs (although I’ve got a tiny wobbly bit of video of Wrexham Community Choir singing Calon Lan, which always makes me cry), not a hint of how lovely this event was.

It is such a thrill being in a town with over 40 other choirs, sharing singing with people from all over the country. On Saturday lunchtime everyone sings together in a huge, giant, 1000-voice choir. On Saturday afternoon there are designated spots around the town and each choir does a 15-minute set in three places. In the evening there were THREE concerts, to fit everyone in. I thought it was an honour for us to be in the headline one, which started at 8pm and finished at 11.30.  This was with each choir having a strict 7-minute slot.  That’s how many choirs there were. We didn’t go on till 10.30. “That’s no good”, one member remarked.  “Half the choir will be asleep and the other half will be drunk.”  I can attest that nobody was asleep; and nobody was noticeably drunk.  The performance was brilliant – responsive, engaging. and musically very satisfying. We performed “When My Ship Comes In” – which got a good response considering it will have been new to many people, and “Caravan of Love” which was a smash hit.

It’s fantastic hearing songs your choir sing, songs you’ve never heard, songs you know but never thought they could sound like this. It’s interesting to see what you notice – good and otherwise – in other people’s performances which can inform how we improve our own.