Auld claes and porridge

Ah, New Year and the beginning of the spring term. Sunday evening gloom descends and we face being Back to Normal.  You were fed up of watching TV with a third of the screen blocked by twigs and fairy-light reflections, but now the room looks a bit bare.The hoover is full of pine needles and so are all your carpets.

After all the feasting and company, the extravagance of Christmas, it’s a time of sobriety and belt-tightening – the old clothes and porridge of the title.  This week we realise that just getting to work, buying food and eating and washing up and having clean socks takes most of our time and the practicalities of training for a marathon or writing a novel – all our grandiose resolutions – just seem impossible. It’s very easy then to feel we’ve let ourselves down and nothing is going to change. This is the time when I get my diary out and try to carve out spaces for things that are important to me, to make sure they happen.

So I would say my mood is now preparing to go back to the old routine while trying to be just a bit better at things that matter; trying not to spend more time than I have to on things that don’t matter.

What’s this got to do with choir? It’s one of the things that is very important in my life. I think it’s fair to say the choir finished 2014 on a high. At Christmas we do a lot of performances at venues and events we’ve been going to every year more or less since the choir began, so I found myself thinking back over all the St Paul’s carol services, all the Carfield Festive Fairs. (That one may have changed its name a few times but it’s the same throng.)  The first year that I was in charge we struggled to get through three or four songs in very simple arrangements. Now we can do a set of eight, including a couple of tricky ones.  The sound of the choir has improved without question, and although more people are performing now, that isn’t the only reason. The quality of singing at events like the Zest Christmas Fair with only nine of us was great, confident and together. Individual singers are more confident and rely less on others – or to look at it another way, more people feel like leaders rather than followers.

This change has happened little by little over the years, from people turning up and singing, as often as they could, listening to themselves, other people and the choir as a whole, trusting me to ask only what they could achieve. I’m hugely proud of the choir and I’m looking forward to what we can do together in 2015.

My aims this year for choir are:

The usual one of choosing good songs, a good mixture so that there’s a good chance of everyone liking some of them.  I am aiming to do songs that are not too complicated so that we can spend time getting to know them really well and sing them with expression and belief rather than a vague terror that we’re going to forget them.

I would like more people to hear the choir but I haven’t worked out the details. We will be going to Street Choirs in Whitby in July and we are going to put on a good show – but I want to do something in Sheffield, preferably S8, as well.

i also want to make sure that even if we are a bit more performance-orientated than we were in the old days, that every rehearsal is fun and worth coming to, and that everyone feels welcome even if they are brand new or can’t come every week. I do want the choir to be a place where anyone who wants to can come and sing, and get better at singing the more they do it.